3 X-Factors to the Orlando Magic's playoff chase

The Orlando Magic know what they will get from their starters most nights. The difference for the team in their hunt for the Playoffs will be who else steps up on a nightly basis.
Jalen Suggs has shown hints of being the third scorer the Orlando Magic need. He could be an X-factor for the team in their playoff push.
Jalen Suggs has shown hints of being the third scorer the Orlando Magic need. He could be an X-factor for the team in their playoff push. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
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3 X-Factors for the Orlando Magic's Playoff Chase

Jalen Suggs

When everyone tries to name the Orlando Magic's core, they include Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. Those two players are vital to the team's fortunes and essential to everything they do. They are going to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the playoffs.

But who else is part of this team's future?

A lot of people want it to be Jalen Suggs. They see a top-five pick from the vaunted 2021 Draft and expect him to be a star. There are still a lot of those lingering feelings and lingering impressions about him even as he struggled through his first two years.

This season has been a breakout season for Suggs. Nothing should take that away from him.

He has broken through to average 12.2 points per game and shoot 44.4 percent from the floor and 38.2 percent from three. These are all career highs and sure signs of Suggs' growth this year. He should get some consideration for an All-Defensive team.

Suggs though is third on the team in scoring. That should signal how much the Magic need to find a consistent third scorer. And it should signal how much the Magic should be hoping that Suggs takes that step up.

Suggs has eight games this season with 20 or more points and 19 with 15 or more points. However, Suggs' scoring can be all over the place. Even during this strong 10-game run for the team, Suggs has scored in double figures in six of his last 10 games and more than 15 points in just three of those games.

The bigger thing was how Suggs -- and, in turn, the Magic -- struggled during the time Wagner was out with an injury.

During those eight games, Suggs averaged 13.8 points per game and made 48.2 percent of his shots and 48.9 percent of his threes on 10.4 field goal attempts per game. Suggs did not increase his volume, but he did step his game up a little bit.

The Magic are a more dangerous team when Suggs is hitting from outside. He has 17 games this year when he makes three or more 3-pointers. Orlando is only 8-9 in those games. The bigger thing might be his efficiency from deep. The team is 10-8 in the 18 games he has shot better than 50 percent from three.

This is all to say the Magic are still trying to figure out how to make the most of Suggs offensively. Suggs might still be trying to figure out how to make his impact offensively.

Regardless of this answer, his contributions are still vital.

And that does not get into his game-changing defense which the Magic will rely on heavily this season.

The gains Suggs has made this year are important. He is an essential player to this team. The question the Magic need to answer as they develop and evolve this team is whether he can do more.