Orlando Magic’s small forwards show promise but remain unproven

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Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers
Franz Wagner has turned in a strong rookie year. Now is the time to let the rookie loose to close the season. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

In the NBA, the small forward position has some of the premier players in the league. Players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Khawi Leonard and Jayson Tatum all play small forward. So to be a successful team you need production from your small forwards.

The Orlando Magic have talent at the small forward position. But much of it remains unrealized or struggling to break through. As much optimism as there might be for this important spot, they need better production from them.

Rookie forward Franz Wagner was an absolute stud in his first year and seems set to continue growing. But the team lacked some depth at the position. Terrence Ross had his worst season in a Magic uniform and needs to step up his game next year for the Magic to be more successful this upcoming season.

The Orlando Magic are still building out their versatile group of forwards and wings. Aside from Franz Wagner though, their small forwards need to show more depth and ability.

Wagner was a suitable starter for the Magic and will only continue to get better.

Wagner really did it all his rookie season. Scoring, shooting, passing, defense, you name it, he did it. Any situation he was put in, he thrived for the most part. He needs help from his teammates to be able to take some of the pressure and load off of him.

That is a good place to start as the Magic continue to build out their roster.


Franz Wagner can score the ball.

He was the second leading scorer for the Magic in just his rookie season. At 15.2 points per game, Wagner’s size and length at the small forward position made him a tough guard. Not only did Wagner score often but he scored efficiently which is really hard to do especially in a rookie season.

He did a great job of getting to the basket and scoring in the most efficient areas.

He is not the most athletic or explosive player, but he has a great feel for the basket, is very patient, and he is very tall and lengthy for a small forward.

He shot 46 percent on drives which is outstanding considering he had over 400 attempts. He also shot 51.1-percent from two and had an effective field goal percentage of 51.7-percent, he shot 35.6 percent from three and was especially good from the corners.  He shot 45.9 percent from the corner which seemed to be his favorite spot this season.

If anything, Orlando was begging to get more from him and put him on the ball more. That seems to be the next area of growth for his game. But he fit seamlessly with whoever he played with and however the Magic wanted to use him.

Not only did he do a great job with the ball in his hands, but he did a fantastic job without the ball in his hands. A little more than 7 percent of his shot attempts came on cuts to the hoop and he shot 76 percent on these attempts.

It is a great feeling when you can count on your shooters when the game matters the most. It is also really special when a rookie can come in and surge in the big moments.

But he can not be carrying the scoring load by himself at the small forward position. There has to be production from the bench unit from the small forwards.

Terrence Ross needs to be the veteran help that Franz Wagner needs.

Ross had arguably the worst season of his career last season and he needs to bounce back. He shot the lowest field goal percentage, three-point percentage and efficiency percentage of his whole career last season.

Although having such a down season he did shoot the two pretty well.

Ross unlike Wagner was a terrific mid-range shooter. He shot 49.3 per cent from two, 52.3 percent from 10-16 feet and 34.7 percent from 16 feet to the 3-point line. He shot 53.8 percent on catch-and-shoot twos and 44 percent on pull-up twos.

His mid-range shot was very effective this year and plays a key role since other players on the Magic like Wagner struggle from the mid-range.

Teams top blocked Ross to prevent him from getting going from beyond the arc. And the good news hidden in some of his shooting struggles was how effective he was in the mid-range and his still effectiveness in scoring around the basket, shooting 55.9 percent from within 10 feet.

This is very key to his game. Ross is mostly a three-point shooter, so if he can catch a defender on a fake or make a good move, he is almost automatic once he gets in close to the basket.

He was a good scorer overall as he averaged 10.0 points per game and scored 30 or more twice last year with another three games with 20 points or more.