The Orlando Magic are seeing their two-way players shine in the G-League. But the Lakeland Magic as a whole are off to a slow start.
The Orlando Magic scored a bit of a coup in building the team’s G-League roster.
The team retained Troy Caupain on a two-way contract and then picked up one of the best big men from last year in Amile Jefferson. Both players shined with the Lakeland Magic last year and seemed on the precipice of making the NBA. Both figured they could get some opportunity with Orlando on their two-way contracts.
The Magic though were equally aggressive trying to fill out the Lakeland Magic’s roster through Exhibit 10 contracts in training camp. Players like Braian Angola-Rodas, B.J. Johnson, Devin Davis and Gabe York all spent time with the Magic during training camp, even if for a little while. And second-round pick Justin Jackson is expected to play the entire year with Lakeland as a domestic draft-and-stash player.
Things have not started out on strong footing.
The Lakeland Magic are 1-5 to start the season as they have struggled some to keep pace with the rest of the G-League. Lakeland is 26th in the 27-team league in with 96.4 points per 100 possessions. In a league that thrives with the over-exaggerated offense, that is a bit of a problem.
The Magic are still getting their feet under them with several new players integrating into the roster. That is always the challenge in the G-League. There is certainly a long way to go.
The Orlando Magic are still seeing the players they are surely interested in playing well. Or, at least, keeping the same level of production they have had over the last few years.
Troy Caupain is leading Lakeland with 17.6 points per game and 47.9 percent shooting, including 40.0 percent from beyond the arc. He is also adding 4.5 assists per game. Caupain needed to improve on his 3-point shooting — he shot 34.7 percent last year — and his overall point guard play — his assists are down this year. But these are all good signs. Caupain is still a scorer first but he is showing a lot more efficiency in that area.
Amile Jefferson similarly needed to show he could keep up his strong rebounding numbers and improve as an outside shooter to open up opportunities for him to play power forward. Jefferson is averaging 15.5 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. That is in line with the numbers he had last year. Jefferson has yet to make a 3-pointer and is shooting 68.2 percent from the foul line. At least, Jefferson is producing as much as he did last year.
Outside of the stellar play of the Magic’s two-way players, Lakeland is not getting a whole lot more from anyone else.
Gabe York is hitting on just 30.6 percent of his 3-pointers. Byron Mullens is hitting 47.1 percent from the outside, but he is not likely a long-term NBA prospect. Brain Angola-Rodas is shooting 33.3 percent from beyond the arc on 3.0 attempts per game. Justin Jackson is scoring 4.0 points per game in about 15 minutes per game as he works his way back into form.
The Magic are just not getting a ton of production. And thus their record is suffering for it.
Are the Orlando Magic seeing what they want to see from their key players? Not likely.
Even Melvin Frazier struggled in his stints with Lakeland — 8.8 points per game in 25.7 minutes per game in four appearances. The team has not found its rhythm quite yet.
It is still early in the season and there is still a lot of growth and coming together for these young players. Lakeland started off last season slow too, relying heavily on Khem Birch and other Magic assignments to keep things steady. When Khem Birch and Wesley Iwundu started playing full-time with the Orlando roster, Lakeland had to adjust again.
There is still plenty of time to do that.
But it has undoubtedly been a rough start for that team.