3 Orlando Magic players who could fall flat in their future playoffs

Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter are strong players but both could struggle when the Orlando Magic reach the postseason. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter are strong players but both could struggle when the Orlando Magic reach the postseason. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /
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Moe Wagner, Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls
Moe Wagner helped lead the Orlando Magic back in the game. But it took a long time for the team find their energy. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

3 Orlando Magic players who could fall flat in the playoffs

Moe Wagner

The Orlando Magic know that depth and experience are probably the biggest areas where they have to make improvements. That does mean that not everyone from last year’s roster is going to get carried forward to this year’s roster.

And that could — and possibly should — mean a beloved player is moving on.

Certainly, postseason consideration is part of why the Magic have to think about improving their center position. At least for now coming off the bench.

Moe Wagner undoubtedly had a great season for the Magic, averaging a career-best 10.5 points per game and he carved out his role as the team’s backup center. The Magic often needed an offensive push this year and Wagner was the one who provided it. Oftentimes in unexpected ways and in key moments especially later in the season.

That is what Wagner is good at.

But in the playoffs, Wagner would be an easy target for opposing offenses. He is the kind of player who might easily get played off the court quickly. That is indeed something that happened as the Magic often turned to Goga Bitadze late in the season when they needed a defensive boost.

The numbers bear this out.

According to data from Second Spectrum, Wagner was the worst defender at the rim among centers in the entire league, giving up 75.5 percent shooting at the rim (there are players worse than him, but they did not play regular minutes).

Wagner also does not rate well as a pick-and-roll defender either. He gave up 1.17 points per possession on 0.4 pick-and-roll possessions per game according to tracking data from NBA.com.

That does not mean Wagner was completely off defensively.

The Magic had one of their best defensive marks with him on the floor — 110.6 points per 100 possessions when Wagner was on the floor — and Wagner led the team in taking charges. That is his best way to defend.

And according to data from Basketball-Index, he has a rim deterrence rating of -1.02 percent, placing him in the 73rd percentile in the league. That means teams are less likely to attack him when he is in the paint.

Basketball-Index also rates him well as a post defender (+1.25 rating, placing him in the 98th percentile) and screener rim defender (+0.30 rating, placing him in the 82nd percentile).

That may have more to do with the players that play alongside him — whether that was Franz Wagner helping next to him, Bol Bol adding some extra rim protection or, for that brief moment, Jonathan Isaac hounding the paint.

There is still something there. Hints that show Wagner can be effective.

But his rim defense is still a major concern, especially for a playoff setting when that skill especially becomes vital. Opponents shoot 7.60 percentage points better at the rim when Wagner is defending and he has a rim points saved per 75 possessions rating of -0.98 (the worst mark in the league).

For some reference, Bitadze was less of a rim deterrent but ranked in the 97th percentile with opponents shooting 9.60 percentage points worse than expected at the rim and saving 1.08 rim points per 75 possessions, both marks in the top-10 percentile in the league. This is why we had Bitadze on our list of potential playoff X-factors.

This is a little thing that teams in a playoff series would hone in on. They would look to put Wagner in compromising positions and test him at the rim constantly. And clearly, that is a winning bet if teams can isolate him there even if there are areas Wagner can succeed in.

This is something the Magic have to consider and think about as they decide whether to bring Moe Wagner back in free agency this offseason. Is Wagner a player who will help the team in the postseason or is he a liability?