3 reasons the Orlando Magic are on the rise, 2 reasons to remain concerned
The Orlando Magic have felt like they had talent in every season since the 2019 breakthrough to the playoffs. Only one thing has seemingly been consistent to derail any chance in those seasons.
Magic fans know exactly what this is and it remains the big thing that can derail any season anywhere: Injuries.
The plain fact, for now, is that this will be a specter hanging around the Magic’s season until it is not. Until the team proves it can be healthy enough to get through a season, it will always be the thing the team has to overcome at a very basic level.
You can hear even from the team how much they know health will be a factor in this upcoming season. We talk about the Magic in terms of pre-injury to the point guard (the 5-20 start without Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony) to the post-injury to the point guards (the 29-28 finish).
Everyone says clearly that once this team was healthy they were pretty good, or at least good enough to make the postseason. And so injuries remain a big concern.
To some extent then, the Magic helped fill that need. They added tons of depth simply by adding players who could be in the rotation and eliminating players who were out of the rotation. The outgoing players on this team were Bol Bol and Michael Carter-Williams, who both were not playing late in the season. And the team dropped Admiral Schofield to a two-way contract.
Incoming this year then are rookies Anthony Black and Jett Howard and veteran sharpshooter Joe Ingles.
At the very least, the Magic have prevented not having any point guards or ball handlers available should injuries hit that position.
Still, injuries to the wrong players could expose some fissures in the roster. And while that is a concern for every team, it feels especially heightened for this Magic team.
No one can control for random injuries throughout the season. And an injury to star players like Paolo Banchero or Franz Wagner would derail the season in a major way. But the team itself is still relying on a lot of players who are unproven when it comes to their health, even if there is nothing to suggest there are lingering injury issues.
Fultz should have a healthy outlook this season. A year after returning from a torn ACL, the only games he missed last season were the 20 to start the year because of his fractured toe. The Magic are probably most secure at point guard. Still, Fultz’s injury history is very long and he has only played one full season (and even COVID interrupted it).
Wendell Carter played most of last season with a plantar fascia issue that clearly affected him in a major way. But Carter has dealt with little injuries throughout his career. He has never played more than 62 games in any season of his career.
Orlando did not look to upgrade his backups and will rely on Goga Bitadze and Moe Wagner to back him up. This could be a weak spot in the team’s rotation.
To his credit, Wendell Carter told Dan Savage of OrlandoMagic.com that he has focused this offseason on his conditioning to help prevent some of these little injuries that have knocked him out throughout his career.
Then, of course, there is Jonathan Isaac. He has played in only 11 games during the last three seasons. The Magic have remained invested in his talent and potential. but they also did not add anyone this offseason to play his spot should he still play under restrictions.
It really does feel like the Magic are betting on Isaac being available for regular bench minutes. And while his talent remains something worth keeping around, counting on him feels like a fool’s errand until Isaac plays 65-70 games in a season.
The depth behind Jonathan Isaac probably consists of small forwards sliding to the spot in Joe Ingles or Caleb Houstan helping out. Chuma Okeke has had his own injury issues to overcome.
Teams in the Magic’s position are constantly shuffling and trying to find the right combination of players, fixing holes from the previous season and making bets elsewhere. Orlando has moved the chairs around a little bit to shore up the team’s guard depth. But now the frontcourt depth feels a bit exposed should injuries hit at the wrong time.
Until this Magic group proves it can be healthy, there will be concern about injuries.