Orlando Magic Daily Mailbag Volume 42: Preparing for a fun season

Markelle Fultz and the Orlando Magic find themselves squarely in a postseason push and have every reason to keep going for it. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Markelle Fultz and the Orlando Magic find themselves squarely in a postseason push and have every reason to keep going for it. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Anthony Black, Jett Howard, Orlando Magic
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JULY 14: Jett Howard #13 and Anthony Black #0 of the Orlando Magic pose for a portrait during the 2023 NBA rookie photo shoot at UNLV on July 14, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

Orlando Magic Daily Mailbag Vol. 42

Future Development

"How much time can we realistically expect Black to get a game? I assume he’s going to be behind Fultz on the depth chart and fighting for time with Suggs and Cole. -Jordan on YouTube"

That debate is only part of the equation.

This is an extremely crowded backcourt with Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs and Anthony Black all capable of handling the ball. Gary Harris, Jett Howard, Caleb Houstan and Kevon Harris can play the shooting guard spot.

And a lot of those players could also slide over to the small forward spot.

At this point, it feels like the quartet of Fultz, Harris, Suggs and Anthony will eat up most of the minutes at the guard spot. That could very well leave Anthony Black — and Jett Howard — without the clearest path to playing time.

Part of me believes that Orlando’s Summer League team was built intentionally small to learn the weak spots of such lineups when they get to the regular season.

Whatever the case, it feels like the Magic will have options to mix and match lineups and the ability to experiment some — Joe Ingles can probably play at either forward position too.

And that is going to make it difficult to say just how many minutes Black might get. He certainly is not going to be guaranteed minutes. I think he will fight for time at small forward and certainly if there are injuries, his versatility will be valuable.

But how many minutes will that be? Last year, Suggs and Harris essentially split the shooting guard minutes evenly. Franz Wagner played 32.6 minutes per game. That would leave somewhere near 16 minutes for Black, Howard and Ingles.

It is hard to see with a fully healthy rotation that Black would get all of those minutes. With injuries, it would be easy to see Black averaging around 15 minutes per game. But he is likely going to settle for 10-12 minutes per game to start the season with the chance for more or less as the team narrows its rotation.

It is probably going to be important to make sure Black is in lineups with two of Anthony, Ingles and Harris to ensure there are shooters around him to hide some of his own shooting struggles.

But, let me put it this way: The Magic are going to have to make some difficult decisions regarding their rotation and some important players might find themselves outside of the normal playing group.

At least this team is finally well-covered for injuries.

"What role do you see Jett Howard having in his rookie season? -HankPank on YouTube"

Similar to Anthony Black, I think Jett Howard is going to have to earn every minute he gets this season. There is space for one or both of these rookies to play, but there is just as easily no space for them too. They might get some rookie leeway to make some mistakes. But at the end of the day, they have to prove themselves on the court.

In this way, I am a bit against the grain. I actually think there is a better chance Howard is going to contribute more as a rookie than Black.

His shooting is just so valuable. And while I think Black could be a valuable and versatile defender — and that is something the Orlando Magic certainly value — Howard’s shooting just might be more valuable.

For rookies, I am usually for keeping things really simple overall.

I expect the Magic will make Black’s role simply be about his defense and less about his point guard skills. They will want him to control the pace when he has the ball, but his main role for this team will be to be a chaos agent on defense — especially with the other strong defenders in Jalen Suggs and Jonathan Isaac coming off the bench.

For Howard, I think the Magic will ask him to be a shooter. Ultimately his success in this league will come down to whether he can shoot it. So Orlando will let him be that kind of a player, whether that is keeping him in stand-still catch-and-shoot situations or working plays to try to leverage his gravity to pull defenses apart.

Simplicity is the key for rookies to succeed. So the Magic should focus on the core skills of these players and then grow them out from there.