By: Ryan Brock
Now that the first full season of the Magic’s brand new rebuild is over, it’s time to reflect and recognize their top performers of the season. To make it more interesting, a player will only be eligible to be selected once for an award.
Without further ado, here are your 2021-2022 Orlando Magic Award Winners.
MVP: Wendell Carter Jr.
Much has been made about Carter Jr.’s jump that has solidified his status as a key building block of the Magic’s future. He finished his fourth NBA season with averages of 15.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg, and 2.8 apg with a 60.1 TS%. He’s been a consistent force in the middle for the Magic, accounting for 33 double-doubles this season and holding league MVP frontrunners Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo to some of their worst shooting percentages of the season. He’s also steadily increased his offensive production as the year progressed.
Carter Jr. has made a name for himself this season and is making the 2021 deadline deal that traded away Nikola Vucevic look like a steal. At only 22 years old, Carter Jr. could be the next great big for a franchise with a rich history of All-Star Centers.
Offensive Player of the Year: Franz Wagner
Even if Wendell Carter Jr. were eligible to win multiple awards, he would have a tough time dethroning the Magic’s eighth overall selection in the NBA Draft as their best offensive player. Franz Wagner finished the season averaging 15.2 ppg, 4.5 apg, and 2.9 apg. He shot 46.8% from the field, 35.4% from three, and 86.3% from the free-throw line, posting a 55.9% TS% (true shooting percentage), as a ROOKIE. He also had the biggest scoring game for any Magic player this season when he dropped 38 points on the Milwaukee Bucks in December.
Wagner has displayed a deep offensive arsenal that caught Magic fans by surprise, including step-back 3s, ambidextrous finishes at the rim, euro-steps, floaters, one-handed passes, a solid handle, and elite cutting ability. Wagner has even shown the ability to take lead of the offense, running the show when injuries forced him into point guard duty in the middle of the season. At 6’10, 220, Wagner should only continue to improve with more experience, and if the Magic give him the opportunity, he could become the talented wing scorer that so many teams in the league covet.
Defensive Player of the Year: Jalen Suggs
Wendell Carter Jr. would be the easy pick here, and a case could be made for the Magic’s leader in steals in Chuma Okeke, but Jalen Suggs deserves recognition for the outstanding defensive effort he exhibited throughout this season. It may have been a rough year offensively for the Magic rookie, but Suggs showed everyone why he was so highly regarded as a defensive prospect coming out of Gonzaga. Throughout his 48 games played, he displayed tenacity, grit, and maximum effort on the defensive side of the ball. For the season, his Defended Field Goal Percentage (DFG%) sits at 43.5%, holding players to a lower FG% than the league average at 46.1%. He also posted a steal rate of 2.0%, ranking him in the 80th percentile for combo guards in the league, per Cleaning The Glass. When Suggs is on the court, the Magic’s opponents averaged a Turnover% of 14.1%, opposed to 12.9% when Suggs is off the court, according to Basketball-Reference.
Suggs just brings a ton of energy to the floor and seems to have a knack for the ball. He translates his football instincts to the hardwood, playing the position of free safety at times in the open floor anticipating an interception. Suggs doesn’t shy away from defending bigs in the post either, using his strong frame to hold his own in the paint.
With another off-season to get stronger, Suggs should have a clear path to become one of the better on-ball defenders in the league in the near future.
Playmaker or the Year: Markelle Fultz
Sure, Markelle Fultz only played in 18 total games this season, but he is so far and away the Magic’s best playmaker that it would be a disservice to recognize anyone else for this award. The Magic’s ability to play functional offensive basketball exponentially increases when Fultz is on the floor, as his calming demeanor and ability to organize the offense is truly unique relative to the Magic’s plethora of other guards. Fultz saved his best for last, capping off his comeback season with a career high 15 assists against the Heat in the season finale. According to NBA Advanced Stats, Fultz posted an Assist Percentage of 44.8% this season, good for second in the league, behind only top 5 MVP candidate Luka Doncic and just ahead of All-Stars Trae Young and Chris Paul. Admittedly, this is in a limited sample size, but it still exemplifies the impact that Fultz makes for this young Magic team.
Fultz seemingly knows where everyone on the floor is at all times, using his effortless ability to get into the paint as a weapon to find cutters and kick-outs to open shooters on the wings. An underrated part of his game also lies with his propensity to make the simple, yet perfect passes to open shooters behind the arc. Fultz is always eager to kick it ahead in transition and routinely places the ball right in a teammate's shooting pocket on dart passes in the halfcourt.
As much fun as it is to watch Markelle score the ball, his playmaking ability remains his greatest asset.
Dunker of the Year: Cole Anthony
An argument could be made for Terrence Ross here, but aside from the much maligned dunk contest, Cole Anthony put together a season of some truly spectacular in-game dunks.. While he doesn’t dunk often, when the former Tar Heel does throw it down, he lets you know about it.
Bench Player of the Year: Moritz Wagner
Every team could use a Moe Wagner. Averaging 9.0 ppg, Wagner was ready whenever the Magic called his name this year. He hustles, he’s tough, can space the floor, and energizes the entire building. Wagner has earned a spot on this roster next season and could become a valuable back of the rotation role player even as the Magic continue to get better.
Highlight of the Year
The one moment that made me jump out of my seat this season rests with Franz Wagner dunking on the entire state of Minnesota. This was when Sweet Franz truly arrived in the league.
Performance of the Year
Wendell Carter Jr. vs. Oklahoma City Thunder - March 20th, 2022
Only three players in Orlando Magic franchise history have ever posted 30 points and 15 rebounds on 80% shooting. Those players: Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard, Wendell Carter Jr. Need I say more?
There you have it, your 2021-2022 Orlando Magic Award winners. This season may have been a grind, but there is still plenty to celebrate as the Magic head into an important off-season.
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