Orlando Magic aim to become a mainstay at All-Star Weekend and beyond

Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner did not announce themselves in Salt Lake City. But their presence will not be a one off. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner did not announce themselves in Salt Lake City. But their presence will not be a one off. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic were not a presence in Salt Lake City. All-Star Weekend was not their moment.

Even in the Rising Stars Game, the Magic’s young stars opted to take a back seat.

Maybe it was because, in the end, All-Star game exhibitions are dominated by point guards and the Magic’s two representatives are forwards. Still it was hard not to feel a tinge of disappointment. The Magic’s promising duo will remain hidden from the general, national NBA eyes.

Paolo Banchero, a more natural fit as an iso scorer for these types of games, opted to hang back too. He still got his points, scoring 13 total points across two games as his team won the event, but was not the overly aggressive and dominating player he typically is.

Franz Wagner failed to score in three shots as teammates, picked after him in the Rising Stars Game draft, took the bulk of the shots.

Both Banchero and Wagner seemed content to hang back as part of the show, knowing they still have some battles ahead and likely understanding they did not need to overexert themselves after a tough season where both are clearly battling some fatigue through a mini-swoon.

This was the Magic’s big moment at All-Star Weekend. Their chance to be in the spotlight.

The Orlando Magic’s two young future stars did not stand out at All-Star Weekend. But their presence felt like the beginning for a team everyone knows is on the rise. A prelude to future All-Star trips.

To be sure, the Magic did not stand out in this moment. It went to Jose Alvarado, the clear star of the Rising Stars Game simply because the man only plays at one speed and that is game speed. That can be half the battle in these exhibitions. And his youthful exuberance and gratitude for every moment on the court was refreshing in the usually mundane Rising Stars Game.

And let’s not get started on the Skills Challenge and whatever that was supposed to be.

But it should be clear what this group’s potential is and will be. The Magic are not going to be making cameos early in All-Star Weekend for much longer. This is a team that will be a mainstay in the All-Star festivities soon enough.

This group and this team is not going to go away. And everyone seems to know it.

The Rising Stars Game is the moment for the up-and-coming teams who do not have a spot in the Sunday showcase game. This is their chance in the national spotlight. A chance to show the rest of the world, “Oh, this team is on the rise.”

The Magic did not stand out in that way. Their arrival did not seem so inevitable after Friday’s game. But the arrival seems inevitable nonetheless.

Banchero was the figure lurking over everything. While Alvarado was providing the energy for the team and helping to increase the intensity, Banchero was the solid contributor throughout.

He had a few attacks to the basket (and notably just two free throws that came late in the championship game), but he was content to hang on the perimeter and shot with his array of step-backs and dribble moves.

He had plenty of highlights on that front — including an early shot over Magic teammate Franz Wagner.

But Banchero was not there to be the star. That is something that will come in time. And everyone seems to know it.

The Magic are not going to be absent from All-Star Weekend for much longer.

Getting to that point is still going to take some work. It is going to take the team taking a leap into competitiveness.

The Magic have already started to do that, going 19-15 since a 5-20 start. The Magic’s two young stars have been a big piece of that puzzle. Even while going through some youthful slumps of late, Banchero and Wagner have been downright impressive.

Banchero has been shattering all expectations for even the best rookies in the league’s history, averaging 19.9 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game.

Wagner is certainly not merely a sidekick in this scenario. he is an equally skilled playmaker and scorer at a similar 6-foot-10 height. In his second season, he is averaging 18.9 points per game on a 54.2 percent effective field goal percentage.

While both have shown tremendous skill, both also clearly have a long way to go and a lot to develop. Especially as the Magic turn themselves into a more consistent winning outfit.

The fact Orlando started off so slow and have climbed to within four games of the play-in tournament has shown much of the team’s promise. It has put the franchise’s focus back on winning. At long last, the Magic seem to have a clear direction and a ceiling to reach.

That is ultimately how a team gets respect around the league. And while the Magic are starting to get the courtesy respect from coaches around the league, the seriousness from everyone else in the NBA community is still to come.

That is what winning will do.

And that has to be the Magic’s focus.

They have two players that are playing individually brilliantly. Players whom the rest of the league sees as potential All-Stars. Orlando is full of other young players who have begun to fill in their roles in Wendell Carter, Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony. They all still have the potential to grow too and should not be completely ignored.

This is not the full picture for the Magic. Orlando still has a lot of pieces to add in addition to the individual development that will come with such a young roster.

The Rising Stars Game is supposed to be a taste of what All-Star Weekend is like for the future generation. It is supposed to give fans a preview of the stars to come.

The Magic’s presence in this game and in this part of the weekend was indeed a symbol of the team’s arrival. It may still be a warning that Orlando’s destiny is not set in stone. The Magic are not as inevitable as they may seem.

Yet, even in how uninvolved the Magic’s players looked in that game, it is clear there is a path to the Magic becoming a mainstay at All-Star Weekend.

Orlando did not announce its arrival in Salt Lake City. But next year Indianapolis, the Magic may very well have their much-anticipated moment.

There, they will have Banchero likely playing in the Rising Stars Game as a sophomore and perhaps making his All-Star Game debut. They will also potentially have two more top-10 picks to play in the Friday game.

And with playoff expectations, the Magic may be announcing themselves in other venues and arenas throughout the season than just the league’s winter showcase event.

The Magic have worked in anonymity for a while now. They have developed quietly and become the gathering storm — and that does not even include their potential to make a real splash this offseason and really begin to accelerate things.

Next. Orlando Magic have survived Franz Wagner's slump. dark

That storm is not raging yet. All-Star Weekend showed that. But the Magic’s outsized presence before Sunday’s showcase game showed that Orlando is getting set to be a mainstay at All-Star Weekends to come.