Earning minutes in an NBA rotation isn’t easy, especially for younger players.
While some, mainly high-end first round selections, are given minutes early on, many others are forced to fight and claw their way into minutes.
As for second round picks, it’s usually even harder to find those consistent minutes, as many are used as roster fillers. While there will be the time a team hits a home run and selects someone like a Manu Ginobili, Nikola Jokic or Draymond Green, it’s more likely a team is going to select someone who doesn’t see much time, and when they do, make a minimal impact.
For the Orlando Magic’s Wes Iwundu, he’s continued to work and fight and claw his way into minutes in his second season.
Iwundu, a four-year player at Kansas State, was the Magic’s second round selection in the 2017 NBA draft, and saw inconsistent action in his first year, including multiple stints with the Lakeland Magic of the G-League. Now, nearing the end of his second season in the league, Iwundu has fully entrenched himself as an important member of the Magic’s rotation.
“I just understand the game a lot more,” said Iwundu when asked about how much more comfortable he is form year one to now. “As a player, a year difference makes a big time difference, especially for me. A lot of things have slowed down with me. [I’m] just seeing things differently now.
“Things aren’t so fast for me anymore. I think that’s helped me a lot in all areas of my game, with shooting, driving the ball, defense, everything man. I just think there’s a major difference in my game.”
Iwundu, like many players, added that adjusting was to the speed and pace of the NBA game was the biggest hurdle and adjustment he had to make. “With the pace I’m on right now, it can only go up from here,” he said.
While Iwundu may not make a huge impact with his scoring — he’s averaging 4.8 points per game — he’s always making the smart play, and the right play while he’s out there. Add in the fact that he’s one of the teams most tenacious perimeter defenders, and it’s clear why, and how, Iwundu has carved out a niche, and a roll with the team.
Of players who have played in 50 or more games this season, Iwundu holds the best individual defense rating on the Magic roster at 102 points per 100 possessions. His defense, and willingness to fight hard for loose balls, and to never give up on a play have highlighted his season.
“That’s my thing, if I’m not scoring, I’m going to try and impact the game in many other ways,” said Iwundu. “Just getting out there, finding my spots out there and impacting the game [and] trying to help the team win anyway I can.”
Having players like Iwundu are important as a team continues to build and come together. His contributions might not always be felt in the box score, but he’s always out there working and finding a way to impact the game, make his teammates better, and help the team win.
It may be just his second season, but Iwundu has carved himself out a nice niche, and turned into a player the Magic can trust as they continue their charge for their first playoff birth since 2012.