NBA

What rosters could the Orlando Magic deploy next season?

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Although it produced a lot of stress, this offseason was undoubtedly momentous for the Magic.

Not only did they recruit Paolo Banchero and Caleb Houstan, but the Orlando front office also retained veterans Mo Bamba and Gary Harris. And as with any young team, the second year of Jahmal Mosley’s experience will ultimately warrant higher expectations. That said, there is still time to expand and experiment with this list.

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Over the past few seasons, Orlando has acquired many multi-faceted players, a staple of the modern NBA. And because of that, the Magic can become a precursor for the next iteration of the league.

With that in mind, here are four potential rosters the Magic could use next season to capitalize on their diversity of talent.

Honorable mention

M. Fultz – J. Suggs – F. Wagner – P. Banchero – W. Carter Jr.

This could easily be Orlando’s starting lineup next season. If so, this quintet will likely be one of the best passing units in the NBA.

Markelle Fultz passing ability is already well documented, but sophomores Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner both showed incredible thrills during their rookie seasons.

In transition, Suggs proficiently reads the floor the same way English teachers read Shakespeare; and his execution on those passes is equally competent. On the other hand, Wagner is a colossal yet skilful striker who delivers effective play in multiple ways.

As these two continue to adapt to league speed, dissecting defenses with their passing will only become more prevalent.

And as with Banchero and Wendell Carter Jr., it will be hard to find a more cerebral 4-5 combination in the NBA.

Even though Banchero is a formidable blueprint maker, his best skill might be his passing. Part of it has to do with his ability to create advantages as a ball player, but Banchero has made some truly remarkable assists in his only season at Duke and in this year’s Summer League.

And while Carter Jr. isn’t the “creator” the other four are, his quick decision making will lend itself well in this range, especially in short roll situations.

Put it all together and you have five players, three of whom are 6ft 10in or taller, who can handle the ball and create for others. Overshooting can sometimes be detrimental, but this range will capitalize on rotating defenses ad nauseam.

That said, what’s the point of passing when you don’t have shooters to space the ground? A backcourt of Fultz and Suggs could be a disastrous shooting duo and Carter Jr. probably won’t offer much on the perimeter either.

Orlando’s coaching staff will surely recognize these concerns and put these five players in the best position to succeed (perhaps replacing Fultz with Cole Anthony).

Offensive Efficiency

C. Anthony – D. Cannady – F. Wagner – P. Banchero – M. Bamba

Let’s go weird.

From a basketball purist perspective, this might be Orlando’s most aesthetically pleasing lineup.

At times last season, Cole Anthony was an offensive hub for the Magic. But while his stellar play would normally produce favorable results for the Magic, the heliocentrism of Anthony’s play is likely preventing him from achieving peak offensive effectiveness.

Despite increasing his usage percentage last year, Anthony’s effective field goal percentage increased by two points. Some of that growth could be a byproduct of his amplified off-ball opportunities: Anthony’s frequency as a pick-and-roll ball handler has gone down and his frequencies as a point shooter and cutter have gone up.

Playing alongside Wagner for nearly 1,600 minutes has generated relatively positive results, and incorporating another attacking playmaker in Banchero should also increase Anthony’s effectiveness (they’re already building chemistry).

Devin Cannady and Mo Bamba would have junior roles in this lineup, but would provide much-needed ground spacing. Cannady shot 40.5% on three of 37 attempts last season and showed synergy with Banchero in this year’s Summer League. And Bamba posted the second-highest 3PAr of any seven-footer last season and still recorded 38.1% from beyond the arc.

At a minimum, Orlando would have wide ground, three players who can act as primary starters, and a dominant inside presence: the foundation of a great offense in today’s NBA.

If Cannady is waived before the season, Houstan would be a viable replacement in that roster.

Defensive Efficiency

J. Suggs – G. Harris – F. Wagner – W. Carter – M. Bamba

During his rookie season, what Suggs lacked on the offensive end, he more than made up for on defense. His reaction time and awareness on that side of the court already rank among the best in the NBA.

Suggs also didn’t get enough credit for his switching capacity last season, as he rarely struggled against the main ball handlers, but also held his own defense of the taller, post-oriented forwards.

With the tools he already has, Suggs has a shot at being a world defender. The next step in its evolution is consistency (staying healthy). Alongside Suggs is Gary Harris, a stalwart veteran who also thrives as an attacking point defender. I don’t envy opposing backcourts that come up against this duo.

Wagner, as many know, was another defensive ace in his rookie season. He has used his length well on this side of the pitch and is able to defend all types of players. Needless to say, a defensive formation without Wagner would be ridiculous.

In the frontcourt, I was inclined to give Chuma Okeke a spot on Bamba due to his defensive play (deflections and steals), but Bamba’s rim deterrence was too good to pass up.

Bamba’s inside presence could anchor this formation’s defense while Carter Jr., who moves exceptionally well for a player of his size, takes on the more versatile forwards and bigs.

And for those wondering, “Where is Jonathan Isaac?” I will refrain from adding him to a roster until it is confirmed that he will be ready for next season.

rhythm and space

M. Fultz – G. Harris – C. Okeke – P. Banchero – M. Bamba

I recently wrote about Fultz’s upcoming 2022-23 campaign and how he can maximize his skills. One of those points was to push in transition; and that range could help unlock that layer of Fultz’s game.

In the article linked above, I mentioned how Harris benefited from Fultz’s transition play during the limited time they played together. The chemistry these two showed as a game starter and game finisher was phenomenal.

Okeke’s ability to wreak havoc on the defensive end will create opportunities for this group to come out of the fastbreak. Not only that, he shot 39.8% on his 113 catch and three-point shot attempts as a rookie. If Okeke returns to form in this direction, putting him in this formation will be justified.

Finally, the front area includes Banchero and Bamba. Banchero, for obvious reasons, is an excellent pace and space player given his ability to “catch and go” while simultaneously playing a ball player like Fultz. And Bamba is a big, tall ‘trailer’ who can methodically pick up the ground and land punches over the break.

All in all, this range could cause a lot of problems when transitioning.

Final Thoughts

Growing pains are inevitable; it’s part of the process of seeing which queues are working and which are not.

But Coach Mosley needs to keep an open mind when building rosters next season, getting discouraged can prevent his team from reaching their full potential.

With the right leadership, Orlando could spearhead the next evolution of the NBA game. It’s now up to Orlando’s coaching staff to figure out exactly what that development is.

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