What We Learned About the Orlando Magic at 2022 NBA Summer League 

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

1. Not a surprise confirmation considering he was the No. 1 overall pick in last month’s draft, but Paolo Banchero is one heck of a basketball talent. In his two summer league appearances – both wins by the way – the 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward showcased his wide range of skills. If you are stat-motivated, he certainly delivered, averaging 20.0 points. 5.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.5 steals. Everyone knew from his time at Duke that he has a thorough offensive package – one that should make the Magic a far more formidable scoring team going forward. But what many may not have realized is that he’s a capable and versatile defender who made things awfully difficult on Jabari Smith Jr. and Keegan Murray, two of the other top four 2022 draft picks. 

Let’s not forget, though, that he is far from a finished product. He has a long way to go to reach his ceiling. He needs to become a more efficient perimeter shooter. He needs to keep turnovers down. He needs to make sure his defensive intensity is turned up to the max. But this is precisely the start everyone hoped to see after his name was called first on draft night. 

“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.”

2. Although they lost their final three games playing without Banchero, R.J. Hampton and Admiral Schofield, the Magic had impressive stretches in each. They battled back from a 20-point deficit in the first quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder and had several chances to force overtime on the game’s final possession. They were within striking distance deep into the fourth quarter against New York before the Knicks pulled away late. Then on Saturday in their final contest against Detroit, playing also without Devin Cannady and Caleb Houstan, the Magic led for most of the first half and were down just four going into the final frame before the Pistons poured it on in the last 10 minutes. 

3. Any teams regretting not drafting Tommy Kuhse? The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder made the most of his summer league opportunity with the Magic, averaging 17.3 points and 3.3 assists in his three games. Kuhse, who played five years at Saint Mary’s, has a rich game. He’s feisty on defense; he hustles for every loose ball; he has a great touch on his floaters; and he has a knack for fending off defenders on his drives to the basket. 

4. Another Magic player that shined bright in summer league was Florida native Justin James, a 6-foot-7 swingman who has 72 NBA games under his belt. One of the few who played in all five of Orlando’s games, James averaged 13.0 points on 48.9 percent shooting from the floor and 33.3 percent from 3-point range. Noticeably stronger than when he played for the Sacramento Kings, and an improved outside shooter, James is someone to keep an eye on as we get closer to training camp. 

“Looking back, I’m happy about me seizing most of my opportunities,” he said. “Obviously, looking back, you want to correct some things. But, I’m happy about the way I played and I’m excited for the future.” 

5. The 2022-23 Magic will be a cohesive group. Every single player on the roster either took in a summer league practice or watched the team live in Las Vegas. In many cases, players did both. It’s that kind of commitment and dedication that typically leads to success. Under head coach Jamahl Mosley, who has done an amazing job elevating his players since arriving in Orlando a year ago, they have a winning mindset and approach, which you don’t always see from teams so young and in the early stages of their development.