After falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers in back-to-back home games, the Orlando Magic were officially eliminated from any chance of a play-in spot April 4. They will close out the regular season Friday night in Brooklyn followed up by Sunday in Miami, and then head to the off-season.
Orlando posted a 34-46 record, which pegged them only above the Hornets and Pistons in the Eastern Conference, and currently dead even with the Wizards. Despite missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season, not all was bad for the Magic. Forward Paolo Banchero, whom Orlando selected No. 1 overall in last year’s draft, had a great rookie season, other players such as Franz Wagner and Markelle Fultz blossomed, and a very important offseason is just around the corner.
The Magic undoubtably have a lot of potential in Banchero and Wagner. The forward duo both stand 6’10, can shoot from anywhere, score in the paint, defend and rebound. Together, they are a legitimate force that teams have to account for. In his rookie season, Banchero averaged 20 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists on about 34 minutes per game. As of now, the former Duke Blue Devil looks to be the runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year.
tha rook pic.twitter.com/TqYsJblXUi
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) April 5, 2023
Wagner’s stats just trail those of Banchero. In his second NBA season, Wagner averaged 18.8 points, 4 rebounds and 3.6 assists while playing around 33 minutes per game. The Magic drafted Wagner No. 8 overall in the 2021 NBA draft, and his development continues to produce for Orlando. It should also be noted that Wagner started in all 78 games he played this season, and Banchero started all 72 games he played (stats as of 4/7). This durable duo is a focal point of Orlando that has essentially become the basis of the squad.
Guards Grow, Midseason Movement
The 2022-2023 also saw the reemergence of guard Markelle Fultz. In 2017, Fultz was drafted No. 1 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. However, injuries and lack of playing time made Fultz’ game lackluster compared to his college days. But this season, Fultz looked like a completely new player. In 58 games, he averaged 14.2 points, 4 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 30.2 minutes per game. His increases in shooting production (31.3% 3P, 51.5% FG) and confidence in driving the paint made him a great addition to the forward duo.
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) April 5, 2023
Other guards Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs had their up and downs. Anthony averaged 13 points per game and was a solid floor manager but started in only three games. Meanwhile, Suggs has been mostly flat since being drafted No. 5 overall in 2021. The upcoming off-season may be a time period for movement in Orlando’s guards, as Suggs and Anthony definitely have stock as young players.
As for trades, the Magic already waded in those waters during the season. Leading up to the trade deadline, Orlando sent Center Mo Bamba to the Los Angeles Lakers in February in exchange for cash considerations and a 2024 second round pick (they bought out Patrick Beverly in the deal). Also, the Magic waived guards Terrence Ross and R.J. Hampton and then signed Center Goga Bitadze, a former first round pick in 2018. While they didn’t make huge moves, Orlando moved out some dead weight and cleared some cap space for the offseason.
What’s next for the Orlando Magic?
Orlando currently has two active players over the age of 25 (Michael Carter-Williams, whom they just signed, and Gary Harris). The young squad has shown potential, but an experienced, cemented player could be the differentiating factor. Head coach Jamahl Mosley is still relatively new to the head coaching position for Orlando (currently finishing his second season), and any veteran leadership could go a long way.
Clearly, with movements in the roster and cap space, Orlando likely plans on doing something in the offseason. Also, Orlando owns two 2023 first round draft picks. While the exact pick number is still to be determined, the Magic will have two chances to find players to support the already young squad. They could search for a dominant center or a scoring guard alongside Banchero. Or, Orlando could trade their highly valuable picks for players. Either way, Banchero and Wagner are the backbone of the growing squad and should be protected at all costs. It is up to the front office to make the needed offseason moves to take the team back to the postseason.
The Magic play their final regular season game Sunday at Miami. The 2023 NBA Draft takes place in the same venue as their regular season finale, with the draft at the Barclays Center on June 22, 2023.