Orlando Magic's biggest loss is Joe Ingles' playmaking

The Orlando Magic did not lose very much to free agency this offseason. While Joe Ingles had limitations, his boost to the Magic's bench will be something they miss.
Joe Ingles may have ended up a bit player for the Orlando Magic. But his impact was felt throughout the roster and replacing him is not so straightforward.
Joe Ingles may have ended up a bit player for the Orlando Magic. But his impact was felt throughout the roster and replacing him is not so straightforward. / David Berding/GettyImages

It has largely been a successful offseason for the Orlando Magic.

The team added a starting-level player in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and retained many of their own free agents. Orlando on paper certainly appeared to get better. And with the hope for internal improvement has everyone excited for the offseason.

But when you add any player to the team, some players are going to be sent out. Rosters are a zero-sum game. And while the Magic are betting on continuity once again, they are a different team. Players will be in different roles. Dynamics are going to be different. The team will have to rebuild chemistry.

Undoubtedly, one of the Magic's biggest strengths last year was its bench. The team had the fourth-highest-scoring bench in the league. They were able to take advantage of teams that lacked depth and win those early second and fourth quarters. They could manage minutes—Paolo Banchero led the team with 35.0 minutes per game and Franz Wagner was the only other player to hit 30 minutes per game.

Quietly though, one of the connectors for that successful bench group was Joe Ingles. And Ingles was one of the players the Orlando Magic sacrificed this offseason after waiving the final year of his deal and seeing him sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Ingles' statistical showing was pretty low. He averaged only 4.4 points per game and 3.0 assists per game in 17.2 minutes per game. His biggest statistical boost was his 43.5 percent 3-point shooting, by far the best on the team.

But his impact and presence go beyond those raw counting stats.

Orlando had a +5.8 net rating with Ingles on the floor last season. Only Jonathan Isaac had a better on-court net rating. His 116.1 offensive rating was the best on-court net rating among all rotation players on the team.

You can go through every player and see how much better every lineup was offensively with Ingles on the floor.

Player (Mins. w/ Ingles)

Off. Rtg (Net Rtg.)

Off. Rtg. (Net Rtg.) w/ Ingles


Cole Anthony (880)

112.6 (+2.6)

114.6 (+5.4)

+2.0 (+1.8)

Moe Wagner (779)

113.9 (+3.1)

115.8 (+5.8)

+1.9 (+2.7)

Paolo Banchero (515)

111.9 (+0.0)

113.2 (+0.5)

+1.3 (+0.5)

Jonathan Isaac (495)

113.0 (+10.9)

114.8 (+11.8)

+1.8 (+0.9)

Franz Wagner (342)

112.5 (+4.3)

118.7 (+10.5)

+6.2 (+6.2)

Gary Harris (333)

113.6 (+3.3)

115.0 (+3.3)

+1.4 (+0.0)

Anthony Black (253)

108.0 (-1.0)

120.2 (+15.2)

+13.8 (+16.2)

Jalen Suggs (243)

111.8 (+1.0)

115.2 (+5.6)

+3.4 (+4.6)

Wendell Carter (216)

110.8 (+1.1)

111.6 (+3.2)

+0.8 (+2.1)

These numbers are universal. Ingles was present in almost all of the Magic's best offensive lineups and everyone benefited from his presence.

Some of this is because the Magic limited his minutes and he played off the bench against starters. But it is incredible how universal Ingles' positive offensive impact was. The Magic were better when Ingles was on the floor. That is uncontroverted.

"He's huge for our roster," coach Jamahl Mosley said after the Magic's January loss to the Miami Heat, Joe Ingles' first game after missing 13 games. "His ability to communicate the right thing in different situations, make the right play down the stretch, just getting guys in the right spot. All of those situations are very big to have. He's so important for our locker room for our guys to make the right reads and the right plays and just settle. Just being able to settle, make big shots and make big plays."

The Magic will miss Joe Ingles’ skill set next season

That is the biggest thing the Magic will miss.

His shooting matters—think of how the Orlando Magic used Ingles as the inbounder in the back-to-back wins over the Chicago Bulls in November using the threat of his shooting to give Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner space to attack. He gave a lot of those bench units space because of the threat of his shooting.

But it is also about his playmaking and his maturity. His poise and presence mattered too.

The Magic are going to have to find a way to fill that in. And it is something that could affect everyone on that bench group.

Ingles had the ball in his hands a lot. He averaged 29.8 touches per game last year, ranking behind the Magic's star players in Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner and point guards in Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz and Jalen Suggs and then another starter in Wendell Carter. Ingles was someone the Magic trusted to make decisions and play with the ball a lot.

According to data from Basketball Index, Ingles accounted for 14.08 assist points per 75 possessions, placing him in the 86th percentile). He averaged 2.65 more assist points per 75 possessions than expected for a player in his role (80th percentile).

Orlando got a lot out of Ingles, but his ability to move the ball and pass players open was one of his biggest strengths. That is not something the magic could so easily replace.

If there is one issue the Magic left unresolved this offseason, it is the need for a playmaker and creator. That was one of the big takeaways from the Magic’s playoff series with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Paolo Banchero even said after the season he would like to see the team add a playmaker and “table setter” to the lineup.

The hints Orlando might move on from Ingles were clear in the playoffs. His minutes dropped to just 9.7 per game. The Cavaliers were able to target him defensively. While both sides seemed open to a reunion after the Magic waived the final year of his contract, it was also clear Ingles was not the perfect fit for the team moving forward.

Orlando though is going into the season betting on Jalen Suggs handling the playmaking responsibilities with the starting lineup once again and betting on Cole Anthony and Anthony Black to step up as playmakers off the bench. All of those players are still unproven.

Even though the Magic are bringing back much of the same roster, it is clear the dynamics within that roster will change— just as they did last year when Suggs joined the starting lineup and eventually Fultz settled into a reserve role.

Everyone is going to have to adjust to a new lineup. And it may not be completely seamless.

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Ingles was a positive impactor for the Magic in a number of ways. And losing him will be felt throughout the roster.