The Orlando Magic are a winning team.
Just that sentence alone even at this early stage of the season proves this franchise has turned a corner in the development of its players and coaches.
That was a sentence that had not been uttered many times since Dwight Howard was on the roster. That was the last time the Orlando Magic were even considered as a team to reckon with in the Eastern Conference.
Orlando has not been at least .500 through 10 games since going 6-4 in the 2021 season. The team has been .500 through 10 games just three times since Howard’s departure before the 2013 season — 2016 and 2018 was the only other time.
The times have changed because of the play of three players this year. And they now have a big chance to cement the team’s place in the next seven games including the In-Season Tournament group play games.
The Orlando Magic trio of Paolo Banchero, Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner will have to play to their full potential for the Magic to have success in the NBA’s In-Season Tournament and cement their winning ways.
Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs are the undisputed leaders of this year’s version of the Orlando Magic. And they will have to play at a high level if they plan on making any noise in the NBA’s new In-Season Tournament and continuing this strong start.
As a matter of fact, the Magic will only go as far as these three players will take them.
There are a lot of reasons the Magic have gotten off to a solid start this season. The team’s defense has been a big reason. The bench too has been amazing this year and has been a large part of why the Magic has had success.
But at some point in the maturation process, the players who were selected in the draft to be stars, have to be stars. The Magic’s young trio of Banchero, Wagner and Suggs haven entered the beginning stages of that matriculation process.
It is going to take that for the Magic to pull off the unthinkable. Each have contributed in major ways to the Magic’s victories this season. But the overall expectations have risen because of these three young players.
Most people see Banchero as the type of player who will be able to carry a team past the 1st round of a Playoff series in the near future. He has drawn comparisons to superstar scorers ranging from Blake Griffin to Carmelo Anthony and has started to add in solid defense on top of that.
The second year star for the Magic scored 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in his last game against the Milwaukee Bucks. He is averaging more than five assists per game too.
For the season, Banchero has shed a rough start to average 18.9 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game and 5.3 assists per game. His overall scoring is down, but he is shooting 47.2 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from deep. In his last four games, Banchero is averaging 22.5 points per game, 8.0 rebounds per game and 6.3 assists per game on 49.3 percent shooting and 38.5 percent from three.
Banchero has been picking up steam as a scorer and has added new dimensions to his game.
That is what the Magic will need from him on a consistent basis in the In-Season Tournament if they want to make some noise. His presence on both sides of the ball is evident and gives his teammates confidence.
Franz Wagner is seen more of as an outside shooter who has the potential to score. The third year forward is making a name for himself globally and in the NBA, but needs to be more of a consistent, balanced scorer from outside. The gold medalist led Germany to its first FIBA World Cup title, and has gained a lot of confidence from his accomplishments.
Wagner has seen some of his numbers drop this year, averaging 18.6 points per game (the same last year) while shooting 40.9 percent from the floor on 16.6 field goal attempts per game, 2.6 more than he took last year. Wagner is trying to force his offense a bit more and be more aggressive as a scorer this year.
He has made only 32.0 percent of his 3-pointers this year as all of his shooting numbers have hit career lows early in the season.
It will make life a lot easier in Orlando if he can shoot more consistently while extending his range. The Magic definitely expect him to get there as the season continues to evolve.
Wagner scored 24 points, six rebounds and three assists in the win against the Bucks and shot 33.3 percent from downtown. If the Magic can get consistent scoring from Wagner they will win some games in the tournament. His ability to shoot the ball consistently from deep can be the difference maker in a tournament.
Jalen Suggs has been a dog on defense to this point of the season. He has been all energy on both ends throughout his first two seasons and this third season, finally healthy for an extended period of time, seems to have kicked that into overdrive.
He is very fast and can slash to the bucket quickly. He has nice athleticism and can posterize defenders if he catches them slipping. While he has struggled to shoot throughout his career, he never loses confidence and will continue to fire, showing the ability to get hot from deep.
In his last game against the Bucks he registered 20 points (including 18 in the first half to help the Magic stake the lead in the second quarter), two rebounds and two assists.
Suggs is averaging a career-high 12.3 points per game so far this season. He has added 4.6 rebounds per game and 2.1 steals per game (fourth in the league) on top of that. His 35.1 percent shooting from deep has been a positive sign, although it is still built largely on several hot-shooting games like his 4-for-5 shooting performance against the Atlanta Hawks and 2-for-3 shooting performance against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Overall, he has looked like a nice complementary piece to add along with Banchero and Wagner. The Magic desperately need him to fill his role in order to have any success in the tournament. Everyone is going to have to play at a higher level to take advantage of this opportunity to play pressure games during these tournament games.
His defensive presence gives the Magic coaching staff confidence when playing teams who have potent shooting guards. The staff also knows that they have a player who doesn’t mind picking an opponent 90-feet to create pressure and turnovers.
So the Magic have pieces to get the job done. They have rebuilt their franchise to at least become respectable. The key now is to have all of these guys playing well consistently on the court together.
Orlando has seen all these players grow and are seeing it come together to deliver results for the team, paving a path for the team moving forward.