Magic fans, you’ve made it. After a long summer of talking draft, watching baseball, wearing sunscreen, and giving up already on your fantasy football team (or is that just me), the NBA off-season is nearly over.
The NBA season officially tips-off Tuesday night (Nets/Bucks, Warriors/Lakers), with the rest of the league opening the following day.
I can’t remember a season, at least since I’ve been covering the team, where the Orlando Magic have embarked on a new year with more questions. Who will start? Who will lead the team on the floor? In the locker room? When will key players return from injuries?
These topics have been covered by multiple Orlando Magic outlets, so I thought I would take this piece in a slightly different direction. In fact, a direction that I don’t recall this site has gone down (to my knowledge).
I came up with ten of my own “prop bets” below, and I thought it would be a fun exercise to get the Orlando Pinstriped Post community involved in predicting how many of these props will come to fruition over the course of the 2021-22 season.
Who doesn’t like a friendly wager, am I right? While there won’t be any money on the line, there definitely can be some bragging rights involved here.
That’s up to you all, the more interaction with this piece you all have (below in the comments section), the more fun we can have with it.
Simply post in the comment section below your ten “over/under” answers to the props in this piece. I will keep a list of all the responses, and we can periodically revisit how everyone is doing throughout the season.
Comments below must be posted by 8:30 PM EST on Wednesday October 20th. Good luck!
Over/Under - 19.5 minutes per game
For me, one of the story-lines in Orlando this season will be Mo Bamba’s luck as he plays out the final chapter of his rookie contract. If the former fifth overall selection (‘18 NBA Draft) wouldn’t have suffered through three years of bad luck to start his NBA career, then he probably would’ve had no luck at all. Injuries, poor conditioning, battling the COVID-19 virus, and playing behind an All-Star that shared his same position are all factors that have slowed Bamba at times over his three seasons with the Magic.
Well, Nikola Vucevic is no longer in Bamba’s way this season. And while he may not necessarily be slotted to start at center for the Magic (that is still to be determined), Bamba will assuredly be one of the prime beneficiaries of additional opportunities, responsibilities, and an increased role within team concepts this season. My only question remains, will his body, health, and overall conditioning hold up over an eighty-two game season enough to show Orlando’s management group (and/or other teams) what kind of player he can become long-term?
Wendell Carter Jr.
Over/Under - 99.5 three-point field goal attempts (season total)
I’m very curious to see if the Magic ultimately come to terms with Carter Jr. on a rookie-contract extension prior to the end of this week (Editors note: they did). I think there’s an opportunity there to lock-in a very serviceable player before he hits the market on a reasonable deal (with very little risk if he never reaches his ceiling as a player). Without a deal in place, Orlando will still have the ability to match any offer Carter Jr. could potentially reach with a team in restricted free agency.
One of the areas of the fourth-year center’s game I know Orlando would love to see growth in is his propensity to attempt (and make) three-point field goals. The evolution of the center position over the last decade has resulted in more seven-footers launching attempts from beyond the arc than ever before in NBA history (see Brook Lopez, Al Horford, Vucevic, Karl-Anthony Towns, etc.). There has been chatter around Magic circles that Carter Jr. has been encouraged by Orlando’s new coaching staff to be more aggressive this upcoming season in looking for his shot. Through four preseason contests, the 22 year-old has attempted nine three-point field goals.
Jonathan Isaac & Markelle Fultz
Over/Under - 82.5 combined games played (season total)
When Fultz and Isaac will be ready to play is the underlying question surrounding the immediate future of this franchise. As anyone that has even casually followed the Magic in recent years can attest to, it’s a given that Orlando’s management will take a cautious approach easing their two organizational pillars back on the floor. As they should, since the team doesn’t seem to be a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference (at the moment) anyway.
Still, it will be interesting to monitor how much time Fultz and Isaac miss at the start of the regular season. The main thing Jeff Weltman and the rest of Orlando’s management group is trying to avoid is for either player to suffer a setback, possibly from coming back too early. Isaac’s devastating ACL and meniscus injury (left knee) occurred over 14 months ago, inside the NBA ‘bubble’ at Walt Disney World. The 6-11 forward missed 55 games his rookie campaign (2017-18) an additional 38 games in 2019-20 (as well as Orlando’s four playoff games), and the entirety of the 2020-2021 season. The 23 year-old Fultz suffered a gruesome ACL injury as well (left knee), his coming in early January of this year.
While there is obviously no rush to get either player back anytime soon, I’m sure both players (as well as the entire organization) would like to get back into some type of rhythm (soon or later) heading into next season and beyond.
Michael Carter-Williams, Gary Harris, Robin Lopez, E’Twaun Moore, and Terrence Ross
Over/Under - 3.5 players in veteran group remaining on Orlando’s roster by March 1st, 2022
Simply put, it seems inevitable that Orlando’s current group of veterans will not all be around past this season’s trade deadline. I think the only question is, how many will finish the season on a contending team? With one of the youngest rosters in the league, Magic decision-makers were careful to bring in experienced and seasoned players such as Moore and Lopez to help Carter-Williams, Harris, and Ross lead in Orlando’s 20-somethings locker room.
Harris ($20.48 million), Lopez ($5.0 million), Carter-Williams ($3.3 million), and Moore ($2.64 million) all have expiring contracts/one-year deals in 2021-22, with Ross owed $24 million over the next two seasons. The leadership these five veterans can provide during practice, in the locker room, on road trips, etc. will be invaluable at the start of the season. But as the year plays out (and Orlando likely falls further out of contention), the Magic will want to see as much of their younger players as possible.
