With a recent focus on building guard play in Orlando, the center position has become a slight afterthought for the team. However, Wendell Carter has taken a step to solidify himself as a key player for the Orlando Magic down low.
He has simply been consistent and solid. Sometimes an afterthought in a lineup that is increasingly focused on the ball handlers that are slowly making this team more unique. There are the accolades for Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner and the hope for Markelle Fultz.
Carter’s defining trait is that when he is on the floor, he is reliable to do the right thing, set the right screen and defend at a high level. Carter is assuredly the Magic’s starting center for the near future.
This offseason though is an offseason of questions. The Magic feel they are near a breakthrough to the postseason. And this next season will be about a lot of players proving themselves and proving who will be part of this team as they continue to rise.
Carter will have a lot to prove too. And this will be a season for him to prove it.
It seems Wendell Carter is efficient enough to provide lots of production in the Orlando Magic’s frontcourt (in particular on offense and rebounding). But, another rim protector like him could be a needed addition.
But what does that major role look like exactly? Will the Magic move another big man in to help with the Magic’s rim protection? Or is Carter already the man Orlando has been looking for to fill that spot?
Looking at the stats Carter put up, it seems he provides a great bit to the team. But, it may be lacking in some places. And part of this year will be filling in those areas he is lacking as the team prepares for its next step.
Since Carter came to Orlando from Chicago back in 2021, he has been a highly productive player for them on the offensive end. He has come through in the scoring and rebounding departments since joining the team, averaging 14.6 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game since arriving in Orlando, including 15.2 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game last year.
His scoring and 3-point shooting increased last year. In fact, he was not a 3-point shooter at all in Chicago and topped off at 3.9 attempts per game last year on 35.6 percent shooting. He has become a more reliable outside threat.
His scoring ability made him another solid option along with the numerous ones Orlando has on their roster.
Although his rebounding numbers in 2023 were slightly down, he still averaged a healthy amount at 8.7 per game. The year before, he averaged 10.5 rebounds a game, showing he can really get it done on the boards.
The one side of Carter’s game where production could be seen more is on defense. He does not contribute as much in the paint on defense as those would like a 6-foot-10, 270-pound center would.
He has not gone below 110.0 rating since coming to Orlando. Last season, he had a rating of 111.4 points allowed per 100 possessions. The team’s season average was 113.7. The Magic were better with Carter on the floor.
Still, the Magic need to improve defensively. And Carter is not a strong rim protector, giving up 64.0 percent shooting at the rim. Rim protection is one of the big needs for the Magic and one of the big questions the Magic face at the center position.
Now by no means does this put a detriment on what Carter provides to Orlando. He is a great scorer on the offensive end and should be used so out of a “big-man,” frontcourt position. But there needs to be some sort of re-emphasis on defense in the paint.
It almost makes sense for Orlando to get someone to back up Carter, especially on the defensive end of the court. This will help strengthen the Magic’s frontcourt going forward.
Looking at the current roster aside from Wendell Carter, Bol Bol does average 1.2 blocks per game but opponents shot 66.7 percent at the rim against him. He is a shot blocker who teams are not afraid to attack. He does not have the large frame like Carter to be a force against the best centers in the NBA. Mo Wagner averages similar defensive stats to Carter.
And when could use his size to help out Bol, he only puts up half a block and half a steal a game while playing with him. When Carter and Bol were on the floor together, the Magic had a defensive rating of 104.3 points per 100 possessions.
The Magic’s size does mean something.
When Mo Bamba was still in Orlando, Carter put up a greater total of 0.7 blocks per game. The Magic had a 110.2 defensive rating. But Bamba, who was also a good rim protector with a block a game, is now with the Lakers in Los Angeles.
When Carter shared the floor with Banchero though, the Magic had a defensive rating of 112.8. The Magic’s defense is always better with Carter on the floor, but it seems to perform better with another rim protector next to him.
For instance, the Magic had a defensive rating of 103.3 with Wendell Carter and Jonathan Isaac on the floor. Isaac’s 50.0 percent field goal percentage allowed at the rim was by far the best mark on the team.
An answer to Orlando gaining a defensive presence in the front court may come from many places. This includes the draft, trades, or even free agency. But, with that being said, Carter can still be a great scorer out of the 4 or 5 spot in the lineup.
That may be his role going forward as the Magic begin to search in another direction for a strong, defensive presence in their frontcourt.