With James Ennis missing the entire preseason and opening night, Dwayne Bacon has the chance to prove he can be a consistent player for the Orlando Magic.
In Dwayne Bacon’s first three seasons in the league, he has been inconsistent across the board. Whether it was due to a coaching change when coach Steve Clifford left for the Orlando Magic or injuries that have kept him from realizing his full potential, Dwayne Bacon has never been able to have consecutive years where he’s shown consistency.
He has started at least 10 games in two of his three seasons in the league to this point. Teams like his ability to score in theory and his size. Bacon has something that teams like and want to latch onto.
It just has never coalesced together. And no one can really see why.
By the end of the 2020 season, Bacon had seemingly fallen completely out of favor with the Charlotte Hornets. They had given up on him.
The Magic signed Bacon to a minimum deal. They needed to shore up their wing depth. And the familiarity Bacon had with Clifford — and Clifford’s familiarity with him — certainly helped sell on adding a new player to the fold.
To find success this year — and a new contract with the Magic or elsewhere — Bacon has to show the consistency necessary for a rotation player. That is something he has not done throughout his career to this point.
It says something that Dwayne Bacon cracked the opening night starting lineup Wednesday against the Miami Heat with James Ennis still out with a strain in his right hamstring.
With Ennis missing the entire preseason and opening night, Bacon has the chance to prove that he can be a consistent player and earn himself a rotational spot for the team. It is a rare opportunity for a player that was a fringe player — like Ennis last year, actually — to establish himself as a starter for a playoff-caliber team.
Bacon does so many things that seemingly fit what the team needs. He is solid at creating his own shot and finishing around the basket. And he has a decent, if still inconsistent, long-range jumper.
Bacon showed out in his first preseason game scoring 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He averaged 9.8 points per game on 48-percent shooting from the field in the preseason. It is a small sample size, but he has been able to be a consistent scorer and creator as he’s been able to get into the paint and find the open man.
Things did not start off well during the regular season though. Bacon went scoreless, missing all five of his shots, in the Orlando Magic’s season-opening win over the Miami Heat.
Bacon’s inconsistency can be traced to his 3-point shooting percentage.
He went from shooting 25.6-percent from beyond the arc in 2018 to an outstanding 47.5-percent shooting from three in 2019. However, he ended up shooting a poor 28.4-percent from three in his three years with the Charlotte Hornets.
Those are all small-ish sample sizes as he struggled to stay in the rotation.
Bacon’s offense is not just about his shooting, although that would unlock a large portion of his game.
His driving ability is something Clifford has expected from Bacon. He wants Bacon to be a player who could get into the paint and create open shots for his teammates. Bacon defiantly showed this skill set during the preseason on multiple occasions.
While Bacon will not be the main initiator of the offense, it would still be a good skill set to be able to score on a scrambling defense. This is a skill the Magic will need. It will help an offense that tends to have stretches where it can’t score or even create good shots.
No one expected Bacon to have an impact on this team, especially this early. But he is creating a case for himself he will be able to improve this team with his offense.
To affect the Magic he will have to be a respectable shooter and shoot somewhere above 33-percent from three. It creates a sense that this Magic will finally have shooting on both units this season.
And time will constantly be ticking for Bacon. The Magic are likely to re-insert Ennis into the lineup when he returns unless Bacon is genuinely a better option. And the Magic have Chuma Okeke waiting in the wings who could play the 3 — although for now, Steve Clifford wants to limit him to the power forward position as he dips his toe into the waters of the NBA.
Bacon is getting his opportunity now and he needs to take advantage of it by providing consistent defense and scoring to the team when his number is called.
Overall this season, Bacon has gotten an opportunity to start with Ennis’ injury and will have the question to answer whether he finally be a consistent offensive player and exceed the expectations that were given to him when signed with Orlando.
His signing was something that went under the radar for Magic fans but has the potential to be a big contributor this season.