With the draft complete, Summer League coming to a close and free agency slowing down, we have officially reached one of the more interesting parts of the Orlando Magic’s offseason.
The NBA’s artificial list season.
We may have actually entered this twilight zone a little early this year as everyone attempted to cram Stephen Curry onto their all-time lists after the NBA Finals. But we are still probably a month or two away from ESPN’s infamous top 100 players list. Along with Sports Illustrated and everyone else trying to pass the time before the season starts back up.
This week, NBA journalist, historian and A-list podcaster Bill Simmons released his annual trade-value list, this time more formally than in years past.
It is a Simmons column so it comes with his own set of rules, quirks, homerisms and contradictions. But it at least gives us some understanding of how the wider NBA world views the league and the debates that are going to shape and define the offseason.
The Orlando Magic are still at the beginning stages of their rebuild and seeking attention from the wider NBA world. But that attention is starting to become apparent.
Numbered 1 to 64, this list is not a best players list, but rather best assets if they were to be traded list. This is evident right away as LeBron James clocks in at number 35. This does not mean Simmons thinks James is the NBA’s 35th-best player, he just believes that many teams would be hesitant to trade for the 37-year-old on an expiring contract.
Many quality players are near the end of the list too. DeMar DeRozan and Deandre Ayton are near the bottom while some young players are near the top like Evan Mobley and Cade Cunningham.
Now we will not go down the rabbit hole of debates regarding other players. There is plenty of offseason left for that. What is important here is that three Orlando Magic players made the list.
First, Wendell Carter is listed as an honorable mention, along with the likes of Robert Williams III, John Collins, Anfernee Simons and Nikola Vucevic.
This was a little bit of a surprise but Carter has earned it. He started 61 games last season averaging 15.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. He is one of the more respected rim protectors in the league, has a sneaky good jump shot and is still only 23 years old.
Carter is still the Magic’s most underrated asset and player. It is great to see him getting some love from a national media outlet.
It also should not be lost that Carter and Vucevic are listed in the same tier in the list and the Magic used the draft pick in the deal to snag this next player. What a trade.
The next Magic youngster is Franz Wagner checking in at number 52. He is listed with Tyrese Maxey, Jaren Jackson Jr. and just ahead of R.J. Barrett.
We know Wagner’s profile by now – all-rookie first team, 15.2 points per game on better than 50-percent shooting, and still only 20 years old.
Looking at the players just ahead of Wagner on this list, there is an argument for him to be moved up in the future. Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Smartt and Desmond Bane could all be listed below Franz Wagner, but it is tough to right now given their recent playoff performances.
The only thing that seems a little contradictory is the placement of some of Wagner’s rookie class peers. Jalen Green is at 31, Scottie Barnes and Cade Cunningham are at 16 and 15 and Evan Mobley shockingly is listed at number 9.
Wagner flew under the radar most of the season and only the hardcore League Pass watchers knew about him outside of Magic fans.
Wagner will continue to fly under the radar, at least until the Magic make some noise in the postseason. But I would argue he is just as valuable as these other prospects and should be treated as such.
The highest-listed Magic player on the list also happens to be the newest member of the team, Paolo Banchero.
Just typing that out is still crazy. Banchero plays for the Orlando Magic.
He slots in at number 28 on the list, one spot ahead of second overall pick Chet Holmgren.
Both Bill Simmons and Ryen Russillo debate on this placement in a recent podcast, saying it could be too close to call. Eventually, they agree to leave Banchero as the top-rated rookie due to his dominant summer league play.
Jabari Smith Jr. lands at No. 32 and the fifth pick in the draft, Jaden Ivey, is at No. 41.
These are all fair placements as untapped potential and rookie contracts alone make these players extremely valuable. There is a reason you do not see many trades in the top five of the draft.
If Banchero comes out and has a rookie of the year type of season, he will jump into the top 10-12 of this list. He is that valuable.
SportsCenter has already aired segments comparing Paolo Banchero’s offensive game to a young Lebron James or Carmelo Anthony. Numerous articles have already been written marveling at Banchero’s combination of size and playmaking.
That might be racing ahead of ourselves some. Banchero still has to play his first regular season game.
But from now until the end of next season, the hype around Banchero will only continue to snowball. Being listed here above LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell means it has already begun.
In just a couple of years, the Magic took a middling roster and turned it into one of the most exciting young cores in the league. Having three players on this list is more than many NBA teams could say and one could argue that Cole Anthony deserves to be included as an honorable mention too.
This will not be the last list of this offseason. But it is the first major one that shows the real traction the Magic are gaining. It is only up from here.