The Orlando Magic fanbase hasn’t experienced legit relevance since Dwight Howard’s departure in 2012. It has been one rebuild after another since then thanks to awful management decisions, leading the franchise to consistently flip-flop mediocre and bottom-feeder status.
Here’s how bad it has come: the Magic only have one winning season and only two playoff appearances over the last 11 seasons. They also haven’t won a series since 2010. ‘Tragic’ is more fitting than ‘Magic.’
But, fortunes may finally change in the next few years (fingers crossed, Magic Nation), as the front office has drafted well recently, landing two solid studs in Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. Though the team only finished 34-48 this past season, hopes are at its highest in a long while.
The young duo’s arrival
Drafted as lottery picks, Banchero (first overall in 2022) and Wagner (eighth overall in 2023), brought renewed hope to the Magic faithful.
Banchero, in particular, wasted no time in making an impact, securing the 2022-23 NBA Rookie of the Year award. Averaging a very solid 20.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.7 assists, Banchero showcased his athleticism and versatility, seamlessly transitioning between the three and four spots. His ability to attack the paint with strength and precision was a sight to behold, making him a force to be reckoned with on the court.
Wagner, on the other hand, embodied finesse and composure. His innate ability to let the game come to him was evident in his gameplay. Adept at scoring through drives and outside shots, Wagner shot a fairly efficient 48.5% from the field in the 2022-23 season. His prowess extended to the free-throw line, where he maintained a smooth 85% accuracy through his first two years in the league, underscoring his reliability in crunch situations. With an average of 18.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.5 assists last season, Wagner proved to be a vital asset to the team.
Check out this interesting YouTube essay as to how all-around Wagner is:
Facing stiff competition
At just 21 and 22 years old respectively, Banchero and Wagner represent the youthful ambition that fuels the upstart Magic’s potential resurgence. While they face formidable competition in the Eastern Conference, with teams like the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Philadelphia Sixers, and the heavily re-loaded Milwaukee Bucks boasting deep lineups, the Magic’s duo is not to be underestimated.
Orlando’s young 1-2 punch has some back-up behind them in Wendell Carter Jr., Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, Gary Harris, and Jalen Suggs, who are all likewise hungry for NBA glory.
Banchero and Wagner’s synergy on the court, coupled with their individual talents, have the potential to elevate the Magic to new heights. As they continue to mature and hone their skills, the Eastern Conference might witness a shift in its dynamics. With each game, the duo inches closer to not just making a name for themselves but also putting Orlando back on the NBA map.
In the coming seasons, all eyes will be on this young tandem, watching as they carve their legacy in the annals of basketball history. For the Orlando Magic and their fans, the future is bright, painted in the vibrant hues of their two rising forwards’ talent, determination, and the unwavering belief that they can be the next hot thing in the rugged Eastern Conference.