Question from @IiiMortenson
What is the long term outlook for Caleb Houstan and Goga Bitadze on this team?
Answer from @Fawzan24_
Orlando had faced loads of turbulence with Wendell Carter Jr’s health throughout the season. Goga Bitadze essentially slid in as the third center in the rotation as he looked to fill any 6’11 void the Magic faced. In a short span of 16 games, he has made no shortage of a contribution filling a plethora of glaring holes, inhaling second-chance opportunities, deterring shots at the rims, putting a body on the low block, and working the high pick-and-roll maestro with guards to perfection. When he’s received consistent minutes, Goga Bitadze has produced and shown flashes of reliable production in addition to growing his IQ on both ends of the floor.
Goga Bitadze’s success wearing the Magic uniform may surprise others, but he had these flashes in Indiana. Buried behind Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis and a wheel of coaches halted his development. His rapid knowledge of Orlando’s defensive scheme shouldn’t come as a surprise either, bouncing from a Rick Carlisle scheme to a Jamahl Mosley defensive system that portrays similar concepts. Working under Rick Carlisle, a defensive mastermind in his own right, Mosley has adopted defensive playbooks he’s seen and implemented his own in Orlando. Both coaches allow their bigs to roam free in the restricted area and wreak havoc as shot blockers. Bitadze is tied for sixth most blocks post All-Star break amongst players that have come off the bench (15). He is a rangy obstacle in the paint, and on the perimeter, that has grown comfortable in his own skin. He isn’t perfect, but he also very rarely finds himself getting dusted off the bounce or overpowered around the basket.
His work on the offensive glass, meanwhile, has transformed him into a key figure as a magnet seems to be attached to his hands, grabbing offensive rebounds left and right, punishing opposing defenses. Goga has been the fulcrum as a mobile last line of defense on missed shots, helping plug gaps and finishing possessions off with offensive rebounds. Post All-Star break, 75 percent of his offensive rebounds (24/32) have been contested.
Goga Bitadze’s value stands out in many ways, be it acting as an agitator on the offensive glass, making plays out of a short roll, or setting sturdy on and off-ball screens to loosen up what might otherwise be stagnant half-court offense. His recent use of hand gestures has possessed multiple scoring opportunities for teammates. He’s directing ball handlers and facilitating for teammates where he wants them to go, whether off screens or dribble handoffs.
Goga’s direct intention of a pass is not always to produce a scoring opportunity. He uses his hand gestures to set off a chain of events that has secondary scoring opportunities. Watch him tell Caleb Houstan to 45’ cut in order to create a scoring opportunity for Franz Wagner that results in a triple.
He’s become accustomed to different coverages & has executed by combatting defenses’ game plans by operating from different spots. Gesturing to Moritz Wagner to rotate above the break. Off the catch realizing his man is in a deep drop, and RJ Hampton rotated off Jalen Suggs, he swings it for a triple.
While his numbers won’t jump out to most, he is averaging 5.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 17 games for the Magic. Those who’ve watched his time in Orlando thus far have seen plenty of juice, high motor, and he is the definition of impact. Goga Bitadze needs stability in an environment and an opportunity to rep out his mistakes. His defensive presence and offensive growth have already surged him past Moritz Wagner in the rotation. With the Magic set to have two lottery picks this season, roster changes are inevitable as the front office leaps toward retooling in order to construct a playoff team. Goga Bitadze has one more year under his contract, while carrying a cap hit of $590,926 and a dead cap value of $590,926. The former 18th overall pick, only 23 years of age, hasn’t given the front office any reason to cut the rope as his desperate attempt to revive his career has bought him more time in a Magic uniform, and rightfully so.
The Magic toyed around with Caleb Houstan playing with him as if he were a yo-yo. Casting him in the rotation, out of the rotation, and into the G-League-affiliated Lakeland Magic (soon to be Osceola Magic). Despite being on a roster plagued with injuries throughout the course of the season, the former 32nd overall pick never saw consistency in his minutes. In 51 appearances this season Houstan averaged a mere 3.8 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 0.6 assists in 15.9 minutes. Sharing a court with former first-round picks, an unspoken hierarchy was already set in place, hindering a real opportunity to run set plays for arguably one of the better snipers from long range, The bottom line is he's 20 years old and provides three-point shooting to a team in desperate need of it. 74.7 percent of Houstan's shot diet was consumed from the perimeter. Of the 182 field goals he attempted this season 136 were long range bombs.
