clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Orlando Magic Weekly Review: Wendell Carter Jr. shows difference-maker form

Some rapid-fire Orlando Magic observations as we head to the weekend

Phoenix Suns v Orlando Magic Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

With the working week winding to an end, let’s check the pulse of all things pinstriped.

Who won the week that was?

Charlotte Hornets v Orlando Magic Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

He may unfortunately have been the latest pinstriped injury victim, but in the games leading up to his absence Wendell Carter Jr. was looking more and more like the dependable difference maker that the Magic are hoping will anchor the big man rotation for seasons to come. He opened the week by dropping 20, 10 and 5 against the Suns in a best-on-court performance, production he followed up by posting a similarly impressive 20, 5 and 4 with a pair of blocks against the Hornets.

The early going has been a period of transition for Carter Jr., the fifth-year big man being asked to accommodate a rookie phenom in the frontcourt and to figure out his place alongside another talented forward who also likes to play with the ball in hand. At times he’s appeared to be the odd man out, with some of the pet plays from last season that placed him at the center of the team’s attack diminishing in frequency. He has been able to steadily adapt, however, nudging up both his usage and efficiency in recent contests.

The Magic have emerged as the indisputable winner of the mid-season trade with Chicago in 2021 that initiated the team’s latest rebuild. In fact, the haul of draft assets alone is enough to make that call. That in only eighteen months Carter Jr. has established himself as a better player than the one-time All-Star he was traded for, however, is a genuine and fortunate surprise. The big man’s play this week – the latest broken goggles notwithstanding – has been a timely reminder of that fact.

The upcoming slate

This week’s schedule: at Bulls (Fri); at Pacers (Sat); at Pacers (Mon)

At this point it’s basically impossible to predict the outcome of a Magic contest with any confidence. The recently completed seven-game homestand was defined by the inversion of expectations, with victories over genuine contenders in Golden State, Dallas and Phoenix flanked by losses to more uninspiring outfits such as the Kings, Rockets, Hornets and Timberwolves. This week Orlando head back out on the road – where they are currently winless – to first lock horns with the Bulls before completing a pair of consecutive tussles against the Pacers. Availability will have a major impact on the final results, but surely this is the week when the Magic start to see some of the cavalry return. Right?

The crystal ball says …

*shakes custom pinstriped Magic 8 ball* … Who freakin’ knows?! Let’s take a stab and say that the Magic are gored by Vooch and the Bulls but able to recover and secure a split in Indiana.

It’s time to keep an eye on …

Houston Rockets v Orlando Magic Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

The medical staff. Err, is everything okay behind those closed doors? The Magic are certainly a side that is no stranger to injury and illness in recent times, regularly either right by or at the very top of the list regarding man-games missed. Already this season it has become clear that it is again an area in which they will probably pace the league. Just take a look at the roll call of players who were unavailable for the last start. Okay, deep breath … Paolo Banchero. Wendell Carter Jr. Cole Anthony. Markelle Fultz. Gary Harris. Jonathan Isaac. Moe Wagner. That’s not an injury report – it’s a legitimate 7-man rotation!

At some point it’s fair to start worrying about what is going on in Central Florida in terms of injury management, rehabilitation, and general strength and conditioning. To some degree the Magic are simply sleeping in the bed that they made for themselves, the result of accumulating players with either a history of unavailability or the sort of physical frame that increases that likelihood. Still, the current reality feels unnecessarily frustrating, with little in the way of progress and timelines being shared with a fanbase desperate to start emotionally investing in this team again. Although it appears that WCJ and Gary Harris will be available for Friday’s game against the Bulls.

There’s something to be said for caution. However, there’s also something to be said for transparency and accountability, particularly as a complement to decision-making that to the outside can appear murky. At the moment, it doesn’t feel like the Magic have the balance right.

Three from downtown

Minnesota Timberwolves v Orlando Magic Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
  • Last week the Magic generated just 13 fast break points total, including a mind-boggling zero in the win over the Suns. As it stands, Orlando is the only team with a single-digit per-game average in this category (8.7).
  • Bol Bol has been a wonderful story across the opening month, but it’s probably for the best that his time as a starter will be coming to a close (hopefully) soon. The jumbo-sized lineup is showing some defensive cracks, particularly in terms of the perimeter where fleeter feet are needed.
  • When Anthony Edwards went off in the first quarter, was anyone else suffering traumatic flashbacks to the stretch in time when it seemed every two-guard in the league would set career-highs against the Magic?

A figure for thought

12.0. The number of points separating the Magic’s home differential (+2.8) from their road differential (-9.2).