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2021-2022 Orlando Magic

By Keith Manze

Cover photo from NBA.com

 

The Orlando Magic roster has been a revolving-door for newcomers and veterans ever since the Dwightmare saga back in 2012. We, as fans, have seen names such as Al Harrington, Channing Frye, Luke Ridnour, Tobias Harris, Serge Ibaka, Jason Smith, Ersan Ilyasova, Brandon Jennings, Victor Oladipo, Jeff Green...need I continue? Nicknamed by (cruel) fans as the Dollar General of NBA franchises, the Magic have a very young and very new roster this season. This article should help enlighten you on some of the new faces around the locker room and refresh you on the veterans.



Group 1: Familiar Faces


#55 G Cole Anthony


Rookie Cole Anthony was thrust into a starting role a lot earlier than expected last season due to Markelle Fultz’s injury. When healthy himself, Anthony played well. He finished the season averaging 12.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 2.2 APG. Cole will get the nod to start the season with Fultz still on the shelf. Missed his game winners (yes, there were two!) from last year? They are worth the watch (1) (2).


#5 C Mo Bamba


Mo Bamba. Is he good? Is he bad? This might finally be the year we find out. Bamba did not receive a contract extension before the season. Thus, this season will be a contract season - meaning this is the season he needs to show out if he wants to get a big contract! The words “low motor” have been used far too often to describe the 23 year-old’s energy level. As a fan, you can see it - plays where he seems to give up, not going the extra mile to get a rebound or loose ball, or just casually getting back on defense. If Bamba wants to remain on the team, he better get an oil change (you can hate me for that, it's okay).

How do you feel about Headband Mo? Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

#31 F/G Terrence Ross


Entering his tenth season in the league, we know who T-Ross is. He will come off the bench, take a few threes, make a highlight dunk, and then head back to the bench. If the torch ignites (his nickname is Human Torch), he stays in the game longer. Ross brings life to the second unit offense that a lot of times is not there when he is not on the floor.



Group 2: Injured, but you still know ‘em


#7 G Michael Carter-Williams


MCW is a guy that, outside of the end of the season two years ago, has not done anything to wow me. He can’t shoot, his defense is iffy, and I don’t really get why he is still around. Veteran presence, I suppose? Carter-Williams will start the season sidelined due to surgery to remove a bone fragment and to repair a ligament in his left ankle.


#1 F Jonathan Isaac


Sigh, Jon Isaac is such a talented player. It pained me to see him get injured on New Year’s Day 2020. It pained me even more to see him get injured AGAIN in August. It has been just over a year since Isaac has surgery on his ACL. As much as I want to rush to get him on the floor again, patience is key. He was rushed after his last injury and he ended up getting hurt worse. When he finally returns to the floor (no official timeline for that) he will have an immediate impact. Before his injury, JI was averaging nearly two steals and two blocks a game. Offensively, his points per game has steadily climbed from his rookie season. I cannot wait to have this guy back!


#20 G Markelle Fultz


Another starter from a year ago that is on the mend. Fultz, who is also recovering from an ACL tear, could be back sooner than Isaac. General Manager John Hammond stated on a podcast last month that the Magic expect Fultz to be ready by “the start of the season, or very shortly after the start.” Fultz, who is most known for being drafted number one overall, had been steadily improving in every statistical category before the injury. Look for him to pick up right where he left off.


Group 3: The Draft Picks


The 5th pick and the 8th pick, respectively

#4 G Jalen Suggs


Selected by the Magic with the 5th pick in the 2021 Draft, Jalen Suggs is about as well-rounded as you can be. Tenacious defender, pure shooter, and a locker room joy, the Gonzaga product has +700 odds to win Rookie of the Year. Suggs averaged 14.4 points per game, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game in college. With a crowded backcourt, look for Suggs to play in either guard position while new Head Coach Jamahl Mosley figures out how to best utilize him.


#22 G/F Franz Wagner


Wagner (pronounced VOG-ner) was selected with the eighth pick in the 2021 Draft. Franz elected to go to college to improve his game rather than sign with Alba Berlin in the Basketball Bundesliga (BBL), Germany’s top professional league. Unlike Suggs, no one expects Franz to be an immediate star. Wagner was selected so high because he has a higher floor than most of the players drafted around him; basically, he does the little things well. I'm excited to see how he develops this season.



