5 things we learned from Orlando Magic’s Summer League
Flipping the switch on defense
The Orlando Magic were not just there for some good vibes and to throw Paolo Banchero out there. The team was working and focusing on a lot of things and trying to test out strategies and principles they will cement in training camp.
The biggest thing to notice was the Magic’s embrace of switching defense. They were not afraid to switch 1 through 5 on the floor and they were clearly working on the communication and understanding where players need to be positioned to help after these switches were made.
What was also clear is this Magic team did not have the personnel to play this style.
Orlando gave up an average defensive rating of 105.4 points per 100 possessions, giving up fewer than a point per possession in the first two games with Banchero and the main roster players on the court and giving up more than 120 points per 100 possessions in each of the final two games.
There was little change from playing with Paolo Banchero and R.J. Hampton in the lineup to using a two-guard lineup that featured point guards Zavier Simpson and Devin Cannady. The size difference between the two teams should not be any clearer. And we know how much this Magic team values its size.
Still, Orlando was playing a style more than playing a score. The team was not focused on whether they had the personnel in Summer League to play this style, they wanted to expose their roster players to how they will play and understand some of its limitations heading into the season.
To be sure, the Magic’s main roster does have the ability to switch defensively and switch often.
Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner and Jonathan Isaac are all 6-foot-9 or taller wings who can guard on the perimeter and in the paint. Markelle Fultz and Jalen Suggs are bigger guards who can hold their own on the block until back-line help arrives. Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba can provide stronger rim protection and paint deterrence if the guards get beat at the point of attack — certainly better than Admiral Schofield did when he was in that position.
The best defense in the league last year from the Boston Celtics used switching effectively to stymie defenses in both the regular season and the playoffs. The Miami Heat too became a defensive juggernaut and reached the Eastern Conference Finals because they could switch 1 through 5 more or less.
This is the style the Magic have been building toward defensively. They have the players and pieces to try to make it work.
And if Summer League was any indication, the Magic are going to unleash their length and versatility to try to improve on a defense that finished 19th overall in the league last year and seventh after the All-Star Break (despite late-season shenanigans).