The Orlando Magic never factored in the playoff race last year, but there’s plenty to be optimistic about going into the 2023/24 season.
No. 1 selection in the 2022 draft Paolo Banchero eased to the Rookie of the Year award and has quickly stepped up as the figurehead for this young Magic side, who are finally starting to see progress from their rebuild.
With a roster packed full of potential, the Magic are hoping one or two can take a big leap, having kept their powder dry in free agency this summer.
|2022/23 Orlando Magic
|Result: 13th in the East, missed the playoffs
|To win 2023/24 NBA Championship
|To win 2023/24 Eastern Conference
Banchero has the highest ceiling of any player on the Magic and he has all the tools to be a star of the future. The young forward averaged 20 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists in his first year in the league.
At just 20 years old, Banchero has plenty of room to grow over the next few years. There is a concern that too much is being put on his shoulders already in Orlando, but he’s being given plenty of opportunities to grow his game.
The reigning Rookie of the Year does need work to become more of a threat from deep, considering his 29.8% from three last season. If the Magic are to reach their aim of having a tall, switchable side that can dominate on both sides of the floor, then that’s the area for Banchero to address in 23/24.
There wasn’t a lot of fanfare when the Magic selected Wagner with the eighth pick in 2021, but he has quickly emerged as a high-level scoring threat. He averaged 18.3 points per game in 2022/23.
The rest of his game didn’t make much progress from his rookie season but he projects to be a good secondary option alongside the more ball-dominant Banchero.
Wagner found success with Germany at the FIBA World Cup this summer. Not only did he play a key role in his country being named world champions, but Wagner averaged 16.8 points along the way, being named MVP of the World Cup final.
While Wagner seems unlikely to round out his game, he’s gaining experience and improving his usage as a real scoring threat. He should build on that as the Magic move a step closer towards competing.
Joe Ingles (F) Milwaukee Bucks
Anthony Black (G) Draft (Round 1, Pick 6)
Jett Howard (F) Draft (Round 1, Pick 11)
Andre Jackson Jr (G) Draft (Round 2, Pick 36)
Mac McClung (G) Philadelphia 76ers
Trevelin Queen (G) Indiana Pacers
DJ Wilson (F) Lakeland Magic
Bol Bol (F) Phoenix Suns
Jay Scrubb (G) Boston Celtics
The Magic open with a couple of clashes with Western Conference sides who are in the midst of their own rebuild. They host the Houston Rockets in their opener, before heading to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Things take a turn for the Magic after that, as they continue on the west coast with visits to the LA Lakers, Clippers and Utah Jazz. With the Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks visiting in their first five home games, it could be a testing start for the Magic.
The Magic have the joint-worst odds to win the Eastern Conference, so little is expected of this young side in the short term. They’re +170 to make the playoffs this term, while their over/under is set at 36.5 wins.
That suggests they’re set for a small improvement this term, but they’re unlikely to take a major leap. With Joe Ingles their only major addition outside of the draft, this is largely the same team that won 34 games last term. Internal growth is only likely to take them so far, leaving little room for optimism going into the new campaign.
However, another year in the draft lottery could be good for their long-term prospects. The team have the cap flexibility and draft equity to make a big move, they just need to get good enough to justify making it.