By: Ryan Brock
Believe it or not, we’re already more than halfway through the NBA season. The Magic have battled through injuries once again, but have stayed afloat in the race for the play-in. As Orlando prepares for a hopefully healthier and more successful second half, let’s rank their players strictly based on their performance in the first 43 games of the season.
16. RJ Hampton
PPG - 6.0 / RPG- 1.6 / APG - 1.4 / 3P% - 34.0
Hampton’s struggle to carve out a role on this team has been a hot topic of conversation this year with Magic fans. At this point, it’s clear his time with the team is nearing its conclusion, as he has been pushed out of the rotation for what we will call “non-basketball’ reasons. Hampton is still only 21 years old and will likely have a chance to catch on with another NBA team once his time with Magic comes to an inevitable end. Look for Hampton to be on the trade block come deadline season.
15. Chuma Okeke
PPG - 5.4 / RPG- 4.2 / APG - 1.4 / 3P% - 30.0
Chuma Okeke (did you pronounce that right?) hasn’t had the year I’d hoped he would in his third season as a pro. He’s played in only 18 games, again finding a difficult time to stay on the court. He hasn’t played since late November and could continue to miss time after an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee. Okeke always brings it defensively, but he has yet to live up to the “3” part of his 3-and-D archetype. As he is extension eligible after the season, his future as a Magic player could be in jeopardy.
14. Caleb Houstan
PPG - 4.0 / RPG- 2.3 / APG - 0.6 / 3P% - 36.4
In his short time with the Magic, the recent second round pick has flashed the ability to become a nice complimentary piece for this young Magic squad. A sweet shooting stroke and high basketball IQ, Houston doesn’t try to do too much while on the floor, moving the ball, fighting for rebounds, playing solid defense, and hitting open shots. Playing time will be hard to come by in the latter part of the season, but the former Wolverine may be a mainstay in the rotation for years to come as he grows his game and gains more opportunity.
13. Kevon Harris
PPG - 3.7 / RPG- 2.0 / APG - 0.5 / 3P% - 39.3
What Kevon Harris lacks in overall talent, he makes up for with effort. Nobody plays harder than Harris, who is on a two-way contract with the Magic. When other players went down, Harris stepped up in their absence as played the tough guy role on a Magic team that desperately needed some attitude. Head Coach Jamahl Mosley would routinely put Harris on the opposing team's best player, showcasing his defensive tenacity and toughness. If others get moved at the deadline, Harris could be a candidate to gain a full-time contract with the Magic.
12. Admiral Schofield
PPG - 4.9 / RPG- 2.1 / APG - 0.9 / 3P% - 33.3
The Magic’s other two-way player, Admiral Schofield brings a lot of the same attributes to the court as Kevon Harris. The tough-nosed enforcer type of player that adds an edge to this Magic team. Schofield put together an impressive string of performances while others were out with injury where he was consistently hitting threes and keeping the Magic alive in games down the stretch. He should be commended for his hustle and contributions this season.
11. Mo Bamba
PPG - 7.4 / RPG- 4.8 / APG - 1.0 / 3P% - 37.6
The Mo Bama experience seems to be coming to an end. While I don’t think Bamba has played as poorly as others make him out to be this season, he’s seen his role diminish as others have returned from injury. Moe Wagner has seemingly replaced Bamba as the back-up center, which could mean his days in a Magic uniform are numbered. Bamba re-signed with Orlando in the off-season on a 2 year deal, but the second year is non-guaranteed. My guess is that Bamba will be in a different uniform post trade-deadline.
10. Gary Harris
PPG - 8.4 / RPG- 2.3 / APG - 1.3 / 3P% - 38.9
Had Gary Harris played more games this season, he certainly would have ranked higher on this list. In the 16 games he has played in though, he has done Gary Harris type things. Play solid defense, provide stability and leadership, and stretch the floor. He’s hitting 39% of his 3’s this season and fits nicely alongside Markelle Fultz. Many will bring up Harris as a trade candidate, as he would surely help other contenders, but Harris is exactly the type of player that the Magic would be targeting themselves, so I don’t really see the appeal of shipping him somewhere else when he’s already on the team.
9. Terrence Ross
PPG - 8.0 / RPG- 2.1 / APG - 1.3 / 3P% - 37.3
Terrence Ross has been a consistent presence in the Magic’s rotation this year, but it just feels like he hasn’t really found his rhythm on the court thus far. Ross can still provide a torch lighting or two, but struggles to provide much else than a sporadic hot shooting night. Ross has been on the trade block for three years now, and if the Magic want to prioritize time for their younger players, this could finally be the year that sees the fan favorite leave Orlando.
