3 Potential Starting Lineups for the Orlando Magic this season

The Orlando Magic have a solid group of young players who are still finding themselves. But they showed hints of their potential last year. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic have a solid group of young players who are still finding themselves. But they showed hints of their potential last year. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic’s most used starting lineup last season was Cole Anthony, Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter, Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner. One could argue that this was their best starting lineup, despite the fact that this group only won 13 of 34 games.

The group though was pretty good for a team with an overall net rating of -8.1 points per 100 possessions. When that group played together, the Magic played with a net rating of -1.1 points per 100 possessions.

The second-most used starting lineup swapped Gary Harris for Jalen Suggs, resulting in only one win out of the eight games played. But that group was wildly effective, at least comparatively. They played at a net rating of +5.8 points per 100 possessions with an offensive rating of 114.9 points per 100 possessions.

Clearly, both of these lineups did not result in wins, but that is to be expected considering the team’s youth and the injuries they faced last season.

It was also a sign the team had some effective lineups and some building blocks it can turn to this season.

Because this season is different, very different. Enter Paolo Banchero.

It seems like the Magic have their roster for next season. With all the major pieces in place, what kind of starting lineups with head coach Jamahl Mosley roll out?

A 6-foot-10 combo forward who is comfortable scoring at all three levels, a surprisingly unselfish passer and a good team defender gives the Magic exactly what they need to build an effective starting group.

It is safe to assume Banchero starts on opening. It is also pretty safe to assume just adding Banchero will help boost the team’s win total. More talent will do that.

There will be some inevitable jumbling of lineups and some experimenting going on as the Magic explore everything their new roster has to offer.

However, the addition of Banchero to the starting lineup is not the most intriguing part. Rather, it is how the lineup will look with the return of Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac.

Both are projected to return next season and will steer the Magic into unknown territory. Isaac has not played in two years and Fultz is coming back from a serious injury.

Taking that into consideration here are a few starting lineups the Magic could use next year.

Best Possible Lineup

Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero, Wendell Carter Jr.

The problem with the “best possible lineup” is that one of the Orlando Magic’s key players will need to be on the bench. In this case, Jonathan Isaac does not quite make the cut.

That makes sense because the Magic are likely to ease Isaac back into playing considering his prolonged absence. We saw how the Magic were cautious with bringing Markelle Fultz back last year, with Fultz playing an average of 20.0 minutes per game and being held pretty strictly to that minute cap until the end of the season.

In theory, Franz Wagner and Jonathan Isaac would swap out depending on the matchup since Wagner is a better scorer/passer but Isaac is a better defender.

Fultz is the playmaker. Jalen Suggs is the shooter (albeit he did not quite earn that title yet after struggling from the outside his rookie season). Wagner is the “3&D” wing. Paolo Banchero is the combo forward and potential lead scorer. And Wendell Carter holds down the paint.

But this kind of lineup should embody everything the offense wants to be for this team. It is full of selfless players who will pass the ball and keep motion.

Most importantly, they can run. The Magic were 10th in the league in pace at 99.7 possessions per 48 minutes last season. Markelle Fultz and Paolo Banchero give Jamahl Mosley two dynamic players in the open court which should give the Magic a more fluid offense.

In theory, this squad has enough shooting to make do, although it would not be unrealistic to say they could struggle to hit from behind the arc. Last year, the Magic shot 33.1-percent from three and adding Fultz (23.5-percent) and Banchero (33.8-percent at Duke) does not quite change that.

It is no wonder that replacing Jalen Suggs with a sharpshooter like Gary Harris had positive effects to last year’s team. And Harris may well get the nod if the Magic are surprisingly competitive while Suggs continues to develop off the bench.

Overall, this may be the lineup with the best players on the team and that may not mean that it is the best lineup to run out on a game-to-game basis.

Mosley has several options to plug in play like Gary Harris, Terrence Ross, Cole Anthony, Chuma Okeke and others so there may be variations of this lineup with one or two changes.

Smallball lineup

Markelle Fultz, Gary Harris, Jonathan Isaac, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero

Paolo Banchero played at the 5 during Summer League and it was relatively successful, at least in two games. But what is great about this lineup is that Banchero does not have to be the only big on the floor.

Jonathan Isaac also has had his fair share of minutes at center and will provide another defensive-minded presence on the court. Jonathan Isaac will shore up the holes that are created by Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner on the defensive end. That is, once Isaac gets up to full speed.

More importantly, a lineup like this works because there are players to cover for each other defensively but also the ability to spread the floor offensively. Defenses will have to react and figure out how to cover the paint with lineups like this.

Orlando could really lean into the space part of their offensive philosophy this season.

It will be interesting to see how Jamahl Mosley uses Jonathan Isaac since Isaac has not played under him as of yet. In the past, Jonathan Isaac has played alongside Aaron Gordon or Nikola Vucevic, one is a smaller-sized forward and the other is a traditional big. Banchero and Wagner are completely different so how that plays out remains to be seen.

Length/Size Lineup

Gary Harris, Jalen Suggs, Paolo Banchero, Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter

This is probably the most unlikely lineup but there is still some interesting aspects that could warrant a try.

Last year, Jamahl Mosley used the following lineup in four games: Gary Harris, Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter. The group had a net rating of +2.1 points per 100 possessions in 68 minutes together.

While they lost all four of the games they played together, there is clearly some potential there.

First of all, this lineup would be operating without a traditional point guard. Hypothetically, Jalen Suggs and Gary Harris would be taking over the playmaking with Paolo Banchero supplementing them as secondary playmaker.

The second point is Mo Bamba.

The Magic re-signed Bamba to a two-year deal which most is a prove-it deal. Bamba will need to show more improvement than he did or rather did not show in the past few years. This lineup would be a good opportunity for him to do so.

The last point is that the success of this lineup will depend on Harris and Suggs’ shooting. If Harris can shoot 38 percent from three like he did last season and Suggs can shoot around 35 percent, which would be a significant jump from an abysmal 21 percent last year, the kick and pop opportunities would open up the floor.

Next. Paolo Banchero announces himself with 50-burger at The Crawsover. dark

One thing is for sure, the Magic have the flexibility to explore the studio space with little pressure. For now, all the important players are under contract for the next few years and they are still in position to add more if need be. Eighty-two games is a lot of games and the Magic should be ready to experiment to find the best possible starting lineup.