There is a drumbeat to every team. Someone who is just consistent and reliable. The level when the water is boiling and sloshing around.
For a young team especially, this drumbeat is important. It is the kind of player who keeps everyone humming in tune while they go through the ups and downs of a season.
Usually, teams look to their point guard for this consistency. He is their drumbeat. And Markelle Fultz certainly provides that with his staccato rhythm that goes offbeat every so often to keep the defense off balance. He is a downhill attacker and a scorer.
This is a team with a lot of drumbeats and potential leaders. The Magic have a lot of playmakers who can take over the rhythm of the game. So this is not a team that gets its rhythm from its ball handlers and its point guard. They do set a tempo to the game and each play, but it is branching off the real beatmaster on this team.
Its real level. The team’s real Mr. Consistency.
Everything for this team works around Wendell Carter. He is one of the big-time leaders in the locker room, the team’s backstop defensively and its fulcrum on offense — the player every one of its big attackers plays off of.
Wendell Carter is an important cog for the Orlando Magic, someone who makes everything go for the team. He is the most consistent player on the team and essential to making it work.
Carter is probably not going to have many major games or big performances, but he is going to be consistent every night for his team. He will quickly become the team’s heartbeat every night for the team.
The Magic had a -0.8 net rating (110.5/111.4 offensive/defensive rating split) with Wendell Carter on the court for the entire season, a mark that only trailed Franz Wagner on the team. After Dec. 7, the Magic had a -1.5 net rating with Carter on the floor (111.6/113.0 offensive/defensive rating split).
For the season, Carter averaged a career-high 15.2 points per game and a solid 8.7 rebounds per game. He added 3.8 screen assists per game (1.2 per game more than any other player on the team). He added 2.3 assists per game, 18th among centers in the league. Although he averaged +1.03 assist points per 75 possessions more than players of a similar role according to Basketball-Index.
He crashes the glass well despite his relatively low raw rebounding numbers. And opponents shoot 4.30 percentage points worse than expected at the rim against him, according to data from Basketball-Index.
He led the Magic with 32.7 frontcourt touches per game, according to data from Second Spectrum. That means he has the ball in his hands in the half-court more than y player (including the team’s point guards and star players).
These stats paint the picture of a player who indeed makes a positive impact on the floor. He is someone who does a lot of good things on the floor and greases a lot of the wheels for the Magic. But there is still something left to be desired.
Or rather, the Magic will need that solid drumbeat to become more consistent and rhythmic to make the rest of the offense work at a higher level.
Without a doubt, there is more to Carter’s game.
A lot of it starts with his health. Carter has never played more than 62 games in any season (and that was his peak in the 2022 season). He played in 57 games last year and it could have very well been more games missed since he was playing through a plantar fascia issue.
If it felt like Carter was a step slow last year, that could easily be why. Although Carter would never use it as an excuse.
Carter told Dan Savage of OrlandoMagic.com he has been working on his conditioning this summer to try to be more resilient over the course of an 82-game season. Availability is the best ability of any player and as the Magic assess their future, this will factor in heavily toward Carter’s future as this team evolves.
The Magic have really yet to see Carter at his absolute best for that reason. The fear of him missing significant time over some nagging injury always exists. That is the biggest thing Carter has to overcome for the 2024 season.
From there the Magic will have a consistent player to build themselves around. Because so much of what the Magic do runs through Carter.
He gets the ball in the high post to initiate the offense and get players running off him — he averages 3.6 elbow touches per game according to Second Spectrum.
He sets screens and runs pick and rolls at a high rate. The Magic as a team ran 6.1 pick-and-roll possessions per game to the roll man at 1.09 points per possession (22nd in the league) and 20.7 pick-and-roll possessions per game to the ball handler at 0.91 points per possession.
When the Magic ran pick and rolls with Carter as the roll man, they averaged 1.11 points per possession. This was a solid number, but the Magic’s pick and roll attack could certainly greatly improve.
He defends well and holds his spot on both sides. He is one of the few Magic players who defends the paint at a high level.
On top of this, Carter had only six games scoring fewer than 10 points. He operates expertly as someone who just does the same thing every single night. That is reliable, especially on a team with so many young players with uncertain futures and uncertain future roles.
Carter is the one who knows exactly who he is and knows exactly what he needs to do in every situation. He does it every night.
Carter has fulfilled much of his pre-draft storyline of being really good at a lot of things. That consistency and that reliability is something the Magic need to pace themselves through the season. That is the kind of thing they need to get them through and improve their offense.
It is hard to put a finger on everything Carter does. It is just that he does it every time. Whatever the team needs and wherever the team needs him. He does it.
That is what the Magic need from Carter. They need him to be consistent. And that is what he provides this Magic team. It is a heartbeat the Magic lean on.