Orlando Magic 2023 Time to Step Up: Wendell Carter’s rim protection

Wendell Carter has established himself as a solid defender. Now he needs to take his rim protection tot he next level. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Wendell Carter has established himself as a solid defender. Now he needs to take his rim protection tot he next level. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

It is time for the Orlando Magic to take the next step and return to the postseason.

The Magic are heading in the right direction but will have to continue to improve in multiple areas. One of the biggest areas will be in rim protection to back on a defense that was trending toward the top 10 as the season came to a close.

This responsibility will fall largely on center Wendell Carter, who is a solid rim protector and lane protector but not much of a shot blocker. He relies on his positioning and strength to man the paint.

But once Carter improves in this aspect the Magic will be dangerous on the defensive end, making good on the promise to end the season.

Wendell Carter is a strong defender and provides a good base for the team to grow defensively. What he is missing is true rim protection that becomes a deterrent for drives.

The Magic ranked 18th in defensive rating last season and 11th after the All-Star Break. They were sixth in the league after Dec. 7 (following the team’s 5-20 start to the season). There is certainly something for the Magic to build on defensively after last year.

If the Magic want to take the next step season, they are going to have to take their defense to the next level. In order to do this, Orlando will have to do a better job of protecting the rim. That will fall on Wendell Carter to improve in that area.

The Magic already have well-recognized elite perimeter defenders in Jalen Suggs and Jonathan Isaac and solid defenders in Franz Wagner, Markell Fultz and Joe Ingles to name a few.

On the other hand, Orlando struggled to protect the rim allowing 67.1 percent on field goals defended at the rim, according to Second Spectrum (24th in the league). Opponents shot 70.2 percent in the restricted area (27th in the league).

Fortunately, opponents took only 21.6 field goal attempts in the restricted area, the third-fewest in the league. The Magic gave up only 47.6 points in the paint per game, sixth-fewest in the league.

Orlando was good at preventing shots in the paint, but when opponents did get there, they found a way to score.

This is why Carter has to continue to improve on the defensive end, especially at the rim.

Opponents shot 64.0 percent at the rim against Carter according to data from Second Spectrum. That is at least in the middle of the pack among centers who averaged at least 24.0 minutes per game. But it is hardly elite.

Carter is elite at post defense — he was the top post defender in the league according to Basketball-Index and NBA.com’s tracking stats had opponents scoring 0.88 points per possession on post-ups against him.

Carter though does not block a lot of shots — 0.71 blocks per 75 possessions. This is not a particularly strong number and suggests teams can attack him with little penalty.

However, even though he does not block many shots, he challenges shots at the rim effectively. According to Basketball-Index, opponents shot 4.30 percentage points worse at the rim than expected and he recorded 0.61 rim points saved per 75 possessions, putting him in the 75th percentile.

Carter is a good positional defender who challenges shots at the rim, but he is not a strict rim protector and shot blocker. Opponents can still attack him and get to the basket against this team.

Carter improving his shot-blocking will not only improve the Magic’s defense but will also increase the reputation of the Magic’s defense.

We have seen gravity on the offensive end with shooters who are having bad games but still have defense attached because of their reputation as a shooter, as seen with Terrence Ross in his time in Orlando. Having the same effect on defense will take Orlando’s defense to the next level in being more effective and creating the effect that attacking the rim against Orlando would not be the best idea.

Orlando did not put a lot of focus on this rim protection in their offseason signings, focusing instead on trying to solve some of the team’s shooting issues.

The Magic did not add any new centers while re-signing Moe Wagner and Goga Bitadze so the majority of the growth will have to be internal. Having Isaac for more games will help but the workload will fall on to Carter.

Improved rim protection will put less pressure on their perimeter defenders and allow them to put more pressure on the ball and allow offensive opportunities.

These are the improvements that will allow the Magic to take the next step as a team.

Next. Time To Step Up: Gary Harris' shot volume. dark

In the end, it will fall on Carter to take these steps to grow as a player and help grow as a team. Players will across the roster will need to improve in specific areas but Carter’s is protecting the rim.