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Marc Daniels: At 22-60 Magic Season A Success...Really

Orlando Magic v Portland Trail Blazers

Photo: Getty Images

April 13, 2022

Use the two high first round picks you have to draft players who will be part of your rotation and can be part of your franchise foundation. CHECK!

Hire a respected coach who will establish a culture and foundation and win respect of his players? CHECK!

Do not rush your injured players back to risk further injury and if that should mean you are competing in fewer games, so be it. CHECK!

Have your young players get valuable playing time and see if your two high draft picks can develop to get a better idea of what you have. CHECK!

Lose enough games to secure another high lottery pick to draft another player who might become a star. CHECK!

And that's how and why the Orlando Magic can claim the 2021-22 season a success. Some NBA teams expected to compete for an NBA title and failing to get to a conference final might be viewed as a failure. But the Magic didn't list among their goals for the season to win a title. The team had a plan for this past season and one could say they achieved all of their goals.

That's hard to say when the team won 22 of 82 games. And the Magic won't say publicly the season was a success but internally they probably feel good. 

You don't have to feel good if you are a fan of this team. The reality is nothing is fun about 22-60. The team went 6-39 in games decided by double-digits. The Magic were 30th(last in the NBA) in offensive rating, 28th in FG%, 28th in 3-point FG%, 29th in free throws attempted, 29th in points scored and 27th in offensive rebounding. Ok, I did choose the stats where the Magic ranked among the NBA's worst teams. So let's be fair for a moment and add the team was 11th in free throw %, 7th in defensive rebounding and 15th in three-pointers made(the Magic made 999 three-point shots this season).

I've said all season that I believe the Magic players and coaches tried to win every night they played. And I think Jamahl Mosley's players play hard for him. Franz Wagner will make the all-rookie team. Wendell Carter Jr. was more than adequate. Cole Anthony benefitted by becoming a go-to player to have a nice season. Mo Bamba showed flashes of what could be and shot the ball better than he has in the past. Jalen Suggs showed flashes but struggled to shoot and missed 34 games. Chuma Okeke has moments but...............................hang on, we can go through the entire roster and break down each player but what's the point?....Well, we will in just a bit because the column has to be longer.

If you enjoy the young core of players and liked watching each night to see how they handled situations in close games or found it exciting to see players from the Lakeland Magic or other additions battle every time they stepped on the court, there is nothing wrong with that. It's just not something I get excited about.

I have reason to rip Jeff Weltman. I like Jeff Weltman. He's accessible. I find him honest and open to sharing his plan and vision to rebuild the Magic and he even admits there are no guarantees.

So what do the Magic know after another season where winning games was not a priority? Franz Wagner can play and will get better. Carter is Vuc like in that he is fine and some nights will be really good and he is still very young at 23. Will he be a star in the years to come? No, but he can be a starter for years. Suggs has to get better because you cannot conclude he is a star in the making. I felt Suggs was the best player in last year's draft but he was not the best rookie this season. That means Markelle Fultz remains important, for now, in the Magic plans. Can Fultz stay healthy? He played 18 games this season and has played in just 131 games in his five NBA seasons.

Cole Anthony averaged 16.3 points a game this season and with Fultz and Suggs, the team has three point guards. Can they use all three in a positionless NBA? Maybe, but that is an interesting question for the Magic to answer. But Fultz health is a question and the team didn't get a full season to evaluate Suggs at the position.

Mo Bamba enters a restricted free agent period and this one will be interesting. My guess is the Magic will see what the market is for Bamba and I am not sure he's back. Jeff Weltman really likes Bamba, he should since he drafted him. But should the team commit to a long term with him with Carter already signed to a decent salary?

Then there is the mystery of Jonathan Isaac and his health. No one knows if Isaac can get back to where he was. It's a huge question and always will. 

The rest of the roster is just that, the rest of the roster. Okeke, RJ Hampton, Terrance Ross(one more year under contract) and anyone else are not stars to be or players you cannot replace.

We head towards the lottery and one of the few things Magic fans look forward to, although most lotteries end in disappointment. The Magic will have to decide if Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero or Jaden Ivy can be the star the team is still trying to draft. Whoever they get becomes the latest teenager added to a young roster trying to advance hope to the next level.

So if the Magic achieved most of their goals this season, what becomes of the goals next year? Charlotte is the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference and playing in the play-in round of the playoffs. They won 43 games. That means the Magic would need to win at least 20 more games next season to play an 83rd game. That's a huge jump.

The Pistons have Cade Cunningham. The Cavaliers have Evan Mobley. The Rockets have Jalen Green. The Raptors have Scottie Barnes. Those four appear to be stars in the making. Franz Wagner can be part of that group and let's see if makes another jump in year two.

Does a lineup of Suggs, Anthony, Wagner, Isaac and Carter get you excited for next season. Throw in a healthy Fultz and a top pick and do you believe this team can play .500 ball? That's a big jump. But this team has to make a step next year. The goals have to change. The Magic can't plan for a high lottery pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Or can they? CHECK back in a year and let's see if we are having the same discussion...

Final note: 1234-1405...the Magic's all-time record

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