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Don’t blink: The Orlando Magic are coming

With a lethal young core, the Orlando Magic are just a piece away from escaping the NBA purgatory they've inhabited for the last decade.

For years the Orlando Magic were the team referenced to describe NBA purgatory, oscillating between the lottery and a first-round playoff exit for the last decade. Their team was built around having five or six better-than-average players without a superstar. But nobody ever thought they could even win a playoff series, much less make a deep playoff run. They were stuck in the mud: Too good for a top pick and not good enough to seriously challenge the best teams.

But they set the stage for a total rebuild once they broke up that core in 2021. That season they drafted Jalen Suggs (fifth overall) and Franz Wagner (eighth overall) to join other young guys Mo Wagner, Cole Anthony, and Markelle Fultz. Last year they won the top overall pick, where they selected Paolo Banchero. This is where the Orlando Magic franchise’s trajectory changed for the better. And this time, they’re set up for greatness.

A+ drafting and trading

Unlike some recent top overall picks, Banchero has not disappointed. He is in first place in the Rookie of the Year running, averaging 20.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. The last Orlando rookie to put up those numbers was a kid named Shaquille O’Neal. That’s rarified air.

The Magic are set up for success, already on track to eclipse their putrid records over the last two seasons. They are also equipped with the Bulls’ first-round pick next season from the Vucevic trade and the Nuggets’ 2025 first-round pick in the Gordon trade. Ross and Isaac are also on the roster to be used as trade bait, giving the Magic the cache to improve their roster this season or next.

They don’t own a single bad contract, a rarity in the modern NBA, and have aced all their big trades over the last few seasons. They landed the talented, two-way big Wendall Carter Jr. in the Vucevic trade. They also acquired Bol Bol, son of former NBA player Manute Bol, a skilled center with extraordinary on-ball ability and handles. The Wagner brothers have become a lethal duo, Franz especially, averaging 20.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. Wagner and Banchero are the Magic’s first duo to average 20 points per game in the same season since Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway in 1996. It’s easy to see where the optimism for the franchise comes from.

The Orlando Magic are still a player away

The only position left to address is the point guard spot. They currently have three options: Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, and Markelle Fultz. Fultz has been solid since joining the Magic, averaging 13 points and six assists, but he’s best suited in a backup role. The Magic thought they had filled their point guard opening when they selected Suggs two seasons ago, but he has been the epitome of inconsistency, notching 16 minutes of game time only once since returning from a lengthy injury. 

That leaves Anthony, the son of former Knicks point god, Greg Anthony. The younger Anthony has the most offensive talent of the three, but he needs to improve his athleticism and foot speed to solidify a starting role. Anthony is a good player that should stay in the league for a while, but like Fultz, he also seems best suited as a backup. They should use the draft assets they have accumulated after breaking up their last core, plus players like Isaac, Simmons, and former lottery pick Mo Bamba to acquire a bonafide starting point guard. 

They will be ready to climb the standings once they do, with a starting five field with guys who can guard multiple positions and score on three levels. Franz Wagner, Carter, and Banchero form an excellent young core that will only get better over time. Once they make their next move for a lead guard, the Magic will be out of purgatory and ready to compete.