Magic still must make bold move in this department to truly contend

The Magic are not true contenders but a bold move could push them in the right direction.
Denver Nuggets v Orlando Magic
Denver Nuggets v Orlando Magic / Douglas P. DeFelice/GettyImages

The Orlando Magic are on track to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference for years to come. While they are still young and not yet on the same level as the likes of Boston and New York, the potential is there. Paolo Banchero is an All-Star already, Jalen Suggs just made his first All-Defensive Second Team, and Franz Wagner has tons of potential as well. 

The Magic have their core. Now, the task is to surround that core with the right pieces. Shooting was one of the biggest needs the team displayed in the 2023-24 season. By signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, bringing back Gary Harris, and drafting Tristan da Silva, the Magic addressed that issue to an extent. They also seem to be betting on continued shooting from Jalen Suggs and improvement from Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero. 

There is still one thing they need to become true contenders, however.

The Magic need an upgrade at the center position to truly contend

Wendell Carter Jr. is a solid starting center in the NBA. He is still young, a solid rebounder, and can space the floor some. And yet, he doesn't seem to be the long-term answer for the Magic. 

Most importantly, his health is a real concern. Over his six seasons in the NBA, Carter Jr. has never played more than 62 games and hit that mark only once. That means the Magic always need to have some injury insurance behind him on the bench, and his impact on the whole season is usually limited. 

After all, it is tough to return from injuries in the middle of the season or to always be worried about sustaining a new one while playing. 

This is not to say that Carter Jr. is not a good player. He definitely has his strengths. While he is not much of a rim protector or imposing presence in the paint—He has never averaged more than 0.8 blocks per game with the Magic—he has made an impact in other ways and did not prevent the Magic from forming one of the best defenses in the league. 

Orlando finished the regular season with the second-best defensive rating behind only the Minnesota Timberwolves and almost tied with the champions in Boston. During 48 of their 82 regular season games, Carter Jr. was the starting center, and only reserves Jonathan Isaac and Goga Bitadze averaged more than one block per game. It all worked out and now, the backcourt duo of Jalen Suggs and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is unlikely to let many guards get even close to the rim anyway.

Offensively, Carter Jr's ability to knock down some threes has been valuable for a team that struggled from behind the arc. Shooting 33.4 percent for his career, he is not a knock-down shooter, however, and struggled at times in the playoffs. He shot less than 40 percent from the field four times and had a bunch of rather quiet games before that. 

Carter Jr. has his strengths. Unfortunately availability is not one of them and the Magic could benefit from having someone more durable and consistent at the starting center spot. They are already constantly working to make sure that Jonathan Isaac is available and having two important big men who cannot stay healthy could be risky down the line.

A lot of this could probably just be solved by Carter being healthy for a full season—he could show what he can do when available consistently and ease some of the worries about his injury history—but at this point, that seems rather unlikely to happen. Still, there is a viable argument to be made that Carter Jr. deserves another chance, and the Magic should not make a rash decision. After all, this team is still young and is not expected to truly contend for a championship quite yet, and Carter certainly has his upside. 

If they want to change their status and play with the true title contenders, the Magic must make a bold move, however. They have already used most of their cap space for this offseason by signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and bringing back Gary Harris, Goga Bitadze, and Moritz Wagner. So, the only way to get a center upgrade right now would be to trade Carter Jr. 

That would certainly be a bold move, but so was signing a championship-caliber role player and doubling down on the team's defensive identity. If the Magic were to make such a move, now would be the time before extensions for the core three kick in and limit them financially.