A new era starts in earnest for the Magic, who hit the reset button in the middle of last season when Orlando felt it arrived at the end of the road with the Nicola Vucevic-Aaron Gordon core. As a “reward” for reaching that realization and acting swiftly, the Magic fell in the standings and found an unexpected bonus in the Draft when Jalen Suggs, a potential No. 1 overall pick, was there for the taking at No. 5.
More than anything, the success of this season and the near future of the franchise will depend heavily on a pair of comebacks. Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac are both bouncing back from knee injuries and their health will loom large in the grand scheme of things. Overall, the Magic are filled with youth and promise, and they hope some of their emerging players become diamonds in the rough for new coach Jamahl Mosley.
The Magic need to sort through a collection of guards and find a pair of starters. It won’t be easy. Such is the so-called downside of adding Suggs to the team. Suggs, Fultz, Cole Anthony, Gary Harris and Michael Carter-Williams can each make a case for being starters or rotational players. At least two of them will sit and one might get traded at the deadline.
As is often the case with a young team, Orlando will struggle to score enough points to keep up with the rest of the league. Terrence Ross is their leading returning scorer at 15.6 ppg, which marked his career high. Ultimately, a go-to player needs to emerge for the Magic, who will struggle to win close games until they find a crunch-time scorer. Predicted finish: 27-55.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
Markelle Fultz: Returns from knee injury that cut short his 2020-21 season. At the time, Fultz was in the midst of a solid season.
Jalen Suggs: Orlando didn’t need another young combo guard, but after his surprise drop in the Draft, the Magic will find room for him.
Terrance Ross: Solid swingman brings shooting range and defense, the 30-year-old is one of the elder statesman on the team.
Jonathan Isaac: Missed all of last season (knee surgery), but he’s locked up long-term and the Magic anticipate a good recovery from him.
Wendell Carter Jr.: Steady-if-undersized blue-collar center is in the long-term plans for the Magic.
Cole Anthony: Had encouraging run once he started in place of Fultz, and should see significant minutes.
RJ Hampton: The Magic are expecting to witness growth from the former first-round pick of the Nuggets.
Franz Wagner: Skilled rookie could break into the rotation. His older brother, Mo, is also a key player on the Magic.
Mo Bamba: Prove-yourself season awaits as the wiry low-post player lacks the consistent shooting to be a stretch-five.
LAST 5 SEASONS
How the Magic have fared stats-wise over the last 5 seasons …
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
STAT TO KNOW
17 — Chuma Okeke ranked third among rookies in both deflections per 36 minutes (3.1) and was the first rookie in the last 17 years to play at least 1,000 minutes with as many (or more) steals (48) as personal fouls (48).
— John Schuhmann
* * *
Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.