Orlando Magic Daily Mailbag Volume 44: Looking forward past the midpoint of the season

The Orlando Magic are hitting the midpoint of the season and find themselves in a strong position to make the postseason but with a lot of things to learn and develop within their roster. The last half of the season will be big for pointing the team's direction.

Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic are hitting a crossroads as they try to find their rhythm to make the playoffs and prepare for their future.
Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic are hitting a crossroads as they try to find their rhythm to make the playoffs and prepare for their future. / David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
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Orlando Magic Daily Mailbag: Award season

Can Cole Anthony win Sixth Man of the Year?

Cole Anthony was in a really good spot to win Sixth Man of the Year earlier in the year when this question was originally asked.

At the end of the In-Season Tournament, he was averaging 14.1 points per game on 41.8 percent shooting. Entering Friday's game, he is down to 13.6 points per game on 43.8 percent shooting. That scoring average is eighth in scoring among bench players with at least 20 games played off the bench.

Anthony is not wholly out of the running. And Orlando's bench remains one of the highest-scoring benches in the league. So the Magic still lean heavily on their bench even if Anthony has slowed down.

But at this point, it feels certain Anthony is not a favorite for Sixth Man of the Year anymore. Not with the season Tim Hardaway Jr., Malik Monk or Bogdon Bogdanovic are having. But the door is still at least slightly open entering the second half of the season.

If Anthony has another big push and gets some high-profile games that help the Magic advance up the Eastern Conference standings, his name could surface again as a finalist for the award. It is not impossible.

But Anthony needs to play a lot better to get into that running once again.

What are Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner's realistic All-Star chances?

The Orlando Magic have gone much harder in marketing Paolo Banchero as an All-Star. Jamahl Mosley has gone out of his way in press conferences to note Banchero should be an All-Star and is doing All-Star things.

The Players Tribune even had buttons made urging everyone to vote for Banchero in the final days of voting -- he is sitting in eighth but has picked up considerable steam in the last two weeks.

Banchero has certainly earned the attention and has put himself in a really good spot to make the East team as a reserve.

Entering Friday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers, he was averaging 22.9 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game and 4.9 assists per game with his efficiency increasing across the board -- 45.0/35.2/69.9 shooting splits.

He has stepped up his game this year with his first two career 40-point games and averages of 26.9 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game and 5.4 assists per game in 15 games since Dec. 21. He has done a lot to carry the team, even recording his first career triple-double.

Being on a team in playoff position and carrying the load he has has gotten everyone's attention. Coaches send double teams at him every chance they get because there are few ways to stop him already other than to rush and crowd him and hope his inexperience gets him in trouble (it still does).

It is hard to imagine the coaches do not send him to the game -- even with a projected crowded field of Eastern Conference front court candidates that includes Julius Randle, Bam Adebayo, Mikal Bridges, Scottie Barnes and Jaylen Brown. The margins might be narrow, but Banchero has done a lot to put himself in a good spot.

I think he should be in -- I would take him ahead of all those players with Brown, Randle and Adebayo as his toughest competition -- but I am also a little biased.

Franz Wagner's All-Star bid likely ended with his injury against the Sacramento Kings. He has missed eight games and counting since turning his ankle.

And while Wagner has put up solid numbers -- 20.9 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game and 3.9 assists per game -- he had work to do to get into the mix. In addition to the Magic continuing to win to earn two All-Stars from the coaches.

Wagner's chances at being an alternate or a first pick should any players have to miss for an injury have also probably been shut.