It's on Caleb and the coaching staff to rep out his flaws. However, with Orlando set to potentially have two lottery picks, he most likely will not have any real role on this team after not having one this season in an injury riddled season.
Question from @AdamKoffler
What is the biggest need for this team heading into the 2023-2024 season in order to push them over the top and into the playoff picture? Is it a player or two? Or is it just more development and chemistry?
Answer from @BrockMagic
This is such an interesting question because the Magic have a ton of flexibility when it comes to the draft and their cap situation. Jeff Weltman and John Hammond have done an outstanding job of clearing the books where they can be ready to make a viable offer for virtually anyone who becomes available in the next season or two. The dilemma lies with the question of “when is the right time to strike?”
I’m a firm believer that what you hit on in the latter part of your question is the right path to take. More development and chemistry for the current roster with a couple minor tweaks can easily bring the Magic back into the playoff picture. A healthy roster for this past season most likely would have landed them a play-in birth, but an early injury to Markelle Fultz meant a 5-20 disaster to begin their campaign.
With that being said, it’s a foregone conclusion that the Magic will add a significant piece to the roster, either through using one or both of their two draft picks or via a trade involving those assets. Either way, it isn’t difficult to understand that the Magic’s biggest need this off-season is to add shooting to the roster. It’s the area where they’ve struggled mightily for years now, and while there are encouraging signs that Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, Paolo Banchero and even the aforementioned Fultz will continue to improve from beyond the arc, the Magic need to add another consistent sniper (along with Gary Harris) from deep to make a significant jump in that area.
If the Magic decide to go the route of giving up multiple first rounders moving forward, there are certainly players I would target - Jaylen Brown or Mikal Bridges would be ideal. Those are the types of players you can go all-in for - someone who fits the timeline, can score, shoot, plays solid defense and compliments our young duo of Paolo and Franz Wagner. Similar players, albeit on a smaller scale who fit that bill are players like Trey Murphy III and Gary Trent Jr, who would cost less but would also fit nicely alongside our main guys. Then there are simply players who just give you some much needed shooting, such as Luke Kennard, Cam Johnson, and Corey Kispert.
If the Magic were to add players that weren’t draft picks, these are the type of moves I would want them to consider. The Magic shouldn’t be signing free agents simply because they have money to spend. There needs to be intention. If these types of moves aren’t available, there’s no need to panic. Continue to let your players develop, add another high level prospect or two through the draft and let this young, promising team grow organically.
Question from @zerojuantwo3
Teams usually drop their rotations to ~8 deep for post-season play, with the starters often playing +38 mpg. With the playoffs as the presupposed goal for the Magic next season, where/how would you add shooting with that context in mind?
Answer from @DavidofBernauer
The lazy answer here is to say I think we already have someone who can fill one of those shooting roles in Caleb Houstan. Yes, his shooting numbers are god awful, but you can’t look at his jumper and tell me you expect him to shoot 32% from three the rest of his career. But because I don’t want to give a lazy answer and want to find someone more immediately ready to fill in this role, it leaves us with the draft, a trade or free agency.
Draft: The obvious answer here is Gradey Dick, right? With what little of college basketball I know, I can see Dick is an absolute bucket. He’s got a smooth, high, quick release, can get to his shot standing still or off the dribble, utilizes movement off-ball and fits the mold of “white guy who makes winning plays” instead of just saying the guy is athletic. Is he the best defender? Nah, but the Magic have plenty of defense to make up for any liability he may present. If you’d like a more in-depth breakdown of Dick’s skills in his freshman year at Kansas, I’d recommend watching this breakdown by Hoop Intellect. Reminds me of a certain someone else on the Magic roster…. Other options include the Michigan to Orlando pipeline which would see the Magic take Jett Howard, or we could stay right at home in Orlando and take UCF forward Taylor Hendricks who has a wingspan WeltHam will salivate over.
