Orlando Magic 3rd Quarter MVP: Franz Wagner makes everything work

Franz Wagner added to the accolades of his rookie year getting named to the All-Rookie First Team. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner added to the accolades of his rookie year getting named to the All-Rookie First Team. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

The third quarter of the Orlando Magic’s season became about surviving and creating stability. The team spent the second quarter of the season getting used to a fully healthy team and establishing themselves.

The third quarter needed to confirm that. The team needed to see how it would respond to adversity and the ups and downs of the season. It was a search for consistency.

Everything always is for a young team. It is about trying to figure out how to play the same way every day. The team has to find a way to establish itself. And then having the right players define their roles and pick up the slack when others have off nights.

That is what the Magic did in going 11-10 in the third quarter of the season.

Paolo Banchero went through the rookie wall, but Cole Anthony and Moe Wagner helped pick up the scoring off the bench.

The team found its defensive identity too, giving up only 111.5 points per 100 possessions for that 21-game period. Jalen Suggs’ emergence as a defensive chaos maker and Jonathan Isaac’s return helped in those matters.

Markelle Fultz continued to find his groove and get into a rhythm, helping propel the team in key moments.

The success is still moderate in the big picture, but it is still success. And it was still a significant step forward. Even with the team hovering around .500 and staying in the postseason chase but not making up any ground.

The Orlando Magic have sought consistency as their season continued through the third quarter. Even with a slowdown in production, Franz Wagner proved his consistency and how he makes everyone better.

Consistency has been the theme for the second half of the season. It is the only way to build on what the team is trying to put together and get to the next stage in the team’s development. There is value in the repetitive and mundane.

It is because of consistency that Franz Wagner stands out as our MVP of the third quarter of the season.

Even in a time period where he was perceived to be hitting a rut and struggling, he kept an even keel. The Magic could rely on Wagner for the same basic production every night without much deviation.

This could be frustrating at times because the team expects so much from its promising young star. But Wagner’s consistency and impact are pretty astounding from such a young player. Especially when everyone anticipates his game being able to take a step up.

Wagner averaged 16.7 points per game over the last 21 games (playing in all 21) with shooting splits of 48.3/40.0/75.7. His season-long averages are 18.8 points per game with shooting splits of 48.5/36.9/83.3.

Wagner was hardly perfect. He did slow down with his scoring. His ability to get to the rim slowed down especially — he averages 6.1 field goal attempts per game in the restricted are for the season but averaged only 5.7 per game during the third quarter of the season.

Still, his impact was pretty clear. The Magic were simply better with Wagner on the floor as a threat to shoot from the perimeter and drive to the basket.

In the third quarter of the season, the Magic had a +6.8 net rating (114.5/107.7 offensive/defensive rating split) with Wagner on the floor. That was a mark only bested by little-usage players like Goga Bitadze, Admiral Schofield, Caleb Houstan and Mo Bamba.

Those numbers suggest that he both benefited from the stronger bench lineups that he played with. But it also suggests he had a little something to do with it too.

In the third quarter of the season, it was hard to find anyone who did not benefit from playing alongside Wagner.

The Magic have a +3.8 net rating when Franz Wagner plays alongside Paolo Banchero in the past 21 games. Orlando is -3.7 overall with Banchero on the floor.

They have a +2.8 net rating when Wagner plays with Fultz, compared to -2.7 net rating when Fultz is on the floor overall. The team’s net rating is +1.0 when Franz Wagner plays with Wendell Carter, compared to Carter’s -4.5 net rating overall.

You can go down the list with every player and see something similar — +10.5 with Cole Anthony compared to Anthony’s -0.2 overall net rating, +8.2 with Jalen Suggs compared to -0.5 overall and even +10.8 with Bol Bol compared to +1.2 overall.

Wagner’s presence is seemingly just a booster shot to so many things the Magic do.

There was no pairing with Wagner that had an offensive rating worse than 110 points per 100 possessions and only four pairings with a defensive rating worse than 110 points per 100 possessions (the other starters, which is a discussion for another day).

This just points to what a steady presence Wagner can be even if his scoring is down. Even when he is struggling in the big-ticket areas.

As fun and exciting as Paolo Banchero’s starbursts can be, he is still learning. He will have his wild swings as he did throughout February. Banchero is struggling to get through the rookie wall right now.

Wagner hit a bit of a swoon too. His shooting dipped some and he looked a bit heavy-legged perhaps from logging so many competitive minutes since late July playing EuroBasket. It is easy to forget with how good he has been so soon how good he can be.

And there is of course the desire for more and the knowledge that he will continue to get better. Like the team he plays on, this is just the start.

It all starts with consistency though. It starts with being able to bring the same production every night and being someone the team can rely on. Defenses understand this and them trying to take things away from Wagner has opened everything up for everyone else to shine.

Next. Jonathan Isaac was always going to have setbacks. dark

That is the kind of quarter of the season the Magic had. They worked to establish some consistency.

They got that from Wagner more than anyone else. And that was the base for this team to grow.