Opinions are mixed in regards to the Orlando Magic’s recent draft but there is reason for hope. Led by Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner, the Magic are an acquisition or two away from being extremely interesting.
Orlando Magic (Over/Under 36.5 Wins)
Key Adds - Joe Ingles, Anthony Black, Jett Howard
Key Losses - Terrence Ross
The Magic did the impossible by actually coming out with the better end of a deal involving a star player. Remenber 2021 when the Magic traded away Nikola Vucevic and Al-Farooq Aminu for Wendell Carter Jr. and a pair of 1st round picks? Wendell Carter Jr. is now part of an exciting young core that includes Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. Banchero has the potential to become one of the league’s premier go-to scorers while Wagner is good at just about everything.
Surprisingly, it’s Orlando’s backcourt that has major question marks. The Magic, who are synonymous with bad luck in the lottery, were thrilled when the Raptors took Scottie Barnes at four. That allowed Jalen Suggs to slip to them at number five. The thought, at the time, was that Suggs could help usher in a new era in Orlando. Thus far, however, Suggs has yet to come close to living up to his pre-draft hype and is clearly second in the pecking order behind Markelle Fultz. In fact, Suggs struggling to find a role and falling out of the rotation is not out of the question. Cole Anthony is potentially the team’s third guard while Gary Harris Jr’s point of attack defense guarantees his spot as a starter. If the Magic prioritize minutes for Anthony Black, Suggs could see a number of DNP- Coach’s Decision this season.
Speaking of Anthony Black, he and Jett Howard left many draft pundits scratching their heads on draft night. The Magic, starved for shooting, took Howard for his ability to knock down shots but they appeared to be better shooters available at 11. Gradey Dick immediately comes to mind as an alternative. Anthony Black, on the other hand, was chosen for his long-term upside but it’s difficult to define what upside will translate to.
Who knows, maybe the Magic are better than everyone else at scouting and their picks look like steals in a few years. Thankfully, going 0-2 on lottery picks would not significantly worsen this team’s long-term outlook. Impactful guards are not a rare commodity in today’s NBA. Players like Banchero and Wagner are. Fultz’s lack of a credible jump shot makes him something closer to a stopgap than a long-term solution, but he is still capable of aiding Banchero and Wagner in their development by getting out in transition and getting them the ball in positions to succeed.
The Magic have all their own picks (plus a couple protected extra firsts), expiring contracts, and an exciting core. They could easily explore the trade market should the right player be available. Defensively, they are going to give teams fit on a night-to-night basis and be able to compete against most teams. Their lack of firepower on offense might be the difference in their peskiness translating to actual wins this upcoming season. If things break right, they could be flirting with a possible play-in berth. Regardless, this team is a move or two away from cementing themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference.
PREDICTION - Over 36.5 Wins