The Orlando Magic 2021-22 squad is set to take on the challenges of a difficult season. What can this new look roster achieve this season?
A tough schedule, along with a new head coach and young roster will see the team undoubtably have to fight for any win all season.
With only 50 days until the Magic season starts we look at the depth and talent available on the roster.
The Orlando Magic 2021-22 Squad – Depth Chart
As I write the Magic have one full roster spot available but it is thought by most NBA analysts unlikely the team fill it at this point.
There is also one two-way roster spot still open, Ignas Brazdeikis having been signed to the other.
The starting line-up and depth chart for the Magic is one that is subject of debate by fans and experts alike. At this point it is also fluid through the still present injuries to Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac and Michael Carter-Williams. MCW almost certainly misses the season start after ankle surgery and there is no clear timeline for the return of JI or Fultz.
The Depth Chart
PG – Markelle Fultz / Cole Anthony
SG – Jalen Suggs / RJ Hampton / Michael Carter-Williams
SF – Gary Harris / Terrence Ross / Ignas Brazdeikis
PF – Jonathan Isaac / Chuma Okeke / Franz Wagner / Moritz Wagner
C – Wendell Carter Jr / Mo Bamba / Robin Lopez
Within this depth chart there is a huge amount of positional flexibility. Hampton for one can play at either guard position or the small forward. He and Cole Anthony have a fantastic understanding and their combined offensive rating was the highest for the Magic last season (significantly above that of the next closest pairing of the now departed Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier).
Harris is naturally a shooting guard but capable as a forward. The debate between starting Harris or Ross is one the Magic have to settle quickly. Ross provides the best wing scoring option, whilst Harris is the strongest defensive option. There is a strong argument to start Harris at the shooting guard position with Jalen Suggs in a role more similar to when he played alongside the ball-dominant Jamal Murray in Denver.
If Coach Mosely decides to go small perhaps Jonathan Isaac could see time at the centre position. Defensively a pairing with Okeke would be stifling to opponents. It will be a great moment to finally see JI play with any combination of Suggs, Anthony, Fultz or Hampton.
Strength and Weakness
This team will have fight and spirit to spare!
The guys have an incredible chemistry and clearly love being together. That bond should ensure a strong desire to work for each other through any adversity. They will celebrate the wins and face the challenges together.
Defensively, the team has a wealth of talent and will see the team be able to restrict the opposition’s scoring opportunities. Switching and guarding multiple positions is a strength the team will benefit from. Another strength will be the active hands, so expect multiple steals and diversions.
Coach Mosely has said his offensive philosophy is to play with pace, space and pass.
Scoring from transition and athleticism by driving into the paint will certainly be a consistent source of points. Opportunity for scoring will also be present from the excellent court vision possessed by the likes of Fultz, Suggs and Carter-Williams.
However the team is undeniably weak on the wing and shooting from deep is going to be a struggle. Team’s will dare Orlando to shoot the three-ball as it is an obvious deficiency. Ross is the most recognisable threat from deep but is a streaky scorer. He can be lethal as attested to by his career high 51 points scored on 16-for-29 from the field and 10 made three-pointers. Suggs, Anthony, Hampton, Bamba and Okeke can hit the three but at this time not with any great consistency.
The Orlando Magic 2021-22 Squad – Youth, Potential and Inexperience
Youth is a double edged sword for the team.
On the positive side youth doesn’t always feel nerves or play in awe of their opposition. That lack of fear can see results attained above the expectations of analysts and fans alike. A self belief and desire to prove themselves can be a dangerous combination.
Equally, some of those strengths can also be detrimental. Such youth and inexperience can result in poor decision making and game management. They will make mistakes, there will be turnovers at which we all groan. Unlike last season there will be plenty of opportunities for team practice as the NBA returns to a regular schedule. Practice makes perfect as the saying goes. This is where veterans like Michael Carter-Williams have a huge role to play by getting into the ears of the young core to motivate, coach and at times berate.
The Orlando Magic 2021-22 squad is young. Those with multiple seasons have limited experience through injury.
As an interesting point both Wendell Carter Jr and Mo Bamba enter their fourth season, vying with each other for minutes at the centre position. By the season close the Magic will have decisions to make around their restricted free agency (if both are still in the squad by that point).
