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 /
7 of 8
Goga Bitadze, Orlando Magic
Goga Bitadze joined the Orlando Magic with hopes of building his playing record. But he has jumped right in and made his mark. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

Orlando Magic Daily Mailbag Vol. 42

Center Questions

"Do you think keeping Goga is underrated? Our defensive rebounding was terrible last year. -J Cross on YouTube"

Entering this offseason, I believed the Orlando Magic could keep only one of Goga Bitadze and Moe Wagner. I just view them both as third-string centers. They can both serve as backups but I do not want them starting very much.

This was a big priority for me in the offseason because Wendell Carter has never played more than 62 games in any season. I think even on the optimistic side, the team needs to plan on Carter missing at least 15 games.

Those 15 games might be the difference between making and missing the postseason.

The Magic did not meaningfully address this. They kept both Bitadze and Wagner. So they will work with what they have.

But I share your concerns about the rebounding.

The Magic statistically were a fine rebounding team — they finished eighth in the league in defensive rebound rate at 73.0 percent. But of those 27.0 percent of possessions where they gave up an offensive rebound, opponents scored 13.5 second-chance points per game (15th in the league).

This may not be as urgent a problem as figuring out how to reduce 3-point attempts, but it is a concern. And the Magic will need to be a better rebounding team for sure.

This is where Goga Bitadze can help. I do think keeping him has been a bit overlooked.

He had a really strong finish to the season. He gave the team some much-needed interior toughness and shot-blocking. It was just a different element than the Magic had before.

More than that, the Magic had a 104.8 defensive rating with Bitadze on the floor. That was the best mark for the team, including better than Jonathan Isaac’s 107.7.

It will be interesting to see if the Magic can get some more offense out of Bitadze now that he has some time under his belt. But for those games that Carter might miss, I would honestly expect Bitadze to fill in those center minutes for now.

"Does the Magic not addressing the backup 5 in free agency indicate that they are confident in JI’s recovery? -HankPank on YouTube"

I do not know if confidence in Jonathan Isaac’s health has much to do with the backup 5 spot. The Orlando Magic are going to experiment plenty and I would expect them to try lineups with Paolo Banchero or Jonathan Isaac at center just as they may try lineups with Franz Wagner at the 2 (with Anthony Black for a super jumbo lineup?). This is going to be a season of experimentation.

But I do believe the Magic have a lot of faith in Isaac’s health this year.

Orlando did not meaningfully upgrade their reserve options at forward considering Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner share the floor for roughly two-thirds of their minutes. I think the Magic want to continue that.

Related Story. Summer League reveals core of Orlando Magic's rookies. light

That means their options at the 4 are either going big with Moe Wagner, relying on Jonathan Isaac or Chuma Okeke or sliding Joe Ingles or Jett Howard to the position. You have to love the flexibility this roster provides and hope Jamahl Mosley has the creativity to use it.

But to me, Isaac is far and away the best option of these. And if Isaac is not healthy, they are going to have a lot to sort through and figure out to fill in those minutes.

This is all setup, in other words, for Isaac to play and have a major role on this team if they want to keep their positional versatility and size on the floor.

The fact the Magic did not spend its free agency, trade or draft capital to improve the backup forward spot makes me believe they have full faith Isaac will play the majority of games this year and be able to contribute.

Eleven games is hardly a sample size to bank on, but Isaac played well last year in his minutes. Impressively well considering how long he was out. So maybe that is faith that can be rewarded.