• No team was more surprising this season than the Orlando Magic as they finished with a 47-35 record and took the league by storm yet also remained under the radar.  This Magic team defied logic and the standard evolution of NBA teams by almost every metric.  The most important question going forward is whether this was a one-year wonder or the birth of a new Magic era.

    How’d It Go?

    The Magic had been an afterthought in NBA circles for the better part of a decade and had only finished over .500 once since 2011. Sure, the future looked bright with Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero, but this was team was still a year or two away from playing meaningful basketball in the spring. Or so everyone thought.  This run was so unexpected and honestly nearly unprecedented that the Magic should have been up for every award on the books. Give Banchero the MVP, Jamahl Mosley the COY, Jonathan Isaac the DPOY and Jalen Suggs the MIP.  They surpassed their preseason win projections by double digits and did it with a clean cap sheet and their best players on rookie deals.  The deeper one digs into the Magic, the more incredible this season becomes.

    Similarly to almost all teams that make the leap ahead of schedule, the secret sauce was in the defense. The Magic bought in early and full throttle and thus finished first in total rebounds allowed, assists allowed and field goals attempted, as well as top-five in 3PTs allowed, TOs, points allowed and they did this all while committing the fewest fouls of any team in the league.  Everyone knows defense wins championships, but it’s also pretty great at winning regular season games.

    Usually when a team ascends to a new echelon there is a correlation with a young star also reaching new heights.  While Banchero was solid if not great, he still “only” averaged 22.6 points, 6.9 boards, 5.4 dimes and 1.5 triples on .455/.339//725 shooting splits.  He didn’t exactly light the world on fire and while his ceiling is as high as any young star, his second-year leap doesn’t explain the whole story.  Next is Franz Wagner, who as a second banana leaves a lot to be desired and while his 19.7 ppg is solid, the fact that his 3PT shot completely abandoned him (.281 3PT) remains a giant mystery and was a running subplot all season.  Show me another team in the league in the modern era that is able to not just succeed but thrive with their two best scorers being subpar shooters from distance.

    Lastly, the true engine of this team was the ascension of Jalen Suggs from scrappy defensive player into a two-way tip of the spear.  Suggs evolved into a legitimate threat from deep and raised his 3PT% from .327 to .397 while increasing his attempts from 3.8 to 5.1.  Suggs set the tone on defense and was able to also stay healthy, playing 75 games after only averaging around 50 games in his first two seasons.  The Magic are clearly greater than the sum of its parts and that’s factoring in that they got almost nothing from their two lottery picks, Anthony Black and Jett Howard.  This team is clearly building towards something, but whether that is just a frisky playoff team or one with legitimate title hopes remains to be seen.  The building blocks are there, but the next step is always the hardest.


    It’s hard to argue with Mark Daigneault winning COY as the Thunder were a surprising number-one seed in the Western Conference, but while Mosley might not have done more with less; he definitely got every last ounce of performance out of his team.  A great coach is able to merge his identity with the team and Mosley was able to do that with his young squad and while they didn’t win pretty, the fact that they won was all that mattered. The snail’s pace at which the Magic play is a huge anchor on the fantasy potential of their secondary players. The Magic ranked dead last in FGA at 84.9 per-game compared to the Pacers who led the league with 92.7, which is a big reason they were so successful in winning games and not so successful in the fantasy rankings. With a roster lacking starpower (to this point; however the future is bright), Moseley cobbled together a playoff team that could lock horns with anybody because of their defense. Orlando finished third in defensive rating, helping to erase the team’s offensive difficulties. That was too much to overcome in the playoffs, but the Magic have found a winning formula and leaned into their identity: defend like hell and grind games down to a halt.

    The Magic smartly locked up Mosley throughout the 2027-2028 season and the young stars won’t be too far behind once eligible.  Getting a team to buy-in is the easy part, getting them to stay humble and hungry will determine how great a coach Mosley is capable of.

    The Players

    Franz Wagner
    SF, Orlando Magic
    23-24 ORL 72 72 32.5 7.3 15.2 48.1 3.8 4.4 85.0 1.3 4.6 28.1 19.7 5.3 3.7 1.1 0.4 1.9
    22-23 ORL 80 80 32.6 6.8 14.0 48.5 3.4 4.0 84.2 1.6 4.5 36.1 18.6 4.1 3.5 1.0 0.2 2.1
    21-22 ORL 79 79 30.7 5.8 12.3 46.8 2.4 2.8 86.3 1.2 3.4 35.4 15.2 4.5 2.9 0.9 0.4 1.5

     ADP: 66.9/74.8 (Yahoo/ESPN) | Per-Game Value 64/70 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 56/57 (8/9-cat)

    Wagner being the best fantasy player on the Magic despite having a mediocre season says more about what the Magic were able to accomplish as a team than it does about Wagner.  He set career-high marks in scoring, rebounds, dimes, steals and FTA, but that is to be expected in his third season.  Wagner didn’t really take the leap many expected and his troubles from beyond the arc were confounding to say the least.  Wagner isn’t really great at any one thing and if he can get back to shooting triples closer to his .364 mark two seasons ago, the rest of his game should also see marked improvement as well.

    The Magic are going to be star hunting this offseason and if they do go out and get an alpha scorer, it is Wagner who will likely take the biggest fantasy hit next season.  He remains more a plug-and-play fixer who can slide into any role that is necessary.  The consistency is one of his biggest accolades, as evidenced that he scored in double digits in 32 of the first 33 games before suffering an ankle injury.

    The biggest question concerning his fantasy value is how close is he to his ceiling? There are still a couple levels he could unlock in terms of scoring and playmaking. It’s always great to watch him dominate in international ball and with the Olympics this summer, it’s easy to imagine him regaining his shooting confidence and entering next season with renewed aggression as a three-level scorer.  Wagner remains a solid mid-round fantasy choice whose floor is pretty stable (unless they add a Paul George or Trae Young) and whose ceiling could theoretically jump into the top-30 player if everything breaks right.

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