Over/Under - 36 percent on three-point field goal attempts
While the numbers may not jump off the page, there certainly were times throughout Okeke’s long-awaited rookie season when Orlando’s do-it-all gadget forward showed real promise shooting the basketball. Like any NBA rookie grinding through their first professional campaign, there were shooting peaks and valleys (of course). If Okeke can provide just a tad bit more shooting consistency for the Magic in Year 2, I’m sure that would be a very welcomed development for the organization.
Okeke made two or more three-point field goals in a single-contest on 14 separate occasions for the Magic last season. In back-to-back games in late March of last season, Okeke knocked-down eight total three-point field goals against the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers (4-4 3PTA’s, 4-6 3PTA’s). If the Atlanta-native can develop into a league-average (or slightly better) perimeter shooter, then he would be an even more ideal compliment to what the Magic already have in the frontcourt with Isaac, Wagner, Carter Jr. etc.
Franz Wagner and Moritz Wagner
Over/Under - 199.5 total minutes the Wagner brothers share the floor together (season total)
This is just a fun one, and honestly - I had no idea where to set this particular prop at. There are so many variables that come into play when trying to forecast how often a player will be on the floor over the course of a season (rotations, injuries, etc.), let alone trying to predict the same for two different players at the same time. But again, it’s just really cool to imagine two brothers sharing an NBA floor together, not even to mention playing for the same team/at the same time.
The organization has invested more in Franz Wagner, drafting him eighth overall this past summer, so he’s the favorite of the two to see more minutes. He also plays a forward position that is severely lacking depth at the moment, with Isaac still not cleared to participate and Okeke battling his hip bruise. Moritz Wagner can also play the “big” forward position, although he’s probably better suited to play the center position. Signing the elder Wagner, who’s only 24 years-old, was more of a depth-move made by the Magic late this summer - after Moritz concluded his time representing Germany at the Olympic Games - to solidify the end of their bench.
Over/Under - 8.5 times Cole Anthony scores 20 or more points in a game (season total)
Whether it’s starting or coming off the bench, the Magic will more than likely need to lean on Anthony’s ability to score the basketball at times this upcoming season. Taking quality shots - and improving upon his efficiency - should be a point of emphasis for Orlando’s second-year lead guard in ‘21-’22 (39.7% FG%, 33.7% 3PT%, 49.6% TS% last season). The 21 year-old scored 20 or more points in a game four times last season. This is an interesting prop, because hitting on it is dependent upon how much Anthony will ultimately play.
And that still remains to be seen. Anthony will be able to get all the minutes he can handle to start the season, but when Fultz comes back, how will playing time play out between Jalen Suggs, Fultz, and Anthony?
Over/Under - 39.5 times R.J. Hampton scores 10 or more points in a game (season total)
This prop is a sneaky one as well. On the surface, pounding Hampton scoring in double-figures at least 40 times this season might seem like a given. I just want to see how playing time shakes out early in the season. The Magic have an abundance of guards on their roster that all need minutes.
I’m confident Hampton will be on the floor a lot in February/March/April, and we saw at the end of last season what he is capable of when he gets that kind of run (NBA Rookie of the Month, May 2021). The Dallas native is lethal running the floor on fast break opportunities, which should continue to help him reach this particular prop in 2021-22. After his trade to the Magic in March (Aaron Gordon deal), Hampton scored in double-figures 16 times - including his final nine games of the season.
Over/Under - 2.5 place finish in NBA Rookie of the Year voting (under= 1st or 2nd place finish, over=3rd place finish or higher)
Shaquille O’Neal and Mike Miller, that’s the list. The Orlando Magic have had two players win the NBA Rookie of the Year award in the history of their franchise (not Dwight Howard, nor Anfernee Hardaway). Can rookie lead-guard Jalen Suggs make it three in 2021-22? He certainly will have an opportunity, the Magic will likely be playing in a lot of...how can I say this...non-high-stakes contests late in the season.
I think Suggs will end up starting on Opening Night at point guard, before ultimately sliding over to the wing whenever Fultz is ready to come back to the team. There’s little doubt that his impact on the organization will be felt immediately, but Suggs will also have some legitimate competition from his fellow draft class members for the award. Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green will certainly have a lot to say about taking home the hardware as well, which makes this prop a really interesting one.
Over/Under - 21.5 total team assists per game
Orlando’s 21.8 assists per game last season ranked 28th in the league, and that number included significant contributions from Vucevic, Gordon, and Evan Fournier. Those three former cornerstones, who averaged a combined 11.7 assists per game in 2020-21, are no longer with the Magic. So who is going to pick up the slack creating for others? Making matters worse, Fultz - who is Orlando’s top play-maker - is out for the immediate future.
Along with the team’s success on the boards, I think team assists will be one of the more important statistics to monitor with this young Magic club as the season progresses. Who can be counted on to move the ball, break down defenses, make the extra pass, and set-up teammates for high percentage attempts?
Don’t forget, leave your prop predictions below in the comment section (before 8:30 PM EST, Wednesday October 20th). I will compile a list of everyone’s picks - this should be fun to re-visit periodically as the year plays out.
Aaron Goldstone has been writing for Orlando Pinstriped Post since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @AaronGoldstone.