The Young Core and What They Bring
Jalen Suggs – aged 20 – rookie season – seen as a potential star in the NBA. He is a tenacious defender, athletic and strong. His court vision makes those around him better. He is an erratic shooter but capable of scoring points. He can play at both guard positions.
Cole Anthony – aged 21 – second NBA season – 47 NBA games played – an exciting, athletic guard who can drain a game winning shot from deep. He can be a legitimate scorer, whilst filling his stat line with assists, rebounds and steals.
RJ Hampton – aged 20 – second NBA season – 51 NBA games played – athletic, tremendous pace, with an improving three point shot and defensively strong. He is naturally a point guard but with his reported growth he is suited to the shooting guard position and may also give us some flexibility at the small forward.
Markelle Fultz – aged 23 – fifth NBA season – 113 NBA games played – prior to his ACL injury Markelle was having a breakout season. It is no understatement to say his injury derailed the Magic’s whole season. Quick and dynamic with the ball in hand in the 8 games played Fultz had seen increases in his scoring and assists per game. He gave our offence something different. If his shot can improve then the Magic’s gamble will have paid off in acquiring him from Philly.
Franz Wagner – aged 20 – rookie season – a playmaker and dynamic defender. He is versatile and can play at both forward positions. Pace on offence is not his game but he makes up for this with quickness of thought and decision. Despite having a good looking shot it is not yet a consistently accurate weapon. Interestingly he shot 34.3% from 3-point range last year for Michigan, the same percentage as Orlando achieved through the season, which was the fourth worst in the league.
Chuma Okeke – aged 23 – second NBA season – 45 NBA games played – his defensive quickness and strength sees him able to defend elite players effectively, regularly making blocks or able to steal the ball. He has a confident shot and there is an expectation that his three point shot of 34.8% will improve. He also created opportunities for others to score, creating a good partnership with Wendell Carter Jr.
Jonathan Isaac – aged 23 – fourth NBA season – 136 NBA games played – the Magic’s defensive general! He is an elite defender, a league leader in blocks. There is a need for JI to have improved his productivity from the perimeter. Prior to the ACL injury he had increased his points per game and was more efficient from inside the arc.
Moritz Wagner – aged 24 – fourth NBA season – 133 NBA games played – in 11 games with Orlando Moe produced 11.0 points and 4.9 rebounds in 26 minutes per game (10 starts). He had a strong summer in Tokyo with Germany, scoring 28 points against Brazil including three made three’s. He can play at both forward spots and is capable as a centre.
Ignas Brazdeikis – aged 22 – third NBA season – 22 NBA games played – part of the Magic squad during the back end of last season, bringing energy and aggression.
Wendell Carter Jr – aged 22 – fourth NBA season – 141 NBA games played – touted as someone who will benefit from the presence of Suggs and a potential candidate for Most Improved Player as a result. He is energetic, crashing the boards. His defensive ability is strong and his shot has shown improvement, contributing 11.7 points per game since arriving in Orlando.
Mo Bamba – aged 23 – fourth NBA season – 155 NBA games played – few players in the NBA have a better ability to block the ball than Mo. However he is one player fans are split on. For some he is underplayed, offering another shooting option from the perimeter. The flip side is that he is bullied by opponents and goes missing for periods of games. This is a big year for Mo who can hopefully stay healthy and finally reach that potential he displays in flashes.
Some Questions For Coach Jamahl Mosely
The Coach as already highlighted will have difficult questions to address from the off as he balances player minutes.
What line-up does he start on opening night? Where does Gary Harris feature? How cautious are the team with Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz? Who starts at the centre? Perhaps most critically is the question of balancing four ball handling guards who all merit legitimate NBA playing time.
Coach Mosely will certainly use the remaining time with his newly assembled staff to produce the best opportunities from training camp and from the four pre-season exhibition games. With or without further roster moves being made those decisions will be both difficult and what the Coach is judged by in his first year as a head coach.
There will remain gaps in talent that will need to be addressed at a later time. The Orlando Magic 2021-22 squad is a work in progress that will not be near completion for a further season or two. Patience will be required from fans and defeats accepted.
Come October 20th the hard and unforgiving road of the 2021-2022 NBA season begins for the Magic with a tough opening night in San Antonio. Results aside it is sure to be an exciting and interesting season as we watch the squad evolve. And be under no illusion, this season is going to be pivotal in the team’s direction for years ahead!