The Orlando Magic are playing well.
In fact, this is the best record through four games the Magic has had since Nikola Vucevic was wearing the Magic blue. Of course, that comes with a warning too.
During the 2021 NBA season, the Magic stated off 4-0 after beating the Miami Heat, Washington Wizards (twice) and Oklahoma City Thunder. Markelle Fultz’s ACL injury derailed that hot start and sent the Magic toward their rebuild project.
This year they are 2-2 and are moving forward with the results despite frustrations with how they got there.
They might even be playing better if their Rookie of the Year player, Paolo Banchero, picked off where he left last year. Last year, Banchero averaged 20.0 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game and 3.7 assists per game as the Magic finished the season 34-48.
He has not hit that level so far this year and there is plenty of hand-wringing about it to start the year.
This is the post to try to tell everyone to relax.
The Orlando Magic are eager for success in 2024. But the team is being patient with last year’s Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero during his struggles knowing brighter days are ahead.
Banchero has come out slowly this year, averaging 12.5 points per game on 37.8/22.2/53.8 shooting splits. While his assists are up, Banchero has not been the dominant player the Magic need. His field goal attempts are even down (11.3 per game) as he even struggles to get into his shot.
Tuesday’s game against the LA Clippers was at least a small bright spot to see the Magic get the ball to Banchero in better scoring spots on his way to 13 field goal attempts (after 14 against the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday). He also got eight free throw attempts. That is a shot profile that is more like him.
Although, he still struggled with only 15 points, missing eight of those 13 shots and four of his eight free throws. Everyone is frustrated with Banchero’s output so far.
The Magic are being patient while their star’s struggles. But many of the fans in Central Florida have voiced their opinion about how Banchero should be leading the team offensively in his second year in the NBA.
It is what they have seen from second year stars in recent memory and the trajectory everyone expected Banchero to be on after his historic rookie season. It has just taken some time for him to get going.
Some might call it a sophomore slump, others may say it takes time to become the unquestioned man on an NBA roster. But let’s be real, it has only been four games.
Four games are not enough time to make a true assessment of Banchero’s sophomore season, but it is enough games to start scratching your head after seeing what he was able to accomplish as a rookie last season.
Certainly, opponents have the tape on him now and have found ways to slow him down. But him being the third leading scorer on the Magic cannot be what anyone expected this year. Right now, Cole Anthony (15.0) and Franz Wagner (18.0) average more points than Banchero (12.5). Orlando, to its credit has done well to try to remain competitive without its top scorer leading the way.
It is still early enough in the season that won breakthrough game could set everything right. Nobody seems particularly worried about Banchero yet.
It is not foreign that future star players struggle during their first four games during their second year in the NBA. Let the list begin:
- Luka Doncic – 4th game at Denver: 12 points , 4 rebounds, 5 assists (after three-straight 25-point games to start the season)
- Trae Young – 4th game at Miami: 5 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists (after three-straight 25-point games and two 30-point games to start the season)
- Zion Williamson – 1st game at Toronto: 15 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists (followed up with a 30-point game in his second outing)
- Ben Simmons – 3rd game at Orlando: 4 points, 4 assists (he recorded a triple-double in his second game)
- Karl-Anthony Towns – 3rd game vs. Memphis: 11 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists (followed up with a 32-point, 14-rebound effort)
- Kyrie Irving – 2nd game vs. Chicago: 15 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists (he scored at least 20 points in three of his first 10 games)
The point is, many stars have had bad games and slow stretches early in their careers. They are all still young and prone to some wild swings. But they all ended up being just fine in the long run.
None of those players too played international basketball the summer before these seasons, presumably coming into camp a bit fresher. Banchero may just need some time to get his legs back under him before he gets back to the level the Magic are accustomed to.
There is too much basketball left to be played to jump to the conclusion Banchero has not lived up to the organization’s expectations.
The most important part of Banchero’s struggles is how does he handle adversity. How does he react to the questions in a press conference when asked about his struggles? Does he cheer from the bench for his teammates when they make plays?
Does he still play tough defense when his shots are not falling? Does he show leadership in other ways when he isn’t scoring the basketball? What do his teammates say about his struggles when they are asked in press conferences? How is he reacting to the coaches speaking about his struggles?
This is the time where we can see just how this young players handles adversity. But make no mistake about it Paolo Banchero will be just fine.