Orlando Magic Free Agency Preview: Analyzing the Magic’s lineups
The Big Lineups
Markelle Fultz-Franz Wagner-Paolo Banchero-Bol Bol-Moe Wagner (106.7/113.4 off./def. rating, -6.7 net rating, 193 minutes)
Injuries forced the Orlando Magic to try some experimental lineups throughout the early part of the season. It was something the team never quite quit. And part of the benefits and philosophy of the Magic’s roster is its flexibility and versatility.
The Magic are a team that will try its best to have its five best players out on the floor. They are a team that values positional versatility and skill versatility. They want bigs who can playmake and guards who can screen.
So the team will not give up on quirky lineups. They will likely be willing to try lineups with Anthony Black playing forward in three-guard alignments. They may be more willing to try lineups with Paolo Banchero at center alongside Jonathan Isaac and Franz Wagner.
The possibility of mixing and matching lineups is the fun part.
One thing the team was able to try last year was putting Franz Wagner at shooting guard in some lineups. The Magic’s second-most used lineup was this mixture of starters and bench players. It was the “break the lineup” group for the team.
Featuring Moe Wagner at center and Bol Bol along with the two star forwards created something unique. This could very well be the Magic’s version of a 5-out lineup with Moe Wagner comfortable on the perimeter.
It did not work, to say the least. It did not work offensively and despite its defensive potential, it did not work defensively.
Still, the germ of this idea is something worth exploring. So how do the Magic make it better with a grouping of Paolo Bancheor and Franz Wagner together?
Jonathan Isaac instead of Bol Bol certainly would help with the defensive problems.
The trio of Banchero, Isaac and Wagner played less than one minute together in Isaac’s 11 games. The Magic at least hinted they wanted to try this and never got the chance to see it — the rotation with Isaac did not help matters.
This is something to explore further in bigger lineups or smaller lineups. In the end then too, the Magic -3.6 net rating with Bol, Wagner and Banchero on the floor together. It was a poor offensive group especially.
Some of this is certainly Banchero’s struggles as a rookie learning to play in the league — the Magic’s lineups with Banchero were all surprisingly poor offensively. But what would make this work?
Having a shooter like Jett Howard or Gary Harris in smaller lineups would make a lot of sense. This is where that acquisition gives the Magic more flexibility.
If the team goes bigger and slides Franz Wagner to the shooting guard, a stretch-5 would seemingly make sense. Either that or a true rim protector. This specific lineup the Magic turned to a lot likely struggled for that.
The Magic are going to be hard-pressed to find this rim protector behind Wendell Carter — and even Carter is not the strongest rim protector. The team could go after a big fish like Jakob Poeltl, but he seems more likely to settle in on someone like Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell.
How much the Magic can experiment with these kinds of lineups might depend on how the individual players grow. And really whether they want it to be a defensive lineup or a killer offensive lineup.
Expect this to be a continuing experiment rather than a final product. It seems like the Magic might be better by inserting Howard into this group and going small.