Wendell Carter Jr. Personifies Many Key Elements of the Orlando Magic’s New Culture

Magic Sign Carter to Contract Extension
Wendell Carter Jr. and Jeff Weltman
by Dan Savage

ORLANDO – When the Orlando Magic made the decision to reset their roster during last season’s NBA trade deadline, they did so with the intention of adding youth, salary cap flexibility, draft assets and raising the team’s long-term ceiling in mind.

One of the three trades executed by Orlando on that date was with the Chicago Bulls. Although the Magic had to part with two-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic, in retrospect, that deal netted them all the elements they were looking for as part of their rebuild.

They were able to unload the salary of Al-Farouq Aminu, while acquiring two first round draft picks, Otto Porter Jr.’s expiring contract – he’s now in Golden State – and a valuable young prospect in Wendell Carter Jr.

Since arriving in Orlando, Carter has not only met, but exceeded expectations. And on Saturday morning, the Magic rewarded him for those efforts, signing him to a reported four-year, $50 million contract extension.

“I think you can tell a lot about Wendell Carter by the way he plays,” Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman explained. “He’s a worker. He’s a guy that cares about his teammates. He wants to please his coaches and he knows that this business is about winning basketball games. So, all of those ingredients. He’s about the right stuff. He’s about everything that we want to be about going forward.”

At just 22 years old, many believe Carter is just scratching the surface of his potential. The 6-foot-10 big man showed flashes of his capabilities last season, averaging team highs in both points (14.5) and rebounds (8.8) while shooting 57.8 percent from the floor in his first 13 games with the Magic before an ankle injury limited him the rest of the way.

Over the offseason, Carter’s character and work ethic were on display once again. In addition to his workouts, which in part focused on extending his shooting range, he also paid a visit to the team in Las Vegas while they were participating in summer league to gain familiarity with new head coach Jamahl Mosley, his staff and the team’s offensive and defensive schemes.

“’Dell is fantastic,” said the 15th head coach in franchise history. “He’s a professional, he’s a worker, he’s a great kid, and he’s got so much upside. He’s a guy that’s a foundational piece in a lot of ways of what you want when you talk about IQ and on-and-off-the-court things. He is that. You heard those things about him early on, but now, when you get to coach him, you see it on a day-to-day basis.”

His dedication to his craft has already started to pay dividends. In the preseason, the Duke alum led the Magic in points (12.5) and rebounds (8.8) per game, while also shooting a team-best 64.3 percent from the floor (among those that played in at least three contests with the organization).

In exhibition action, he also flashed that aforementioned improved range, knocking down 44.4 percent of his attempts from distance.

“It’s just the beginning,” Carter explained. “I don’t want to feel like I’m content with this. I want to continue to help my team win, continue to do all the right things, because at the end of the day when you’re winning, it makes things a lot easier.”

With the capability to stretch the floor now in Carter's arsenal, Mosley was able to roll out lineups that featured two bigs, as Carter and center Mo Bamba played in stretches alongside one another this preseason.

“He can switch one through five at times (and) he can sit down and guard wings,” said Mosley. “Offensively, he can knock down shots. He knows the right plays to make. He doesn’t speed himself up too much. The versatility and the basketball IQ is all of what we’re asking for and he definitely personifies that.”

Now, Carter is looking to continue to build on his offseason efforts and reward the team that’s put so much faith in him.

“This is a big year coming up for me,” Carter said. “Especially after getting traded, I had a lot of mixed emotions about it. I just realized I need to buckle down and just really focus on my craft. Just get back to what got me to this league, just being that hard worker, just putting my mind to the things that are going to help me become a better player.”

With his work ethic, high IQ, positional versatility, defensive focus and expanding range, Carter is well on his way to developing into a special player. One that can help the Magic on the court and establish their culture off of it.

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