Although the on-field results certainly don’t suggest it, the 2021/22 season has been a big one for the Orlando Magic. If dismantling last year’s trade deadline was ground zero for the latest rebuild, the team’s recently completed 22-60 campaign represents the laying of a foundation that, fingers crossed, is hopefully -the, both strong and durable.

So how do you measure the success of a franchise that cares little about the final numbers displayed on the dashboard? Well, as we do every year around this time, let’s take a moment to determine Orlando’s winners and losers for 2022, without the actual standings, without singular results, and filtered through a broader contextual lens. When it comes to stripes, who (or what) stood out and shone? Who (or what) crashed and burned? Let’s go!

Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

In a long losing season, there wasn’t a whole lot that stood out night after night as a real bright spot for Magic fans. Still on the ground floor of a major rebuild, the team were regularly forced to reckon with a talent gap caused by equal parts design, inexperience and injuries, certainly not the ideal environment in which to can thrive. To his credit, however, Wendell Carter Jr. managed to do just that, becoming the team’s most valuable player this season and establishing himself as a vital part of the rebuild going forward. For a guy whose inclusion in the Vucevic trade thirteen months ago was mostly about balancing the books and his ‘lottery pick’ status, this has been one hell of a ride.

From the boxscore, it’s easy to see that Carter Jr. had a career-best season, setting new benchmarks in each of points (15.0), rebounds (10.5) and assists (2 ,8). He was a more effective scorer than ever thanks to a combination of improved inside finishing (61.5% on two-point attempts) and an extended three-point shot that resulted in 3.5 long attempts. distance per game, an increase of over 300% over his previous long-range attempt rates. While his accuracy from depth was ultimately below the league average (32.7%), this new dimension expanded the big man’s offensive repertoire and even offset the slight dip he saw in his shot numbers. free throw, evident in his .601 true shooting percentage.

It wasn’t just precision and timing that drove the big man’s high output. Although WCJ was obviously higher up the chain of command in Orlando than he had been in his previous stop, he proved to be deserving of extra chances by consistently doing more with them. He anchored the team’s defense by grabbing 29.1% of all defensive rebounding opportunities – a 4.5% increase from his previous best mark – while finishing 13th league-wide for the total number of contested defensive rebounds collected (157). He posted real playing chops with an assist rate of 15.4%, 18th among all centers who played at least 41 games. It also earned the distinction of coupling an increased utilization rate with a reduced likelihood of turnover – a combination that suggests a real improvement. Although he missed 20 contests, he even set a career high in games played with 62, a number that would certainly have been higher if the result of the Magic games was even remotely relevant.

The value Carter Jr. provides relative to cost is perhaps the most impressive aspect of his contributions. During the season, the Magic big man was the 167th highest paid player in the league, slightly below Zach Collins and PJ Tucker and immediately ahead of Juan Hernangomez. A quick look at catch-all metrics such as PER, VORP, win shares, and plus/minus box reveals that for players in such a range of contracts, WCJ was a pretty positive contributor for all of these metrics.

Lest it look like I’m just picking off sightings created by the often value-laden rookie ladder (whose Carter Jr. contract this season was still falling), consider this: the $14.1 which he wins next year will end up putting him somewhere around 96th overall, a position sandwiched between Luke Kennard and Davis Bertans on the slightly more expensive side, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Doug McDermott on the other side. , slightly cheaper. If Carter Jr. is able to maintain, let alone improve, this season’s production, he thinks he’s got a bargain for years to come.

Despite the team’s wobbly record, WCJ has had a truly excellent season. Let’s hope this is just the first of a long series that he puts together in pinstripes.

NBA: Orlando Magic vs. Toronto Raptors

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

This season has presented a huge opportunity for Mo Bamba. No longer playing behind an All-Star teammate and elevated to the starting unit, the fourth-year rookie was also driven by a desire to prove his worth in the league and secure his first non-rookie contract. At the end of the season, it’s fair to say that it was largely a case of “mission accomplished”.

10.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, a total of 2.2 actions and a career-best 38.1% from deep on more attempts than ever before (4.0 per night) are numbers that reflect the general improvement in Bamba’s individual game. While his numbers per 100 possessions have remained relatively constant, considering context even positions those in a favorable light; as a starter, Bamba faced tougher competition, while also learning to regularly share the floor – and the roles and opportunities of the central position – with another big man. His use of possession felt more in sync with the team’s attack, while defensively he sometimes showed an adaptability that hadn’t always seemed evident in his game.

