The Orlando Magic have built an exciting young core around the dynamic forward duo of Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero, but a changing of the guard heading into training camp could elevate the Magic to a playoff contender right away. While Orlando has plenty of depth with Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony, Gary Harris, and Anthony Black all vying for a starting spot, one switch could unlock some badly needed distributing and defensive versatility for the Magic roster.
The one magic player in danger of losing his starting job in 2023-24 NBA training camp is Markelle Fultz.
Moving Markelle Fultz to the bench would accomplish a few things for Orlando. It would naturally provide more floor spacing for Wagner and Banchero to operate, as Fultz isn't a spot-up shooter by any stretch of the imagination. It would also give the Magic more size and length defensively, as both Jalen Suggs and Anthony Black are longer, more active defenders both on and off the ball.
It would also let Fultz run the second unit and do what he does best — drive to the rim and score or find open shooters. The Magic should be running the majority of the offense through Wagner and Banchero in big pick-and-roll action, and Fultz isn't the guy you want playing off that.
“Paolo [Banchero] is a combination of Carmelo [Anthony], LeBron [James], and [Jayson] Tatum… The passing skills. The ability to score in different areas. The power that they possess.”
– Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley 😳
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) September 20, 2023
Fultz started all 60 games he appeared in last year for Orlando, but letting Anthony Black grow right away with this young core might make more sense. Black can thrive as a secondary distributor who will help the Magic defensively, both on the glass and in passing lanes. Orlando's biggest edge over their opponents is guys with size and versatility, and Black, the 6th pick in the 2023 NBA Draft out of Arkansas, only adds to that advantage.
The Magic keeping Gary Harris in the starting lineup at shooting guard makes sense for his shooting, but starting two of Fultz/Suggs/Black is going to be a difficult spacing fit. Black replacing Fultz as the de facto starting point guard makes a lot of sense, as the spacing issues he presents will be more mitigated in the Magic's second unit as opposed to their starting lineup.
The Magic don't have to rush to make this decision. The Magic can use training camp and preseason to play with different roster combinations, but it's incredibly difficult to build around a non-shooting guard who isn't the best player on the floor. There was a time where that might have been Fultz, but the ascension of Banchero and Wagner both as scorers and playmakers has made Fultz a third option at best. More size, length, versatility, and the potential for better shooting down the line makes for a much better fit around Orlando's star tandem.
Fultz could immediately become one of the league's very best sixth men, and prop up a second unit that could really use his scoring and playmaking. On an expiring deal worth $17 million, it makes sense for the Magic to start looking toward the future with controllable young talent (Black, Suggs, etc.) instead of someone who might not be around next season after he enters free agency.
Any team trading for Fultz would likely be looking for him to fill that scoring sixth-man role, rather than be a starting point guard. Orlando auditioning him for that could net something of value long-term, while also giving Black or Suggs important reps for their development.
The Magic are finally in a good place with their backcourt and roster, having multiple viable starters and a nice mix of talent. Moving Fultz to the bench could improve the Magic's starting lineup overall, and potentially kick-start a playoff run behind the strength of Banchero and Wagner.