8. Cole Anthony
PPG -11.4 / RPG- 4.5 / APG - 4.3 / 3P% - 30.8
The window for Cole Anthony to prove he is a starting caliber point guard in the league is quickly fading. Cole is still inefficient as a scorer and hasn’t been able to find his shooting touch from beyond the arc. He has improved as a facilitator and pick-and-roll ball-handler, but his deficiencies as a shooter and as a defender seem to be relegating him to a spark off the bench. I, like many Magic fans, have always seen the sixth-man role as the best fit for Anthony long-term, and it seems as though that’s how the rest of the season will play out for the former Tar Heel.
7. Jalen Suggs
PPG - 10.4 / RPG- 3.0 / APG - 4.3 / 3P% - 26.2
It’s been another frustrating year for Jalen Suggs, who continues to battle an ankle injury that has given plenty cause for concern so early in his career. When Suggs has been on the floor, he’s provided the energy and defense that we’ve been so accustomed to seeing from him. He’s improved as a pull-up shooter and ball-handler and his high-point came with a game-winning three to beat the Bulls. But concerns with the ankle and his lack of ability to hit wide-open 3’s still leaves a lot to be desired with the former 5th overall pick. He simply needs to stay on the court as the season progresses.
6. Moritz Wagner
PPG - 11.7 / RPG- 6.1 / APG - 2.0 / 3P% - 32.5
One half of The Brothers Wagner, Moritz has had some highs and lows throughout the season. Another player who was battling back from injury, Wagner filled in admirably during the extended absence of Wendell Carter Jr, providing the Magic with the fight and desire to eke out some tough games. He’s recently been in a bit of a slump, but there was a prolonged period of the season where he started for the Magic and provided tremendous value on the court, which cannot be ignored.
5. Bol Bol
PPG - 11.9 / RPG- 6.9 / APG - 0.9 / 3P% - 37.7
By far the biggest surprise of the first half of the season, Bol Bol came out of the gate like gangbusters. Finally receiving some meaningful minutes, Bol displayed his unique gifts with the ball in his hands, skying for rebounds, running in transition, and finishing virtually everything at the rim. Bol needs to improve his decision making and his defense is still somewhat of a liability, but Bol has been a huge part of the Magic’s improvement this season and is a player you just can’t take your eyes off of.
4. Wendell Carter Jr.
PPG - 15.8 / RPG- 8.6 / APG - 2.8 / 3P% - 35.6
It was evident of how much of a significant piece WCJ is for the Magic team when he went out of the line-up and the Magic subsequently were getting torched on defense. He’s just a stable presence in the middle, providing rim deterrence and rebounding, something the Magic struggle with even with Carter Jr. on the court. Wendell, like most other Magic players, missed time with a foot injury, but has since returned and has shown why he’s one of the most underrated players in the league. He’s shooting the deep ball at 36% and does a solid job defending some of the better bigs in the league night after night.
3. Markelle Fultz
PPG - 12.2 / RPG- 4.1 / APG - 5.6 / 3P% - 32.3
Magic fans know the importance of Markelle Fultz. As Team President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman alluded in the off-season, Fultz is the straw that stirs the drink and snaps everything into place for this Magic team. He’s the engine that makes everything go, and when he’s not on the court, the Magic have struggled to look like a competent offense. Sure, he’s still not a threat from behind the arc, although he has improved in that aspect, but Fultz does virtually everything else on the court at a high level. This season, he’s improved as a pesky defender who sets the tone on that side of the court.
2. Paolo Banchero
PPG - 21.1 / RPG- 6.6 / APG - 3.8 / 3P% - 31.6
Perhaps you will be enraged that Paolo checks in at number two here, and he could easily be number one, as Banchero has had one of the best rookie seasons of all-time and seems to be the potential superstar that the Magic have desperately longed for. The number one overall pick has flashed everything that we could have hoped for and more. He draws fouls at a historic rate for a rookie, showcases impossible mid-range turnarounds, is competitive as they come, and isn’t the liability on defense that many made him out to be during the pre-draft process. His 3-ball isn’t falling as much as he would like, but the form looks good and it should continue to improve as he gets older. Paolo has made a name for himself so early into his career and has made the Magic relevant again from a national perspective.
1) Franz Wagner
PPG - 20.3 / RPG- 3.9 / APG - 3.3 / 3P% - 35.8
Franz. Sweet, sweet, Franz. What more can you say? Putting together a stellar sophomore season, Wagner still doesn’t get the national attention that he truly deserves, although people are starting to recognize that he is truly a special player. Franz can do it all on the court, play any role that is asked of him, has played in every Magic game this season, and oh by the way, is a super talented basketball player. His finishing has improved tremendously this season, has shot the three much better since a down first month of the season, and has formed a legit 1-2 punch with Paolo that should strike fear into their opponents for years to come. Wagner is a versatile 6’10 wing who can pass, dribble, and shoot. The archetype of player that every team in the league covets, and he’s still only 21 years old.
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