Orlando Magic giving opportunity out to close the season

Ignas Brazdeikis has found a chance to prove his NBA place with the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Ignas Brazdeikis has found a chance to prove his NBA place with the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic have been dealing with injuries from the beginning of the season.

They have rarely played with a full roster and spent a good chunk of the season with often just nine or 10 available players. There were even a few games where the team had only eight players available at tip off. There was even a game where injuries over the course of a game left the team with just six or seven players to use.

With time ticking down on the season, Orlando has been handing out contracts left and right. In the last week the team has added Moritz Wagner, Ignas Brazdeikis and Sindarius Thornwell, dropping Devin Cannady (out with that horrific ankle injury), Robert Franks and Donta Hall.

Orlando has been busy indeed.

The Orlando Magic are winding down their season and giving fringe NBA players their chance to prove they belong as they try to fill a functioning and full roster to the end.

The main thing with all of these players is that they all have skill. Wagner, as he has shown early in his tenure with the team, has solid footwork in the post and can step out and hit from the outside. Brazdeikis is a solid shooter. Thornwell is a good defender who can get into the paint.

The Magic are clearly looking to add players who can help support a young roster and put them in some positions to succeed rather than relying on young, raw prospects they might have had interest in developing for the long term on a different team.

There might also be a plan to scale back minutes for some key players after such a long, tiring season and the desire to keep players fresh for their offseason development.

The reality is the Magic had an incomplete roster and to get to the end of the season they needed more bodies and perhaps more players they could count on to plug in and contribute.

For these players, it is the ultimate audition.

"“I approach these last couple of games as a trial for free agency for next season,” Thornwell said after the team’s practice Thursday. “Just to show Orlando and other teams what I am capable of and just try to go out and make the best of every opportunity on the floor while I am out here. Hopefully, that leads to something else and something great.”"

The Magic are in a position where they can and should be giving these players that chance. With little to play for this season and just the need to fill roster spots, the Magic are perfectly positioned to try to find some value in little-used players who are on the NBA’s fringes.

Thornwell has played only two games with the Magic to date, scoring two points in 36 minutes. His defense though stood out especially in Friday’s loss to the Charlotte Hornets.

Moritz Wagner has been thrown into the fire the most since his arrival, earning five starts in six games because of injuries to Chuma Okeke and James Ennis, and has come out well. The 24-year-old center is averaging 11.2 points per game on a 45.3-percent effective field goal percentage in 26.8 minutes per game.

Clifford has admitted that due to to the team’s lack of overall depth at power forward, Wagner has had to play out of position more than anyone else.

Brazdeikis has played 55.8-percent of his NBA minutes in the last three games with the Magic. He has scored 29 total points (60.4-percent of his total scoring) with the Magic this season and is shooting a 44.6-percent effective field goal percentage.

All three of these players in a short time have shown at least something that might be worth digging into ore with the opportunity they have been afforded.

"“The biggest thing was them telling me to be me and play to my strengths and help my teammates play their strengths as well,” Brazdeikis said after practice Thursday. “That’s the biggest thing. Learning the offense and learning the defense and play as hard as I can. Don’t take this opportunity lightly. Use it to the max ability.”"

The Magic and their new teammates have been very welcoming it seems like. Despite having a young roster, the new players are leaning on them to teach them and help integrate them. A lot of players are having to grow up to help these players integrate quickly.

That is still a work in progress. The team has plenty of moments where they look a bit disorganized and struggling to run through their offense. On both ends there seems to be plenty of pointing to try and get players in the right spots or cycling to the next phase of the play or rotation.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

But the culture that is quickly being established of a group of young players who are fighting for their place in the NBA is the exact kind of place grinders trying to make their mark in the league are trying to be a part. It should help them get the right mindset and energy to play hard and play well.

At the end of the day, the Magic have opportunity to hand out. It is up to these players to take advantage of it.

"“Anyone is excited when you are at home working and waiting for an opportunity,” Thornwell said after practice Thursday. “Just to be here is a blessing because a lot of guys who were in the position I was in are waiting for the opportunity. Every day you are at home and you are watching guys play and peers you are friends with compete every night, you just want to be on the floor with them.”"

Thornwell said he had to have a “stay-ready mindset” which included working out on his own, but also studying teams that had expressed interest for when the call-up comes. He is still getting his feet wet but has done good things.

It is still to be determined whether any of these players can do enough to stick with the Magic beyond this year, let alone stay in the league. They all know they have to take advantage of this opportunity.

There are five games left for them to make that kind of impression. That should be enough to put all they can do on display.

Next. Cole Anthony, R.J. Hampton's development key for Orlando Magic. dark

The Magic are certainly giving them that chance.