3 reasons to be concerned about the 2024 Orlando Magic
It is almost always a good bet that young players will get better. That is essentially the heart of the Orlando Magic’s project. They brought in a lot of young players and they are consistently turning them over and letting them develop.
That is the right decision, do not get it wrong.
Orlando should be betting on its young players. But growth is often not linear.
Players take steps back as defenses adjust to them and they add to their game. There is still a lot to figure out and a lot of areas for the Magic’s young players to explore in their games. Orlando has done a good job defining roles and players have accepted them, but these guys still want to draw some outside the lines.
The Magic are fairly certain they have some big-time pieces in place with Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. But even they have experienced this kind of start and stop to growth.
Wagner improved statistically in several facets last year and improved his efficiency. Yet, the expectations for him were to hit stardom. And Wagner still seemed comfortable receding into the background and waiting for the offense to come to him rather than imposing himself in the game.
Those disappointed in that aspect of his game were surely happy to see him get all the late-game possessions in the win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday even though he struggled to execute in pick and rolls as the game wore on — he still had eight points on 2-for-9 shooting in that fourth quarter.
But that is an important thing to remember when it comes to Paolo Banchero.
Everyone seems to expect Banchero to have his scoring jump from last year’s 20.0 points per game. And he should increase his scoring just on better efficiency.
Instead, what we have seen so far is Banchero working on improving his efficiency and his playmaking. He is averaging 13.0 points per game (26 total points) and shooting 8 for 18 to start the season.
That is definitely a noticeable downgrade in his offensive production. His touches are way down from last year too through the first two games — down from 64.8 touches per game last year to 50.5 per game this year according to data from Second Spectrum.
But he leads the team with nine total assists. And if that playmaking kick continues, that should help open up his offensive game later in the season as teams adjust defensively.
It is just an important reminder that young players do tend to grow. And the Magic should be better because of this growth.
But players will often grow in unexpected ways. And the team will have to adjust to the unexpected ways they grow.
And with so many young players all competing for time on the court, some players are inevitably going to impede and get in each other’s way. The Magic’s two rookies in Anthony Black and Jett Howard are not even in the team’s playing rotation to start the season.