Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner will have immediate impact for Orlando Magic

Jalen Suggs had an impressive showing that has the Orlando Magic excited for the future. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Jalen Suggs had an impressive showing that has the Orlando Magic excited for the future. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

Going into the 2022 season, the Orlando Magic are widely expected to focus on development and not necessarily judge this season on wins or losses. However, after media day, the Magic seem genuinely confident they can shock people and do more.

No one should go into a season believing lesser of themselves. At 0-0, every team is a blank canvas. Inevitably some teams will surprise and some teams will disappoint. While even Magic players are not going to say they are set to compete for a championship, a few were willing to state plainly their goal was to make the playoffs this season.

That kind of confidence should be welcomed from a young group. They are eager to learn and are setting their sights high even immediately.

If that is the case, then the Magic are going to need a few things to happen. They are going to need some injury luck for sure and stay healthy. They will have to successfully integrate back players coming off major surgeries.

But most importantly, they will need players to show their development to prove it on the court.

The Orlando Magic have big ambitions for what they ultimately will become. But a lot of their immediate future will rely on the quick development of two rookies.

This task gets harder, with Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz’s return being unknown. Both players have reportedly been ruled out for the season opener against the San Antonio Spurs.

More pressure will be put on rookies Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner to contribute to filling the void.

Despite that, Suggs and Wagner have the skill sets on both ends of the court to help win games sooner rather than later.

Jalen Suggs has the qualities to make an immediate impact on Orlando. Although it is just Summer League, Suggs averaged 15.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in that three-game run. Suggs was able to do this in only 21.8 minutes per game — and all those stats were weighed down by a 12-minute outing in the finale against the Boston Celtics before leaving with an injury.

Suggs shot semi-efficient at 41.5-percent from the field and 35.7-percent from three. At Summer League, Suggs played well at the defensive end. He averaged 1.7 steals and a block per game. He has the instinct and the willingness to be a strong defender early in his career.

Regardless of the numbers, Suggs showed the intangibles that will carry over to the regular season. Suggs displayed the toughness and leadership skills to be able to contribute early. In the first game down the stretch against the Warriors, Suggs shined on both ends of the court.

He scored six of Orlando’s eight points during overtime. Then defensively, at the end of the fourth quarter, on a two-on-one fast break, Suggs got the block and the rebound. Suggs has shown the ability to play on both sides of the court, and with his attitude towards the game, the transition between Summer League and regular-season games will be seamless.

Wagner provides a different skill set than Suggs. Wagner’s stats will not jump out of the stat sheet.

In Summer League, he did not shoot the ball from three well at 15.4-percent. But Wagner does all the little things it takes to win games. Wagner averaged eights points per game on moving without the ball and filling lanes in transition.

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It took time but, as he played more, Wagner played better, and his value came to light. In his last game during Summer League, Wagner had 13-points, 3-rebounds, and an assist. He made his one three-point attempt and also contributed on the defensive end with three steals.

Wagner is the player who can be easily plugged into any lineup and succeed. During media day, his older brother Moritz Wagner commented he is the easiest teammate to play with and does not need the ball to be good. Wagner picks his spots well and tries to make the right play.

He consistently moves without the ball and must be accounted for on the offensive end. His shooting will come fairly quick if Summer League is an indication as he gets he translates to a further three-point line.

Wagner is already a strong defender with his size and instinct. Terrence Ross commented that Franz Wagner was guarding him on drills and that he has a lot of potential with his length and instinct on that end of the floor.

The Magic are likely to put both their rookies into the lineup quickly.

With Fultz out, Suggs may well slide into the starting lineup immediately — if his play does not earn it outright. Franz Wagner may well end up starting on opening night with both Jonathan Isaac and Chuma Okeke out at the beginning of training camp. Those injuries are creating opportunity for Wagner to make an immediate impact.

To make the playoffs, the Magic need to lock into their identity quickly and get out fast. That will not be easy with their schedule. But if their rookies are contributing more than anticipated, the Magic could be a surprise team.

In the end, this upcoming season will be a developmental season for the Magic.

But it is a disservice to the Magic to put a ceiling on their season when the players believe they can do more.

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The Magic have a tough road ahead with the unknowns of Isaac and Fultz. But Suggs and Wagner have the skill sets that will affect Orlando not only long term but this season.