5 decisions the Orlando Magic face entering the 2024 season
Going Small or Going Big
The Orlando Magic can be something of a contradiction.
The joke around Magic fans and around the league is the Magic are obsessed with length. They draft these long-limbed players with positional and skill versatility and seemingly do not care about many other skills.
The Magic’s foundational thesis and what makes their team unique is how they use 6-foot-10 forwards as primary playmakers. There just are not many teams with the ability to defend or handle what Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner can potentially do.
The Magic’s biggest goal is to foster growth with those players and figure out how to maximize those players. And that will undoubtedly lead to some experimenting.
But this is the contradiction. The Magic are a long team, but they are not necessarily a big team.
Wendell Carter is a solid center with good size, but he is not a shot-blocking or rim-protecting behemoth. Behind him are Goga Bitadze and Moe Wagner, two solid centers but with plenty of questions as backup big men.
Orlando was in the top 10 in rebound rate grabbing 73.0 percent of defensive rebounds. But it still never felt like this was a dominant defensive rebounding team. The Magic defended the paint well, but struggled to defend the 3-point line and still gave up a ton of second-chance points (15th most in the league).
The Magic are a team that has length but tends to play small. Most everyone suspects Orlando will at least experiment some with three forward lineups featuring Jonathan Isaac with Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. Or with Joe Ingles or Jett Howard playing the 4 (remember how small the Summer League team was, that felt like a test run for some ideas the Magic might have).
Then again, the Magic could go big, pairing Wendell Carter or one of the backup bigs with the three forwards and sliding Franz Wagner to the 2 at times. Or even playing Anthony Black at point guard with a jumbo lineup of skilled playmakers and defenders.
Orlando has a lot of flexibility with its lineups to mix and match and find the best five at any given moment. Positionless basketball may not actually exist, but the Magic are one of the few teams that can test the notion and flip roles and ideas on their head with the skill they have at their size.
The question then is what are the limits of this notion?
The team knows Carter tends to miss time with injuries but did not reinvest at center in a significant way. The Magic’s draft capital went to the backcourt and free agency capital went to re-signing Moe Wagner and adding a veteran in Joe Ingles.
Are the Magic going to go big or go small? They definitely could do both. And the team is just as likely to try to test what both sides of that coin look like.