There is going to be some debate with this Orlando Magic team. There is going to be competition. Someone is likely not going to be super thrilled with their role. Someone is going to be waiting for an opportunity.
This is kind of the plight of young teams. Coaches tend to favor veterans who provide stability, leaving some young players thirsting for opportunity and trying to find their way to get it.
Then again, this Magic team is not a typical young team anymore. This is a team striving to make the playoffs.
And the internal competition that president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman promised is going to play out on the court and in training camp this year.
The Magic have options and this is the heart of the debate the Magic are about to have this season. What options do the Magic choose and how much will they have to lean on Plan B and Plan C.
The Orlando Magic will have some difficult choices to make this offseason as they prepare for a critical 2024 season. Their depth though will be a huge advantage in their postseason push.
More importantly perhaps, compared to the other teams the Magic are going to be fighitng for a spot in the postseason, the Magic’s potential depth — and youth — may well be a key advantage. The fact Orlando has all these options and may not topple over is their secret weapon to finding themselves in the postseason.
There feels like little doubt the Magic believe they are a postseason-capable team at this point.
They got so close last year and if not for a 5-20 start, they would have been squarely in the race. Just a .500 record would have gotten the team ninth in the Eastern Conference and a spot in the Play-In Tournament.
If the Magic did one thing this offseason in the limited things they did was to improve their depth and ensure that what happened at the start of th 2023 season would not happen again.
Orlando added an extra ball-handler in Anthony Black whom the team can move around. The team improved its center depth and added versatile forwards.
Trying to mix and match this rotation is going to be one of the bigger challenges for coach Jamahl Mosley. And indeed, any look at the depth charge makes it hard to see how the team can play everybody:
PG: Markelle Fultz/Cole Anthony
SG: Gary Harris/Jalen Suggs
SF: Franz Wagner/Anthony Black/Jett Howard
PF: Paolo Banchero/Jonathan Isaac/Joe Ingles
C: Wendell Carter/Moe Wagner/Goga Bitadze
And that chart does not even include rookies Anthony Black and Jett Howard. They will have a hard time fitting into the depth chart.
This is why there will be some internal competition. Outside of Markelle Fultz, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter’s spots in the starting lineup, every other position or role feels like it is up in the air.
Considering the Magic’s extensive injury history, having this cover is a good thing too. Orlando should not be caught without a point guard as the team was at the start of last season — although that was a set of random and freak injuries.
Similarly, the team is probably not going to be leaning heavily on its two-way players once again. That would be a pretty different team than expected if they are entrenched in the rotation once again — even though both Kevon Harris and Admiral Schofield have proven themselves plenty for the Magic over the last few years.
That is just not something a lot of the other teams have on their roster.
Orlando’s current projected bench players (assuming Gary Harris is starting at shooting guard) has 67.9 points per game entering the roster. That does not include the bench players.
The Magic’s chief postseason competition do not quite touch that, outside of another young team on the rise.
The Brooklyn Nets have 49.8 points per game coming from their projected bench players (assuming Ben Simmons and Dorian Finney-Smith start). The Atlanta Hawks have 57.9 points per game coming off their bench based off last year’s scoring averages.
The Toronto Raptors have 62.8 points per game coming off their projected bench (assuming Gary Trent Jr. starts and Dennis Schroder comes off the bench). The Chicago Bulls have 49.8 points per game coming off their bench (assuming Alex Caruso starts).
And, finally, the Indiana Pacers have 88.2 points per game coming off their projected bench, assuming both Aaron Nesmith and Bruce Brown come off the bench so Andrew Nembhard and Jarace Walker can start.
None of these numbers include rookies like Kobe Bufkin, Jarace Walker or Gradey Dick. And this is an imperfect measure for sure. Just simple arithmetic. But it shows the Magic have some depth to play with. They should be able to rely on their bench more than a lot of these other teams.
These other teams might have better and more experienced top-end talent. But what this says is that these teams may not be able to hold the ship steady should injuries hit the wrong part of the roster. That is what the Magic are trying to avoid after living through injuries the past few years.
No team can survive an injury to a star player for long — Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner’s health is paramount to any success the team has just as any star would be important to the success of any team.
The Magic’s depth is certainly something we can question too. Orlando’s depth as a strength is somewhat dependent on the team continuing to grow and improve. There are a lot of young players who have established themselves in a few short years, but they have to keep growing.
What is different now is that perahsp if there are some players who take steps back, the Magic have other players who could step into that void. It would be hard to imagine the Magic missing on every player that is set to improve this season.
Still, the issue that presents itself as training camp approaches is someone is likely getting left out of the rotation. There is going to be someone fans will clamor to get minutes.
That is a strength at the end of the day. And something that a lot of other teams in the conference may not be able to say.
That depth will be a determining factor in the Magic’s upcoming postseason chase. And it should be an advantage for the Magic.