Group 4: Old Men


#33 C Robin Lopez


Entering his 14th season in the league, RoLo is the eldest player on the team. The Magic will be his 8th team and his second in the Southeastern Conference (was a Wizard last year). Lopez brings a veteran presence to the center position and will probably only play sparingly for specific matchups. He is most known for his “hatred” of team mascots, most notably the Magic’s Stuff the Dragon. Just the other day the two buried the hatchet.


#55 G E'Twaun Moore


This is E’Twaun’s second stint with the Magic as he played for the team from 2012 to 2014. Primarily a backup, Moore brings some more veteran leadership to the backcourt as this group gets more acclimated with each other. Moore was once rumored to take over the starting point guard position from Rajon Rondo in New Orleans. Also recovering from a knee injury, Moore will not start the season with the team.



Group 5: “Oh yeah, him!”


#34 C Wendell Carter Jr.


Acquired from Chicago in the deal for Nikola Vucevic, WCJ only played in 22 games for Orlando last season. The Magic agreed to a four-year, $50M contract extension with the 22 year-old this past week. During the preseason Carter Jr. displayed some ferocious dunks and high-energy plays that got fans excited. There was also some experimentation with him and Bamba on the floor at the same time.


#13 G R.J. Hampton


Hampton was a part of the trade that sent Aaron Gordon to the Denver Nuggets. After failing to carve out any meaningful minutes in Denver, R.J. was able to win Rookie of the Month this past May. I would be lying to you if I knew exactly what to expect from the 20 year-old from Texas. His three-pointer improved in preseason, but he was playing out of position (SF) a lot. As for a lot of these youngsters, seeing development will be the key to success for this season.


#14 G Gary Harris


Aaron Gordon’s deal was the reason we acquired Gary Harris as well. Only playing 26 games for Orlando, our sample size of him is relatively small. If you watched him out in Denver, you knew that the ceiling was high for the Michigan State product. In fact, in the 2017-18 season, Harris averaged 17.5 points per game. What has prevented him from getting back to that level? Injuries. Split among both clubs Harris only played in 39 games last season. Let’s hope for some healthy basketball this season.



Group 6: The Special People


#17 F Ignas Brazdeikis (two-way contract)


Iggy Brazdeikis was signed to a two-way contract, meaning he will play for the Lakeland Magic (Orlando’s G-League affiliate) until he is called up to play with Orlando. Born in Lithuania, Iggy has played 22 games in the NBA for three separate teams. After a very average preseason, I was quite shocked he got a contract.


#3 F Chuma Okeke (my favorite)

If healthy, Chuma will turn some heads. Photo by Gary Bassing/NBAE via Getty Images

The Chum Bucket. Chuma O-three-kee. There is no question that Chuma has become a favorite amongst not only the fans but the locker room too. Okeke bikes to the arena every day, how cool is that? I will not lie to you; when drafted, I threw my hands up and said, “why?” Little did I know, after recovering from an ACL injury that kept him out for his entire rookie season, Okeke would become my new favorite player. Coming off bruised ribs, look for a breakout year for the youngster from Auburn.




#21 F/C Moritz Wagner (just a brother)


Mo Wagner, the older brother of Franz, is the third Michigan product on this Magic roster. I suspect the main reason he remains on the roster is to be there for his younger brother. Though only playing in eleven games last season, this is Mo’s fourth NBA team since entering the league in 2018. Do what you want with that information.


 

My expected depth chart (when everyone is healthy)


PG: Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, Michael Carter-Williams

SG: Jalen Suggs, R.J. Hampton, E’Twaun Moore

SF: Gary Harris, Terrence Ross, Franz Wagner

PF: Jon Isaac, Chuma Okeke, Mo Wagner

C: Wendell Carter Jr, Mo Bamba, Robin Lopez


Note: it’s difficult to lock a player into one position. New Head Coach Jamahl Mosley will be experimenting a lot this season. In the preseason alone we saw Wendell and Mo Bamba on the floor at the same time. So take my prediction with a grain of salt. The goal for this team is to improve. Learn the game, win some games that maybe no one thought we would, and compete instead of getting blown out. I have higher hopes for this team than a lot of professionals do. I just hope that I am right.


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