Banchero Quietly Leading Orlando’s Promising Youth


The Orlando Magic couldn’t be much worse offensively than they were last season.

This year, though, things are looking up thanks to a stable of young talent. The Magic are among the most improved teams offensively, scoring 7.5 more points per 100 possessions than they did last season (second-biggest jump in the NBA).

The Magic have seen the league’s fifth-biggest jump in winning percentage and its fourth-biggest leap in point differential per 100 possessions (+5.5) from last season. Orlando won in Minnesota and Charlotte earlier this month, scoring more than 120 points per 100 possessions for the 12th and 13th times, having done so just nine times total over the previous two seasons.

The top reason for the team’s improvement has been its No. 1 pick, Paolo Banchero.

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Banchero leading the way

Banchero has come right from Duke and is putting up gaudy numbers for a rookie. He is the odds-on favorite for Rookie of the Year by averaging 19.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

It’s quite a coup for the Magic to hit on Banchero. He wasn’t the overwhelming choice to be the top pick, but he is producing in a variety of ways, particularly with aggressively attacking the rim. The 20-year-old’s ability to get to the free-throw line has really helped Orlando stimulate their offense, attempting 150+ more free throws than any teammate.

Orlando has more than doubled its victory total from its first half in 2021-22 (7-34) thanks largely to the arrival of Banchero. The rookie has topped 20 points 29 times with mix of size, skills and aggressiveness.

Banchero not Magic’s only rising young player

While Banchero is a front-runner for Rookie of the Year, forward Franz Wagner is a candidate for Most Improved Player. His versatility is a great compliment to Banchero, bumping his points-per-game average from 15.2 to 18.9 in Year 2.

Wagner’s steady improvement coupled with Banchero’s arrival is providing a turnaround for the Magic’s offense. Franz also is one of the best catch-and-shoot guys in the league at 65.4 eFG%.

The Magic were the worst offense in the Eastern Conference last season and it wasn’t close. Thanks to the young duo both averaging roughly 20 points per game, the Magic are far more efficient this season.

Add to that Wendell Carter Jr. averages 15.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game and that is a nice young core in Orlando.

Young Magic Core growing in Sunshine State

The frontcourt seems largely settled in Orlando.

I might get banned from writing any more Magic articles after taking this long to mention Bol Bol— but Orlando has so much size and skill before throwing in quality minutes by Bol and Mo Wagner.

Bol is averaging 10.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game while Mo Wagner is averaging 11.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest.

Magic need more consistent guard play

The backcourt, however, is the subject of things when it comes to improving the team. Injuries and inconsistent play and inefficiency is causing instability and talk about playing time to persist.

Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony are all capable of having a good night but just as likely to have a clunker. Fultz’s defensive potential with Suggs might be the biggest potential strength for Orlando’s backcourt.

But they need more on the offensive end.

Suggs and Anthony have struggled shooting the ball from deep. Suggs has been better as of late, but his season percentage hovers barely north of 30%. Anthony is a mere tenth of a tick above 33%.

Anthony, who ranks third (behind two former MVPs) in defensive rebounding percentage among players 6-3 and shorter has created a rapport with his taller teammates. Orlando needs more cohesiveness, which should happen naturally as their core continues to build with each other.

Orlando flashing potential featured act

Orlando has some very intriguing young pieces on its roster. Every player averaging double figures is 25 or younger.

It’s been a rollercoaster season for the Magic with more downs than ups. Orlando has had a nine-game losing streak, followed by winning eight of nine and then losing seven of ten. The 8-1 run pulled the Magic within 2.5 games; losing seven of ten dropped Orlando to 4.5 games out with their recent rough patch. Now they sit four games back of Toronto.

Despite being up-and-down, Orlando can play with anyone, sweeping the defending-champion Warriors, winning in Philadelphia and winning three games over the Boston Celtics.

Every player might not be a fit on the roster, particularly in the backcourt. However, the Magic’s frontcourt led by Banchero and Carter Jr. is a great starting point with Franz Wagner as a scoring wing. If they can obtain consistency from the perimeter, Orlando could soon be a force in the Eastern Conference.

The Magic are flashing their potential, with Banchero, Wagner and Carter Jr. in tow, it might just be the opening act.

About Mitchell Skurzewski

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