2020 Orlando Magic Player Evaluations: Wesley Iwundu still there in emergencies

When the Orlando Magic needed Wesley Iwundu, he was always there to provide them emergency minutes. But the Orlando Magic need more too. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
When the Orlando Magic needed Wesley Iwundu, he was always there to provide them emergency minutes. But the Orlando Magic need more too. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

Wesley Iwundu once again gave the Orlando Magic solid minutes when they had nowhere else to turn. He was a stabilizing force even without a consistent role.

Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford had has always had a belief that a player needs consistent minutes to find a rhythm. He has kept his rotations tight to nine-men, often leaving out players he has professed a fondness for. It just is unfair to him to send a player out for two minutes and then give them the quick hook.

But Wesley Iwundu has proven to be the exception. Despite all of the inconsistent roles, Wesley Iwundu is always there to make plays for the Magic. He has done this his entire career and has played well, so it’s time to make him part of the rotation.

Iwundu never got a cemented role on this Magic team. He would go from not playing in a couple of games to becoming the team’s spot starter int he midst of all the injuries. Still, Iwundu always found a way to stay consistent.

In only 18.3 minutes per game, he averaged 5.8 points per game and shot 41.6-percent and a solid 34.1-percent from beyond the arc. Iwundu did a great job of staying relatively consistent despite being in and out of the lineup.

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Iwundu’s meager stats are as much a product of his limited minutes as anything else. But there are still clear areas where he needs to improve his game. As with most players on the Magic, it starts with his shooting.

Iwundu made a solid 34.1-percent of his 3-pointers, but defenses still left him largely open on shots. He made only 32.3-percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-pointers according to Second Spectrum on 1.3 attempts per game.

He did make a fair amount of pull-up 3-pointers — 41.2-percent on 0.3 attempts per game according to Second Spectrum. But that is not how the Magic want to or should use him at this point.

For now, the biggest thing keeping Iwundu from more minutes is his inconsistent 3-point shooting and the lack of respect defenses give his shot. Perhaps that is where the Magic needed to trust him more and give him the opportunity to force defenses to shift how they defend him.

The percentages certainly suggest his shooting has dramatically improved. But Iwundu never got enough time on the court to change this narrative.

Where Iwundu showed some promise is scoring and attacking off cuts and in transition especially.

In this play, Iwundu gets the ball against a scrambling defense and decides to attack and get an easy finish at the rim. He does not wait for the defense to set. Instead, he attacks and makes sure the defense stays and runs, which will create more opportunities.

He rarely was used as a cutter like this however. That could be a place where the Magic look to expand his role if the team decides to bring him back.

It should be noted too that in that August game against the Boston Celtics, Iwundu went just 2 for 7 in 25 minutes. That was an opportunity with the Magic facing so many injuries that Iwundu did not show off in.

As a starter this year, Iwundu averaged 8.5 points per game on 46.8-percent shooting and 39.5-percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Iwundu always fits a role in the offense and does not have plays called, but always makes a quick decision. The ball does not get stuck with Iwundu, and he’s quick to decide on whether to attack or pass.

Regardless of being in and out of the rotation, Iwundu always found a way to fit into the offense. As the year has gone on, he became more comfortable with taking the open three when it was there and always made a quick decision whether to attack or move the ball.

While he provides some offense, he is best on the defensive end of the floor. The Magic had a 104.6 defensive rating with Iwundu on the floor, a pretty strong number. But stats can not tell the story because of the lack of minutes.

The eye test has to be used when judging Iwundu’s defense.

In this play, Wesley Iwundu uses his athleticism to help Terry Rozier and use his length to deflect his pass to Aaron Gordon. Iwundu has consistently created defensive plays that have allowed the Magic to get out in transition, which is something they lost without Jonathan Isaac.

But even this is an area Iwundu needs to improve upon. According to Basketball Index, Iwundu managed only 2.0 deflections per 75 possessions, placing him just barely in the bottom half of the league. He is good at recovering loose balls and being opportunistic. But he does not always put himself in a position to create these turnovers.

Iwundu uses his 7-foot-1 wingspan to play solid on-ball defense but needs to develop his technique a little more.

Most of Iwundu’s defensive value is not measured in these kinds of statistics. He is simply good at being in the right spot to deter any thought of attacking the paint.

He has also been good at making decisions to help and double team, using his speed to get back on his man. But Iwundu has more potential with his on-ball defense. Teams right now know not to attack or test him too much. But he has not shown he can be much more than a bench defender.

WESLEY IWUNDU. B. . G/F. Orlando Magic

Overall, Iwundu has been able to provide consistent defense for the Magic. Then on the offense of end, he continues to improve and was starting to provide consistent offense as time went by as his role became more consistent.

If Iwundu were to get consistent minutes, Orlando would have a solid piece for the future.

But the Magic had the opportunity to give him that chance. Facing all the injuries they faced, the Magic opted to acquire James Ennis at the trade deadline rather than trusting Iwundu with the starting spot.

Iwundu has improved, but it is fair to say he has not improved enough or quickly enough to help the team. They turned to Ennis as their starter, and he is likely to be back with the team next season taking up opportunities that Iwundu could have earned.

As much as Clifford says he likes using Iwundu, Iwundu is still only for emergencies. And that does not bode well.

The Magic have a team option for Iwundu this coming season. It would be difficult to lose talent the team has developed like this. But then again, they have struggled to put Iwundu in a role where he can consistently help the team in its playoff chase.

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That should not lessen the impact Iwundu has had when the Magic have needed him. But it certainly says something that Iwundu’s minutes are more a matter of emergency rather than a necessity at this point in his career.