What kind of point guard do the Orlando Magic need?

The central question facing the Orlando Magic this offseason is how to fill the all-important point guard and playmaker role. But with a unique attack with their forwards finding the right point guard is not so easy.
The Orlando Magic have a lot of options and a lot to consider as they build their team and find a point guard to organize and start the offense.
The Orlando Magic have a lot of options and a lot to consider as they build their team and find a point guard to organize and start the offense. / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Paolo Banchero was noticeably dragging at the end of the Orlando Magic's Game 7 defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He had left everything on the floor, carrying the Magic offensively through a 38-point effort in his first career Game 7.

There was a lot on his shoulders throughout the entire series. He was the main scorer and main playmaker all in one. He had to throw himself headlong into the paint to create for his team.

Banchero was the team's de facto point guard throughout much of the season. He averaged 76.4 touches per game, according to Second Spectrum. That jumped to 87.3 in the playoffs, the sixth-most in the league.

He led the Magic in assists with 5.4 per game—and trailed only Franz Wagner in the playoffs with 4.0 per game (Wagner had 4.4 assists per game). Wagner was second in assists during the regular season.

Orlando was a different kind of team, playing without a traditional point guard. But even in the playoffs, it became clear that a different kind of team still needs something resembling a traditional attack.

The Magic still needed a point guard to diversify their attack. They needed a playmaker to get into the paint and create easier shots for Banchero and Wagner, the team's two stars. They needed someone who could manage the team and calm them down in the most chaotic moments—remember the three-minute scoring drought when the Magic cut the lead to five in Game 1? That is where a point guard would help.

Banchero has already sort of thrown down the gauntlet to the Magic for what they need. He told The Washington Post that the team needs a "guy who can set the table." He does not see himself as a point guard but more of an offensive hub.

There is no more important position in the modern NBA with its increased pace and scoring prowess than the point guard position. But the Magic are not seemingly looking for a natural point guard.

Everyone can agree the Magic need to find a starting guard to play alongside Jalen Suggs. But what kind of guard is the essential question? This is the biggest team-building question for the Magic to answer.

In April, The Ringer put together a Point Guard Field Guide and tried to categorize the different kinds of point guards in the league. This is a good road map to answer this question as the Magic enter a critical offseason to add players to the roster and take the next step to unlock their young stars.

The Orlando Magic's point guard need starts with Jalen Suggs' development

The first place to start is with what the Orlando Magic have and their options at point guard.

The team has four players who are more classically considered point guards—Jalen Suggs, Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, and Anthony Black. Outside of Fultz and Anthony, it is hard to call any of those players traditional point guards. To show the flaw in Basketball-Reference's position estimates, it put Gary Harris as the point guard for 39 percent of his minutes and Jalen Suggs for only 14 percent of his minutes.

The Ringer describes Suggs as an "Enabler"; someone who lets stars be stars. They let the playmaking forwards explore the full canvas of their abilities:

"“Jalen Suggs and the Magic will put that theory to the test,” Rob Mahoney of The Ringer wrote. “Suggs has been so good for Orlando specifically because of the ways he makes space for Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner, allowing a young team to explore its brightest, weirdest possibilities. The Magic wouldn’t be the Magic without him.”"

Rob Mahoney, The Ringer

There are limitations to this, of course. Players have to accept this secondary role in a world where they have been on the ball for so long. D'Angelo Russell struggled to figure out his role as a point guard when LeBron James was calling for the ball to organize and create.

Suggs fit in perfectly. He tempered his wild driving from his first two seasons and accepted a role, playing off the Magic's two playmaking forwards. He was perfect in a lot of ways, especially considering his improvement as a 3-point shooter.

Banchero clearly is not quite ready to give the ball up. He still wants to make decisions and have things spin off him. With his passing prowess, allowing Banchero to explore that space is still valuable.

It seems the Magic are not looking for a full "Enabler" like Suggs was last season; they are looking for something more. They need something more.

It was clear the plan for the Magic all season was to have Fultz as the starting point guard. Injuries derailed his season and only heightened his limitations. It seems unlikely that he will return to the team in free agency this summer as the Magic look to upgrade and improve their team.

Fultz could best be described under The Ringer's rubric as a "Curator." He sets everything up for everyone while still largely being out of the way and low usage.

Anthony is best off the bench because of his size and his penchant for scoring. We still do not quite know what kind of point guard Black can be. The Magic used him like Suggs as an enabler who largely stayed uninvolved offensively beyond spot-up shooting and cutting.

What should be clear is the Magic do need a point guard.

Banchero is not the ball-handler Luka Doncic or LeBron James are. He is not "The System" as much as he played like one last season. He does not want to be one.

The Magic exited their playoffs knowing they needed someone to relieve the ball-handling and creation pressure for their forward.

What the Orlando Magic are looking for in a point guard

So what are the Orlando Magic looking for in a guard?

They do not seem to be looking for a point guard who will take too much of the ball and pound the dirt. They want to play a pretty egalitarian offense where everyone can do everything. This type of role and skill versatility is at the heart of the Magic's project and idea for the team.

What the Magic seem to be looking for most is the ability to vary their attack. In the playoffs, the Magic could only rely on Banchero or Wagner driving to the basket. Whether they saw a wall in front of them came down to whether the shooters around them could hit and give them space—they did at the Kia Center and did not at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Shooting is a must.

But if there is a reason Orlando is seeking a point guard, it is because the team is looking for some diversity in how it plays. The team is looking for someone to mix things up and create shot opportunities for others in different ways.

Are the Magic looking for a heavy-usage player that The Ringer describes as a "Tangent," someone who takes the offense in a different direction?

These are scoring guards who give offenses a different edge to them. They create imbalance by being able to create for themselves and go off, playing off other stars and giving them a bit more time off the ball.

This is the category they place Anfernee Simons, a favorite trade target among Magic fans.

The Magic are definitely trying to improve their offense. And they are looking for a player capable of playing off the ball—Simons made 42.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-pointers last year according to Second Spectrum.

Simons is a tantalizing target because of how he can elevate his game and be a star when needed. The Magic probably need another dynamic scorer, considering their offensive issues.

But that may not exactly fit what the team needs.

Would the Magic prefer someone who fits into the background—a "Curator" who simplifies and organizes the offense? This is something the Magic need, too.

Fultz was something like this as someone who could organize and create a little but still largely went into the background. He was not enough of an offensive threat without the ball.

Certainly having a guard who could organize and get players in the right spots or deliver the ball to Banchero in spaces he can score is something the team should be looking for. Everyone can see the positive impact Mike Conley has had on a young Minnesota Timberwolves team to make that team function even if it is not quite captured statistically.

This is the kind of guard Tyus Jones would be, another favorite free-agent target for the Magic. Jones is an excellent passer and a low-turnover player who can hit from the outside. The attraction from him is that he would not demand the ball a ton but would be someone whose sole purpose was to organize and set up the offense.

Even if his upside is limited, the impact of a player who simply organizes is clear. Every team needs the calm in the chaos of a game.

The question then is about how aggressive the Magic want their point guard to be. Are they looking for someone to take over games or merely to manage and organize their team?

5 Orlando Magic trade targets from Playoff teams. dark. Next. Magic trade targets Playoff teams 05.29.24

There are options. And perhaps the trick to figuring out what kind of point guard the Magic need starts with understanding what they do not need.