3 keys for the Orlando Magic to make the Play-In Tournament

Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic find themselves playing meaningful games and with a real chance to make the Play-In Tournament. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic find themselves playing meaningful games and with a real chance to make the Play-In Tournament. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /
3 of 4
Wendell Carter, Orlando Magic, Portland Trail Blazers
Wendell Carter is a fantastic all-around player who could become an even better player with improved passing. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

3 Keys for Orlando Magic’s Play-In push


The Orlando Magic have made some significant strides defensively. They are eighth in the league in defensive rating since Dec. 7. But there has been an underlying weakness.

The Magic are not the strongest rebounding team. And that has even borne out as they have made their turnaround.

Orlando is 20th in total rebounding at 42.8 per game and 12th in defensive rebound rate at 72.4 percent. These numbers are quite disappointing considering the Magic’s defensive identity. And the team has gotten itself into trouble with its rebounding.

The Magic start an extra big lineup that includes Markelle Fultz, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter. The team will often include other big men in their lineups like Jonathan Isaac, Moe Wagner and Bol Bol. With a tall and lengthy lineup like this, they should be out-rebounding most teams.

Instead, the Magic seem to be a middle-of-the-pack team when it comes to rebounding. And opponents score 13.1 second-chance points per game against them, eighth in the league. Yet, each one of these miscues seems to sting with the Magic’s low-possession style.

With Orlando’s lack of scoring, the team has to secure rebounds on both sides of the ball to make up for. And being middle of the pack is not good enough cover.

They have the 10th worst defensive box-out percentage on defense. This means their young talent wants to get out and run the floor. That works when you are securing rebounds. With the lack of rebounds, they get and the size they have everybody needs to box out and crash the boards.

Carter is averaging the fewest amount of rebounds per game since joining the Magic. He has struggled on the interior some, especially playing alongside forwards like Banchero and Wagner who prefer to play on the wings. Banchero especially has had his struggles on the glass, averaging only 6.6 per game.

Like the Magic’s scoring, they need to be a rebounding team by committee. They often rely on Cole Anthony to fly in from the wings and support the efforts on the glass.

With the trade to get rid of Mo Bamba, Moe Wagner will be the main backup center, and he has even started 14 games. He is only averaging 4.7 rebounds per game, which is not going to cut it. If the Magic want to succeed in with him playing big minutes as a starting or backup center he has to crash the boards.

Getting more rebounds can start more transition opportunities and help the Magic up their lackluster offense that struggles in half-court settings.

One thing that can help is bettering their defensive rotations. They tend to get out of place going for blocks and playing help defense. Bol is one of the players who struggle a lot with this. As a team leader in blocks, he goes for a lot of blocks and contests.

This is great but it puts him out of position to recover and get rebounds and leaves the paint wide open sometimes for the other teams’ bigs to crash. The same problem goes on the other side of the court.

All the starters besides Fultz really like to shoot the ball, and the bigs clear the lane for Fultz a lot of the time as well. This is good for shooting but it means all of the biggest players are on the perimeter and they are in no position to get an offensive rebound.

If the Magic can rebound just a little better in this post-all-star part of the season, they can make up for their struggling offense and be in a great position to make the play-in.