Lineup Featuring Four Players 6’10-and-Above Key to Magic’s Improving Defense

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

ORLANDO - Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, Bol Bol, and Wendell Carter Jr. – all at least 6-foot-10 – were on the floor together for 22 minutes over the last three Orlando Magic games combined. 

Based on both optics and statistics, the Magic’s opponents had very little offensive success against them. 

The New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Hornets – Orlando’s opponents in these games – combined to shoot 32.7 percent from the field and 15 percent from 3-point range in that time. 

Going a bit deeper, the top players on those teams really struggled against their length and versatility. Donovan Mitchell and RJ Barrett went 0-of-6 from the floor combined with them on the floor, while Jalen Brunson shot 1-of-4 and Kelly Oubre Jr. shot 3-of-10. 

Also important, 47 of the 49 shots taken by the opponents when they were on the court together were contested, per Second Spectrum tracking data. 

The Magic’s defensive rating with them on the court is 78.3, which basketball analytic junkies will tell you is extraordinarily good.  

With a lineup that encompasses that much size, it’s hard for opponents to find mismatches. Bigs who move their feet well on the perimeter are highly coveted, and the Magic, unlike most teams, have several who do that at a high level.  

“I feel we did a pretty good job switching one through five,” Bol said after the Magic’s win over the Hornets on Friday at Amway Center. “Our defense was on point from the beginning of the game.”

Down a bunch of guards, the Magic started Banchero, Wagner, Bol, and Carter, along with Terrence Ross against the Hornets. Orlando outscored Charlotte by 18 with that group on the court. 

What was expected of the Magic this season – just based on roster personnel and coaching principles – was for them to make a big leap on the defensive end. Even shorthanded, which they certainly are now, they have a plethora of guys who can guard multiple positions, which helps with switching. 

Most significant is that the Magic seem to be getting better defensively each game. Boston shot 48.3 percent against them, New York 46.2 percent, Cleveland 41.4 percent and Charlotte 38.4 percent. 

“It was our best defensive game of the year, by far,” Banchero said of the win over the Hornets. “We just had to be locked in. We communicated all the switches really well, and just made it hard on them to get cleans looks off.”

Sunday’s game in Dallas will be a great test for Orlando, with the Mavs currently the No. 1 offensive team in the league. Through four games, they are shooting 49.4 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from 3-point range.

Hornets Postgame: Jamahl Mosley