Orlando builds daunting defensive backcourt with newest signing

The Orlando Magic's recent acquisition of former NBA champion Kentavious Caldwell-Pope makes him and Jalen Suggs one of the best defensive backcourts in the NBA.
Orlando Magic v Denver Nuggets
Orlando Magic v Denver Nuggets / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

This year, the Magic will be scary defensively.

Last season, the team finished second in defensive efficiency slightly above the NBA Champion Boston Celtics and right behind the Minnesota Timberwolves. That is a great sign for a young Magic team that just added a great premier defender to its starting lineup.

Jalen Suggs was named to the NBA All-Defensive team after making a huge jump in his career and is a defensive menace on the perimeter. He has earned his respect as an elite on-ball defender and now has a running mate as the team added another guy who has accomplished more than Suggs on both sides of the ball—a player he can learn from.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope agreed to a $66 million deal last week which not only raised the ceiling for the organization but also created a defensive nightmare for opponents. Now that he is on the roster, the Magic have a two-headed defensive terror on the perimeter. Not only do you have a guy like Suggs who will get into your shirt defensively, but the team also added a proven champion defender who is actually better. Caldwell-Pope should be a great mentor to Jalen Suggs as they share the floor.

The starting lineup of Jalen Suggs, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero, and Wendell Carter Jr., may surprise some people this year. The Magic could potentially morph into the best defensive team in the NBA because all five of these players are very good on the defensive side of the ball. This has the potential to be a great season in Orlando if they can bring it all together.

And it all starts with Caldwell-Pope and Jalen Suggs at the point of attack. Having two elite defenders on the perimeter, and two at the forward positions is similar to how the 2024 NBA Champion Boston Celtics are built. Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner have already drawn comparisons to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Jalen Suggs has to remain at the same level for this to be an accurate depiction of Derrick White and Caldwell-Pope is the Jrue Holiday in this situation. I say that because he is the one coming in with championship experience.

Jalen Suggs could really benefit from playing with Caldwell-Pope

These two guys are going to put an insane amount of pressure on the ball at all times. This is extremely important in an Eastern Conference with guys like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Damien Lillard, Jalen Brunson, Tyrese Haliburton, and Donovan Mitchell. This duo could potentially challenge all of these Eastern Conference teams‘ backcourt players.

For example, with Caldwell-Pope, Suggs doesn't have to be the primary defender on every good perimeter player. Coach Jamahl Mosely could easily put Caldwell-Pope on the other team’s primary scorer so Suggs can get a breather. This strategy could free up Suggs on the defensive side of the ball and save his energy for the offensive end, where they desperately need him.

If they had Caldwell-Pope last year, the Magic probably would've beaten the Cleveland Cavaliers and faced the eventual NBA Champion Boston Celtics in the second round. Suggs and Caldwell-Pope would've been a better defensive duo to compete against Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland.

Suggs plays point guard for the Magic but sometimes loses energy on offense due to being the primary perimeter defender on the roster. Coach Mosely has to use him on the defensive side but still needs his production on offense. This acquisition of Caldwell-Pope will allow Suggs to rest on defense at specific times instead of having to go all out defensively every possession.

So, the Magic have a potentially great defensive duo with Caldwell-Pope and Suggs, but NBA games aren't played on paper, and only time will tell if they will be amongst the NBA's elite.