Big backcourt decisions facing the Magic next season

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Gary Harris, Orlando Magic
Gary Harris has had an up-and-down run with the Orlando Magic so far. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /

Shooting guard

The Orlando Magic have options at shooting guard too, but it is certainly a position that needs strengthening and consistency if the team is to move forward. The guards who have been mentioned so far might enjoy more opportunities if they were able to adapt to the 2-spot, but there are no guarantees.

Losing Evan Fournier has opened up an opportunity at the position, but the arrival of Gary Harris means a young player wanting to become a starter will need to prove they can be potent enough offensively and reliable enough defensively to sacrifice Harris’ terrific on-ball defense.

The 26-year-old arrived from Denver in the Aaron Gordon trade with a lot to prove. His offense has taken a dip since he averaged 17.5 points per game in the 2018 season and while his 3-point percentage of 37.5-percent in 19 games with the Magic offers cause for encouragement, a 35.9-percent field-goal percentage tells a more complete story.

Harris has to show he can be a threat offensively to be the starting shooting guard going forward and more than a placeholder for who comes next. His presence on the court with the experience of being a seven-year player could be a big help. He is already displaying his leadership qualities.

On the current roster, R.J. Hampton perhaps looks the most likely to take his spot. He too has big questions to answer, mostly around whether he can shoot the ball reliably, but has the potential to be effective on both ends of the court. His future could well be as more of a two than a one.

While not a starter, Terrence Ross will demand significant time off the bench in order to be effective if he is to stay with the team. On a team that has long struggled offensively, Ross’ ability to come in and make shots has been hugely important when the team is trying to win.

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He has the ability to play at small forward if needed, so could be used as more of a 3 should the Magic need. This provides the flexibility of playing a bench unit of Cole Anthony, R.J. Hampton, Terrence Ross, Chuma Okeke and Mohamed Bamba, or something along those lines. But having mostly operated as a two, the team might need him at that spot to be in with a better chance of winning, which could then limit the others.

Orlando has to decide whether Harris and Ross will form part of this young roster moving forward, or if both parties are better off moving in different directions through the trade market. Much of that will, again, depend on who is drafted this summer.

Taking Jalen Green would really make that 2-spot competitive. A natural multi-level scorer, the type of which the Magic have lacked, would provide an immediate boost offensively despite concerns over how he would cope on the defensive end. It would leave a big decision to be made between Green’s offense and Harris’s defense, while also creating questions about whether Ross and Green are both needed.

Likewise, Cade Cunningham or Jalen Suggs would have to form a big part of the backcourt and could potentially play alongside Markelle Fultz or Cole Anthony if needed. Both would also need sufficient time with the ball in their hands to be effective, it would almost be like playing with two points which other teams have done successfully.

This also goes for some of the other guards lower down the draft order.

Harris and Ross have their importance, but the Magic have to take keep taking risks in order to move forward. Landing a big backcourt talent in this year’s draft would ensure a season of enormous change continues into the offseason, and these decisions will ultimately determine how successful the team can be.

Carter-Williams is also someone that has spent time at the 2-spot, and if Clifford is keen to keep him around for another year then he might get minutes as a defensive two.

Dwayne Bacon, who can slot in at the two or the three, has played significant minutes this year as a much-needed scorer. But both will fall below the current crop of guards when everyone is healthy, as they would with lottery picks.