There may be plenty of growing pains yet to come for such a young squad led by promising youngsters Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner, but things are on the up-and-up for the Orlando Magic, a 34-45 record at the time of writing notwithstanding. In fact, rarely has a rookie looked as good and NBA-ready from the jump as Banchero has, notching a few rookie records here and there which should only bode well for his future progression.
Meanwhile, Wagner, the 6’9 wing that doesn’t seem to stop growing taller, possesses such unique versatility, dexterity, and touch around the hoop, which should only make him more of a nightmare to defend as he rounds out his off-the-bounce game.
Beyond Banchero and Wagner, the Magic roster is also chock-full of solid contributors who are yet to enter the primes of their careers. Markelle Fultz, in particular, comes to mind as someone who is taking the next step, providing solid two-way floor general play over the past few months. Meanwhile, they also have Wendell Carter Jr., a rare floor-spacing rim protector locked to a team-friendly contract until 2026.
Rounding out their young core are Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, and Bol Bol; Suggs may not have had the easiest first two seasons as a professional, as his offensive game hasn’t quite developed at a rapid pace. But Suggs’ defense makes him a valuable piece all the same, even more so if his offense ever catches up to his value on that end of the floor.
The theme for the Magic will be continuity, as they try to continue to build a future contending outfit piece by piece. As a result, they should not let this piece go, given his ability to contribute when called upon and his locker room impact.
Here’s the free agent the Magic must re-sign during the 2023 NBA free agency period.
Franz’ older brother Moe may not be the most impactful player on the surface. The older Wagner hasn’t even featured heavily in the Magic rotation as of late, playing less than 20 minutes off the bench over the past few weeks as he battles midseason addition Goga Bitadze for minutes. But one thing’s for sure: Wagner produces in his limited minutes, and he’s able to fill up the stat sheet every time he needs to fill in for an injured Wendell Carter Jr.
In 17 games as a starter, Wagner averaged 14.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per contest while shooting 52.5 percent from the field and 33.9 percent from deep, solid numbers for a backup big. Depth has always been extremely important in today’s NBA, but given how often players miss games these days, having a backup that allows the team not to miss too much of a beat in a starter’s absence is essential.
To add, Wagner is just 25 years old, so he could very well get better still following a career year.
Moe Wagner is entering free agency having made around $3.7 million over the past two seasons; while a raise should be expected given his strong play this season, he shouldn’t attract too big of a contract in free agency, so it wouldn’t be too burdensome for the Magic to try and keep the German center in town. Plus, it will be a bonus as well for the Magic to keep the Wagner brothers together.
The rest (non-guaranteed deals)
Jonathan Isaac has two years left on his deal, which is partially guaranteed for 2023-24 and fully non-guaranteed for the 2024-25 season. The Magic could soon let go of the once-promising two-way forward, but it may not come until next offseason, when cutting him loose won’t cost them any money.
Bol Bol showed glimpses of his tantalizing potential to begin the year while the Magic found themselves ravaged by injuries. He showed incredible ball-handling for his size, and his go-go gadget arms made every transition play of his must-see. Alas, he doesn’t impact the game as well as his highlights may suggest.
Even then, the Magic are near-guaranteed to keep Bol, as he’s only set to make $2.2 million for next season.
Gary Harris was such a huge part of the Denver Nuggets for years; however, injuries have clearly taken their toll on the 3 and D guard. Still, Harris has given the Magic efficient production in his limited minutes, and for $13 million a year, it makes sense for the Magic to keep the 28-year old, if only as a trade chip as the team looks to improve their two-guard situation.
Finding himself out of favor in Indiana, Bitadze appears to have found a new home with the Magic. However, with the roster churn in the offseason, the former Pacers big man could very well become a casualty of the team’s bid to improve. Even then, don’t be surprised if the Georgian center will be back in Orlando in some capacity next season.
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