ORLANDO - Much changed for the Orlando Magic on the night of May 17, 2022. That was when they won the NBA Draft lottery for the first time since 2004 and fourth time in franchise history.
At the time, nobody knew which direction the Magic would go with the pick, but just them having first dibs generated quite a unique buzz around town.
A little over a month later, the Magic decided Paolo Banchero, a 6-foot-10, 255-pound versatile forward out of Duke, was the best prospect for them. That brought the excitement to a whole new level.
As we inch closer to the start of the season, the enthusiasm hasn’t subsided one bit. Some might even say it’s risen even more since draft night.
Things went well for the Magic in summer league in Las Vegas. Banchero shined bright in the two games he appeared in, averaging 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists.
“I think I did well. I was happy with the way I played, but there was a lot I can improve on,” he said. “Second game I had a lot of turnovers. Just getting in even better shape. Those are my first two games, so I wanted to just build my wind back up. But I think overall I did pretty good.”
The 19-year-old also sparkled in various pro-am games. He scored 50 points in a July 30 (defense optional) exhibition in his hometown of Seattle at The CrawsOver, for instance.
The key now is for this team to show more growth in the regular season. The Magic have brought back nearly everyone from last year’s squad. That should be good for their chemistry and comradery.
Each player, by all accounts, has been putting in serious work these last few months – on the court and in the weight room. For Franz Wagner, one of last season’s top NBA rookies, he’s been playing in some very meaningful games with the German national team the last few weeks.
Let’s not ignore the fact, though, that the Magic are still extremely young, collectively. They currently have the league’s second-youngest roster, just behind the Oklahoma City Thunder. Terrence Ross is Orlando’s oldest player at 31 years old. Banchero and fellow rookie Caleb Houstan are still in their teens, while everyone else is in their 20s.
Although they finished in last place in the East last season at 22-60, the Magic made progress as the year evolved. After the All-Star break, for instance, they had the league’s seventh-best defensive rating (111.2) and held opponents to the league’s third-lowest defensive field goal percentage (45.3 percent).
While far from a finished product – both in terms of player development and roster construction as far as being at a championship-contending level – there’s optimism that we will see significant improvement across the board with this team in 2022-23.
Something else pumping the coaches and players up is the brand new AdventHealth Training Center, which officially opened on Aug. 31 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The facility is designed to optimize performance and provide world-class recovery space. A large team "family room" acts as the facility’s hub, complete with enhanced nutrition offerings and a full kitchen. The facility also includes two full-size courts overlooked by an elevated viewing balcony. Leading training and recovery technologies, including an altitude chamber and hydrotherapy offerings as well as an expansive locker room with high-end finishes, will elevate the player experience.
“We are all pretty excited (anyway), but I think when everybody comes in and sees the commitment from our ownership (DeVos family) and from AdventHealth, it’s going to be like, oh man, we have something to prove,” Magic big man Wendell Carter Jr. said. “It’s going to be like, we can’t have a facility like this and not be one of the best teams in the league. I think we are all pretty much on the same page when it comes to that kind of thing. I think it’s just going to add to our drive this year.”