The Orlando Magic have quietly put together one of the more impressive rebuilds in the NBA. Following the Dwight Howard era, it was clear that the Magic wanted to craft a new team based on athleticism and length.
This strategy showed in the way they picked their draft prospects. They went after players such as Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Mario Hezonja, Mohamed Bamba, and Chuma Okeke: long and rangy athletes who had the potential to develop the finer skills they’d need to become stars in this league.
For nearly a decade, all of Orlando’s projects fell short of the promise they showed, and the Magic were mired in mediocrity as a result.
The Magic may have abandoned ship on most of those players, but they haven’t changed course in their team-building direction. Orlando has suddenly looked like a real playoff threat this year, but it wasn’t due to some drastic switch in philosophy. Rather, they’ve finally hit on some of the players with the attributes they’ve been looking for.
In 2019, they took a chance on former number one overall pick, Markelle Fultz, who had appeared like a potential bust following repeated season-ending injuries. Fultz still hasn’t recaptured the promise that made him the top prospect over Jayson Tatum, but he has returned to form as a positively impactful NBA player with the Magic.
In his time in Orlando, he’s shown to be an elite slasher at the point, capable of collapsing defenses and creating opportunities for his teammates.
In 2021, they traded for another misfit toy in Wendell Carter Jr., a former Duke Blue Devil who underwhelmed in his time with the Chicago Bulls. Later that year, they drafted Franz Wagner out of Michigan. Wagner and Carter Jr. played well in their first year with Orlando, as did Fultz and a few other Magic prospects, but it wasn’t enough to get them out of the lottery for the 2022 NBA Draft.
Luckily, the 2022 draft lottery turned out to be the culmination of all their years of tanking, as they drew the first-overall pick. With that selection, they took Paolo Banchero out of Duke, a 6’10 athletic anomaly with guard skills to accompany his massive frame. Banchero was the ultimate pick for the Magic, who had long searched for a top option in his exact mold.
Now, with Banchero leading the way and a deep supporting cast featuring Wagner, Fultz, and Carter Jr., the Magic look ready to take the next step this season.
Paolo Banchero vs. LAL:
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) November 5, 2023
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| Title: Paolo Banchero was the final product of the Orlando Magic draft strategy
| Author: Andy Quach
| Date: November 8th , 2023