3 would-be X-factors for the Orlando Magic’s future playoff runs

Jalen Suggs' late-game heroics throughout his career make him a big X-factor for the Orlando Magic's future playoff pushes. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Jalen Suggs' late-game heroics throughout his career make him a big X-factor for the Orlando Magic's future playoff pushes. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Goga Bitadze, Orlando Magic
ORLANDO, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 25: Goga Bitadze #35 of the Orlando Magic grabs a defensive rebound in the first half of a game against the Indiana Pacers at Amway Center on February 25, 2023 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/2023 Julio Aguilar) /

3 would-be X-factors for the Orlando Magic’s postseason

Goga Bitadze

Ultimately, when it comes to the playoffs, what matters is who is going to do something that stands out. Who is going to be able to step up and make that extra play or that extra stop? Who is ready to give that little bit or make that last play to help the team get over the top?

There are always players who play seemingly small roles that make a big impact. They may have flaws and their minutes might be limited in a playoff situation, but they make the most of the minutes they get.

Goga Bitadze certainly made the most of his minutes and his opportunity after joining the Orlando Magic late in the season. He certainly accomplished his goals in making his impact and forcing the Magic to make at least some kind of decision about him.

His stats are obviously fairly meager — 5.8 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game in 15.0 minutes per game across 17 games. But Bitadze showed what he could do and slowly started to push for playing time.

By the end of the season, Jamahl Mosley was almost picking which of his two backup centers he would play depending on what his team needed. If they needed the offensive boost, Moe Wagner would get the call. If he needed a defensive presence and a little rim protection, he would go with Bitadze.

That is a good luxury to have. But in the playoffs, bad defenders get targeted. And that should at least be some concern with Wagner.

Wagner is great at taking charges, leading the team in charges drawn this year. But he also rates as the worst center defending at the rim in the league — giving up 75.5 percent shooting at the rim according to Second Spectrum, the worst mark of any center who regularly played minutes this season.

In the playoffs, teams are going to drive right at Wagner and take their chances that he will not get the charge. That is not the case with Bitadze. Opponents shot just 52.5 percent at the rim against Bitadze while he was with the Magic, the best mark on the team.

It was easy to see the impact defensively Bitadze brought. The numbers back that up too. The Magic had a team-best +2.9 net rating and a team-best 104.8 defensive rating with Bitadze on the floor this season.

Bitadze is a free agent this offseason as is Wagner. And it certainly feels like the Magic will likely only be able to bring back one of those players. In either case, Bitadze is going to battle for some backup center minutes.

While Bitadze still has to improve offensively — he sustained himself mostly on putbacks which is valuable in itself — his defense was something that already made an impact for the Magic this past season. It certainly feels like the Magic found something in Bitadze that is worth another year of exploration — certainly worth another year of exploration somewhere in the NBA.

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As the Magic consider what comes next for Bitadze, they need to think about how he will play in the playoffs. And that defense coming off the bench to keep a rim protector on the floor would prove extremely valuable.