Orlando Magic 2022 3rd Quarter MVP: Wendell Carter becomes the rock

Wendell Carter has established himself as a consistent force for an Orlando Magic team finding its identity. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Wendell Carter has established himself as a consistent force for an Orlando Magic team finding its identity. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports /

Wendell Carter has always been hardest on himself. Any criticism he offers for the team, he includes himself.

The team is not being aggressive enough? Carter understands he too needs to increase his aggression and shoot when it is there.

The team is not being physical enough? Carter knows he has to be more physical and set the tone for the team as one of its backstops defensively.

The team is struggling to stick to the game plan — in third quarters especially? Carter is often the one reminding the team of the focus it needs to survive those moments. Carter said the players have taken it upon themselves to have these discussions before the coaching staff enters for adjustments or reminders before heading back out.

There is a sense of ownership about this team. Something that Carter has certainly expressed publicly as one of the “veterans” of the team more than anyone else. He is surely not the only one.

But Carter’s growth has been the biggest sign of how much the team has bought in even through a difficult season where the team sits with the worst record in the league. It is the reason why there remains a ton of optimism about what the Magic could do.

After a stellar month — that included being named one of the nominees for the Eastern Conference Player of the Month in February — Carter has established himself as an indispensable part of the Magic’s success, as limited as it might be.

Wendell Carter has been at the center of much of the Orlando Magic’s success. In the third quarter of the season, he emerged as a consistent rock for Orlando to stand on.

In a season of inconsistency, Carter has been the bedrock for this team. The third quarter of the season only solidified how good Carter has been and can be to help the Magic improve.

Carter is our MVP for the third quarter of the season.

In the third quarter of the season, Carter averaged a team-high 17.2 points per game while shooting 57.8-percent from the floor. He grabbed a team-high 10.3 rebounds per game. Carter was a consistent producer for the team in that time too.

He scored fewer than 10 points just once in the third quarter of the season and fewer than 15 points in just seven of the team’s 15 games.

More importantly than that, Carter remained a defensive stalwart for the team.

Orlando was not the picture of defensive perfection in the third quarter of the season, giving up 111.7 points per 100 possessions. But with Carter on the floor, the Magic gave up 109.2 points per 100 possessions. That was the best mark by regular rotation players (R.J. Hampton led the way but played in only seven games in the third quarter of the season because of a sprained MCL).

This is what Carter was known for with the Bulls. He was a stalwart and versatile defender, equally able to block shots and defend the rim as he was to position himself to cover on pick and rolls. The Magic have only really started to unleash Carter’s defensive potential. And his versatility has enabled him to play power forward for much of the year.

Carter though has had to fight some of his own demons and criticisms to have what feels like a breakthrough.

In Chicago, Carter was criticized for passing up jumpers and not playing with aggression. There definitely were some mixed messages in Chicago with all the coaching changes. There was always the concern that Carter would be hesitant to shoot.

For the season, Carter has not been shy even adding a 3-pointer to his game. He is taking 10.6 field goal attempts per game this year, the first time he has taken more than 10 field goals per game in his career. His usage rate has also climbed to 20.2-percent, also a career-high.

In the third quarter of the season, Carter averaged 11.7 field goal attempts per game with a usage rate of 22.5-percent. This is a sign of his growing confidence and how much the Magic are beginning to rely on him.

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He has been a pillar for the team offensively, someone they can give the ball to in the high post to direct traffic and initiate half-court actions.

Cole Anthony has previously commented that Carter is one of the best screeners he has ever played with. And Carter indeed leads the team this season with 3.8 screen assists per game, 13th in the league according to NBA.com’s stats database.

The Magic score 1.07 points per possession on pick and rolls where Carter is the roll man, according to NBA.com’s stats database. The Magic score +0.12 points per 75 possessions more than the average when Carter rolls to the basket, according to Basketball-Index. That places him in the 89th percentile in the league.

Carter still has areas he needs to improve.

While he is a better jump shooter than perhaps he arrived in Orlando, it is still an area he needs to gain confidence. His 3-point shooting has started to tail off and there are still times where he will pass on open shots — or do this deliberately slow pump fake that gets the defense off balance some or resets the offense (the fact he can even get away with this is a sign of how much progress he made as a shooter).

But the last month and a half of games solidified Carter as a force for the Magic on both ends of the floor. He may not have the eye-popping games — his highest scoring total in the third quarter of the season was a 25-point outing in Denver against the Denver Nuggets — but he was solid throughout.

As the Magic have begun to find their identity and develop a clearer style to play, Carter has come to the forefront. They are beginning to embody the things Jamahl Mosley envisioned for his team. And Carter is embodying a lot of those aspects.

After struggling in his first three years to find his fit with the Bulls, Carter has started to find himself and make a true impact in this first full season with the Magic. He is playing with poise and a focus the team has been lacking and needed especially in a season like this.

Carter has positioned himself as the team’s heartbeat and calming voice in many ways. Even at 22 years old, he carries himself like a veteran for the team.

With that, it is easy to forget how much growth he can still make and how much he can still improve.

These last 20-plus games have shown Carter growing and getting more confidence. He is quickly putting away the things that held him back in Chicago and becoming a solid player overall.

For a Magic team that needs consistency, Carter’s play has been extremely welcomed. It has been a drumbeat the team can count on every night. He may not be the best player for the team long-term, but it feels like he is the best thing the Magic can count on every night. And that counts for something.

Carter will be the first to tell you he still has a lot of room to grow. He still falls into bad habits and into his frustrations. But they are becoming less and less.

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And as the Magic have gotten better, they have found themselves relying on Carter a lot more. Carter has stepped up to the plate.