Orlando Magic Emerge From 2021 NBA Draft with Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner

Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs
by Dan Savage

ORLANDO -- After resetting their roster at the trade deadline and hiring a new head coach earlier this month, the Orlando Magic took the next step in laying the foundation for their future on Thursday.

The Magic utilized their two top 10 selections in a talented 2021 NBA Draft class to select Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs at No. 5 and then Michigan forward Franz Wagner at pick No. 8.

“It was a great night for the Magic,” said Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman. “We added two high character, team-oriented players, who we believe will grow very nicely into what we’re trying to build here. And it’s not often you get to add not one, but two of these guys on the same night.”

Suggs was considered by many to be a top three prospect when the draft process started, so his slide into the arms of the Magic at five was a welcomed sight for the franchise. Known as a tough competitor, Suggs led Gonzaga to a 31-1 record during his lone college season, with his team’s only loss coming to Baylor in the national championship game.

The Bulldogs were in that position in large part due to Suggs, who hit an iconic game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer in overtime against UCLA to send Gonzaga to the final game of the big dance. Now, he hopes to bring his competitive demeanor to Orlando and help build a winning culture.

“I’m more than ready, I’m so ready to get there; I’m ready to get on this flight right now and head out there and meet everybody and get into the gym,” Suggs said with a smile stretched across his face. “The sky is the limit for us, honestly. (The players on this team) all have so much room to grow and get better.”

In addition to his competitiveness, the Magic are getting an elite game manager, who also possesses tremendous explosiveness and ability to get to the rim. Suggs averaged 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game in his freshman campaign while shooting 50.3 percent from the floor and 33.7 percent from 3-point range.

“He’s a special talent, a special kid,” Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley explained. “We talked about those qualities. He has toughness, grit, defensive minded, (and) just not afraid of the moment. Those are things that these young NBA players, you’re looking for them to have that.”

While Mosley was talking about Suggs in that instance, many of those same qualities could be placed on the other top-10 talent the Magic acquired on draft night. With the eighth overall pick – acquired by Orlando from Chicago as part of the Nikola Vucevic trade – the Magic landed Wanger, who averaged 12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.25 steals and 1.04 blocks per game during his sophomore campaign with the Wolverines.

Wagner, who is the younger brother of current Magic player Moritz Wagner, has excellent court vision and is a tremendous playmaker on the offensive end, while displaying positional versatility on the defensive end of the floor.

“It’s hard to find guys like Franz,” Weltman explained. “I know he’s not a household name, but I can tell you, a lot of teams coveted him. I can tell you that we even got calls from teams behind us after we drafted him to inquire about whether we would move down for him. He is going to be kind of a unique player. He’s skilled, he’s smart, he’s very active without the ball, and for that profile in this league, he’s actually got pretty good size.”

Like Suggs, who was selected three picks before him, Wagner is eager to get to work in Orlando.

“There’s a lot of young talent on this team,” said Wagner of the Magic, which now has nine players under the age of 24 on their roster. “I hope I can be a part of us building something special in Orlando.”

Those two players get added to a young core of Cole Anthony, Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr., Markelle Fultz, R.J. Hampton, Jonathan Isaac and Chuma Okeke. Now, it will be up to Mosley and his staff to get develop that group and cultivate the talent.

“This group is going to continue to grow together,” Mosley explained. “When you have guards and bigs, these guys complement each other. ... They all believe in winning and I think each person, if you ask them, they just want to find ways to win and help each other be better.”

With two high-character, high-IQ playmakers added to the roster, the process of making other players on the roster better just got a little bit easier.

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