Bamba has played a career-high 71 games. He more than doubled his usual minutes tally with 1,824 on the season. Advanced Metrics continued to appreciate his on-field contributions, with an above-average ranking by PER (16.5), VORP (1.22), and plus/minus box (0.7), as well only personal bests in true shot percentage (.582) and total win shares (4.5). He significantly improved his three-point and free-throw accuracy, while finishing 9th league-wide in blocks per game (1.7). He was generally a more impactful player, with genuine stretch-five applications in attack and his usual long-limbed deterrent in defense.

It may not have been the outright slam-dunk many were hoping to see, but Bamba’s play this season has provided plenty of evidence to suggest he’s not just going to disappear from the league anytime soon.

NBA: Orlando Magic vs Philadelphia 76ers

Bill Streicher – USA TODAY Sports

Despite the individual accomplishments and improvements noted above, has Bamba really done enough to convince anyone that he is a long-term answer in the Stripes? The front office already kicked off their rookie contract extension last offseason, and nothing they’ve seen this year would likely have left them doubting that decision. Still, will Magic’s rebuild want to end up with nothing to show for after four years of lottery-level investment? It’s hard to say, and Big Mo’s play last season unfortunately didn’t crystallize the desired answers.

Bamba’s game log reads…oddly. In 2021/22 he was a player who was almost as likely to score in the single digits (30 times) as he was to hit the ten-point plateau (41 times), with the big man only going above 20 points on four occasions . At one point, he went two whole months without pulling more than 9 rebounds, a surprising result for a 7-footer who regularly logs more than 25 minutes of time on the court. He was also without a three-point mark in 17 of his 71 games, going 0-44 in those contests while still achieving above-league average long-range accuracy this season.

In general, there was a disconcerting uncertainty in Bamba’s performance. You could never really predict what they would get out of him on any given night, whether it was a 2-point egg (of which he had five) or a 32-point explosion in which he came face to face with an MVP. favorite. NBA players are in the league for the simple reason that they are some of the best basketball players in the world, but what tends to separate the great from the good is the ability to consistently produce performances closer to their ceiling than from their floor. The cost versus the reliability of a player’s production is where the value of any contract ultimately lies.

So what does all of this mean for Bamba and his future in Central Florida? Honestly, I’m not completely sure. It’s not absolutely imperative that he be re-signed, although much of what he offers the Magic – three-point spacing, solid interior defense, some cohesion alongside the WCJ – is particularly valuable for this specific team. His numbers are generally “above average,” but any contract number that threatens eight figures a year is sure to give pause. After four years, has he proven he is a starter? Would he even consider moving into a substitute role after starting 69 of 71 contests this season?

Much like the big man’s on-court play, Bamba’s future in Orlando is one that remains frustratingly unpredictable.

Orlando Magic vs. New York Knicks

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Heading into the season, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Mr. and Mrs. Wagner who would have caused Brother Moe to finish near the top of the Magic leaderboard in terms of total win share. Well, 82 games later, here we are.

Moritz Wagner has amassed 2.8 win shares for Orlando this season, a phenomenal number that placed him fourth overall for the team. Somehow he managed to achieve this despite playing 770 minutes less than each of the other guys who completed the top seven, a fact that actually left him the best the team’s win share rate per 48 minutes at 0.138. .

Moe’s love of advanced metrics didn’t stop there. Among rotation regulars, he ranked second in PER (18.1), first in true shooting percentage (.623), first in offensive box plus/minus (1.5), tied first in box overall plus/minus (1.6), and third in VORP (0.9). Don’t forget that’s despite only finishing tenth on the team in total minutes played, with three DNP-CDs and nine games with less than ten minutes of time on the pitch at the during the first two months of the season.

Simply put, pretty much everywhere Moe Wagner got on the pitch, he smoked it. Whether the production is ultimately sustainable or repeatable in a bigger role remains to be seen, but at least he’s earned the chance to prove he’s more than just a deep bench hunk moving forward.

With a stock valuation of The Magic’s Big Man now behind us, so we come to the end of our first episode. I’ll be handing out more W’s and L’s in the coming days, so be sure to check back so you can check out my thoughts on the roller coaster experience of Magic’s rookie harvest, veteran variability, and surprises. the second contingent of one year. Until then, I’ll catch up with you in the comments.

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