The Orlando Magic has the potential to be powerful. Inclusion in ESPN’s annual NBArank affairs, however, proved to be a spell far too advanced.
It probably would’ve been unwise to expect the relatively downtrodden Magic to appear on a list reveling in modern NBA greatness. A team over a decade removed from its last playoff series victory should perhaps be grateful to merit even a single representative, as the Magic did in the latest manifest. However, such representation is a double-edged sword, as the player in question … top overall pick Paolo Banchero coming in at No. 82 … has yet to play an official game in the NBA.
Which of Banchero’s teammates are best equipped and paced to join him on next year’s edition? Here’s four players who could give him some company …
Some offseason prognosticators had Bamba taking the first flight out of Florida, especially after 2018’s sixth overall pick posted career-bests in nearly every major category. That feeling only intensified with the high-profile drafting of Banchero, but Bamba instead re-upped with the team on a two-year deal.
Banchero’s arrival could force Bamba out of the starting five but there’s enough upside for him to remain a solid contributor. His relatively thin frame has forced him out of the interior but solid chemistry with Wendell Carter Jr. could create some floor spreading that Orlando has desperately craved. While it still remains to be seen if Bamba could rep the Magic or one of its rivals … his team-friendly deal still makes him prime deadline ammunition … Bamba has a prime opportunity to build on a breakout.
Wendell Carter Jr.
There’s so much hype and discussion around one Duke alum in Orlando that some have unrightfully forgotten that there’s another already there, one already capable of making a big impact.
Granted extended opportunities in his first full season with the Magic after two-plus years in Chicago, Carter took full advantage: he averaged a 15-point, 10.5-rebound double-double and also discovered a new outside propensity, sinking 70 alone last season after putting only 27 in his first three campaigns. If Carter becomes more reliable in his newfound deep game … he was no exception to Orlando’s outside struggles at a 33 percent conversion rate … he could finally earn some recognition perhaps denied to him by the Magic’s small-market status.
A trip to Orlando is built around the idea of anticipation and excitement. That’s what the Magic potentially have in Isaac, who is projected to return this season after a two-year medical absence.
Having proven his defensive mettle before disaster struck in the Disney bubble, Isaac is one of the few Orlando players that has established an NBA niche where he can make lasting professional contributions. There’s no exact timetable for Isaac’s long-awaited return and it could take him a while to get his land legs back, but if he makes a noticeable difference in the Magic’s fortunes, it’ll be hard to keep him out.
Wagner was one of the NBA’s best-kept secrets as a rookie on a season-long bottom-feeder, becoming one of the most consistent freshmen from the field. Summer endeavors, be it the youthful Vegas Summer League affairs or international tournaments increasingly popular with veterans, should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt. From an Orlando standpoint, however, it’s hard not to be excited about what Wagner was able to accomplish in the EuroBasket proceedings.
The recent 21-year-old took on a leadership role with the German team, finishing at or near the top of several team categories, including second at 15.4 points per game. It was part of the Germans’ first medal effort in 17 years, his sterling effort being a 32-point showing over 40 minutes of a double-overtime triumph over Lithuania in group play. If Wagner can take lessons from abroad and apply them to his domestic settings, he and Banchero can form a solid 1-2 punch for the next several seasons.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
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