Will this year be the season the Orlando Magic finally return to the NBA playoffs? The Magic, who have sat out the last three postseasons, have improved their talent the past two seasons. Orlando is coming off a 34-win season, which is its most since their 2019-20 campaign.
2023-24 NBA Power Rankings Offseason Edition: No. 22 Orlando Magic
Not only did Orlando improve its win total in year two under head coach Jahmal Moseley, but they also improved slightly on both ends of the court. However, the Magic’s biggest improvement came on the offensive end. They increased their scoring by seven points per 100 possessions from the 2021-22 campaign. A big reason for the improvement was the addition of the 2023 NBA ROY Paol0 Banchero and the development of Franz Wagner.
While I believe Orlando will keep growing due to their youngsters’ ability, the Magic didn’t do much this off-season. The Magic added two more talented but raw players in the 2023 draft, Anthony Black and Jett Howard. Black, taken with the No. 6 pick, and Howard, who was taken with the 11th overall selection, struggled in summer league play.
Black rebounded the ball well and was solid defensively in Las Vegas. But the 19-year-old combo guard only shot 40.6% from the field and was 1 of 6 (16.7%) from beyond the arc. He also struggled at the free throw line, converting 54.6% of his attempts. Black averaged 11.0 points, 8.6 boards, and 4.0 assists in three appearances. He added 2.0 steals though also committed 4.0 turnovers a contest.
So, for the Magic to challenge for a spot in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament, they will need to see significant in-house improvement. Banchero, Frantz Wagner, and Markelle Fultz are the key players here. Meanwhile, they will also need Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs to bounce back from disappointing seasons. The Magic also need to continue to improve defensively as a team.
Best Off-season Decision: Signing Joe Ingles
Ingles signed a two-year, $22 million contract with the Magic this summer to provide depth and 3-point shooting. The second year of his deal is a club option. The Magic ranked in the bottom third of the league in field goal percentage and 3-pointers made. They also ranked 20th or worse in 3-point attempts, 3-point percentage, and turnovers in 2022-23.
Ingles has been limited the past two seasons due to an ACL injury he suffered in 2022. While Ingles has lost a step, he is still an outstanding shooter and passer. In 46 games with Milwaukee last year, the 35-year-old forward averaged 6.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists with a shooting slash line of .435/.409/.857. He averages 1.8 threes at a 40.8% clip for his career.
Worst Off-season Decision: Drafting Jett Howard at No. 11
Not saying that Howard won’t have a long NBA career, but I believe the Magic reached for him in the draft. Howard was projected to be a mid-to-late first-round choice. Considered one of the best shooters in the 2023 draft class, the 20-year-old wing had difficulties on both ends of the floor during three summer league contests. However, he did shoot it well from deep and showed some playmaking ability on the offensive end.
Howard was highly inefficient, struggled with handling the ball, and was a disaster on defense. He averaged 13.3 points, 2.6 threes, 3.3 steals, and 1.3 steals in 30 minutes a game. He shot 38.5% from the field, 40% from the 3-point line, and 66.7% from the free-throw line. Howard scored 22 points on 47.1% shooting and was 4 of 8 from beyond the arc in his final Las Vegas appearance against the New York Knicks.
What Should Magic Do With Johnathan Isaac?
Player development continues to be a major theme for Orlando this year as the Magic appears set to go in the season with their current roster. The Magic has 15 players on standard contracts, and two two-way slots are filled. The biggest question surrounding the Magic during training camp may be what to do with Johnathan Isaac.
Isaac has been a sort of an enigma since being taken with the sixth overall pick of 2017. The 25-year-old big man has shown real promise when on the court, particularly on the defensive end. However, getting on the court has been a significant issue for Isaac, as he has only appeared in 45 games since the beginning of the 2019-20 campaign. Isaac’s contract calls for him to make $17.4 million this season, but only $7.6 million is guaranteed.