Trade targets: I won’t go too deep into the trade market because any tradable assets the Magic have are all young guys the team should still be looking to develop. But if guys like Buddy Hield, Joe Harris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Grayson Allen (who the Bucks are rumored to be dangling) are available, then I think the Magic should do whatever they can to get a reasonable trade done. Maybe the Suns want to get Landry Shamet’s contract off the books, who knows.
Free agency: Aside from a dreadful 2016 offseason, the Magic haven’t been big players in free agency since Rashard Lewis came over in 2007. So this means it’s the year to finally spend big! We’re bringing in James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Khris Middleton, hell yeah! Just kidding. We’ll go with some realistic targets here, first of them being one of the least exciting players ever, Harrison Barnes. He’s proven himself as a consummate professional. He’s having his worst season shooting from three in five years (36.7% from deep this year, 39.1% since 2018), but it hasn’t stopped him from being a key contributor to Sacramento’s first playoff berth in 16 years. It’s only been three years since the Magic last made it, but let’s be honest with ourselves and say 2019 and 2020 count for technicality only; there wasn’t any shot at winning a title there. Could Gary Trent Jr. be in the mix? From a fan perspective I think his shooting percentages are too all over the place to make him a palatable watch. Caris LeVert is also an option, though he’s only shot above 35% from deep once in his career up until now, so it’s hard to say if his shooting is legit. Magic Summer League legend Seth Curry is there too. In general, this isn’t a great free agent class, and it’s not good for shooting either. Some under the radar guys I think could be good pickups are Damion Lee, Danuel House, Trey Lyles and Justin Holiday. I also have an irrational belief in Duane Washington Jr. to be a breakout role player because he was really nice to me the two times I’ve talked to him.
Question from @Fkillyleagh
Who do you think we should draft? (perfect fit for the team)
Answer from @_TimJones1
I want to start this off by saying that if the Magic have the opportunity to select Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, Brandon Miller or even one of the Thompson twins, then by all means they should take them. For the sake of the question, I am assuming the two Magic picks are around the current projections on Tankathon (6 and 12). You will see a common theme among my picks in hope of addressing one of the Magic’s most glaring needs: outside shooting.
Another note on my thought process here. Guys like Nick Smith Jr. or Keyonte George, are both extremely talented scoring combo guards and more than worthy of a selection here; however, taking one of the two might question the long-term role of Cole Anthony and/or Jalen Suggs. With that being said, here are three guys that I think would be perfect fits for the team as currently constructed.
When looking for the ideal fit for the Magic in the 2023 draft, the first guy that comes to mind for me is UConn’s Jordan Hawkins. For starters, Hawkins is a terrific movement shooter that does not need the ball in his hands to be effective. At 6’5, he is a master at relocating, quickly getting his feet set and almost instantaneously firing long range shots with sniper-esque accuracy. He would thrive in a role similar to what we see Gary Harris operate in. As a sophomore, he averaged 16 points and shot nearly 39% (7.6 attempts) from beyond the arc. Picture perfect mechanics with a quick release; I think he would be a near seamless fit in with this roster.
Gradey Dick out of Kansas is a prospect I know a lot of Magic twitter has been keeping an eye out on, and rightfully so. The former Jayhawk averaged 14 points on 40% from deep during his freshman season. Besides being a lethal stand-still shooter, the intrigue comes from him being 6’8 and a smart, effective cutter; his tremendous off-ball feel is something that could be key on a roster with multiple capable and talented ball-handlers. It is easy to imagine Dick carving out a role as a valuable 3-&-D player for the Magic.
The last player I think would be an ideal pick for the Magic is a Florida guy by the name of Taylor Hendricks. Hendricks would fill voids not only in the shooting department, but with his rim-protection and defensive versatility in general. Elite help side rim-protector who is comfortable guarding in several different coverages. The 6’9 19-year-old could come in and immediately prove his value as a floor-spacing back-up four man for the Magic. In his freshman season at UCF, Hendricks put up 15 points, seven rebounds and nearly two blocks a game while shooting 39% from three.
Honorable mention: Jarace Walker, Forward, Houston -- **The Magic do own a second-round pick, but I find it very unlikely that this team brings in three rookies next year**