The Orlando Magic NBA Summer League in Las Vegas was a mixed bad in 2023. The team finished 0-3, but the annual Vegas run isn’t about wins and losses. It is about what the team and its fans learn about the young players on the court — like Anthony Black and Jett Howard — who might help foretell what will happen in the upcoming season. With that in mind, here are the biggest four Magic summer league takeaways from the 2023 campaign.
3. Anthony Black will contribute even if the shooting isn’t there
One of the biggest Magic summer league takeaways is (in your best Dennis Green voice), “They are who we thought they were!” This applies to the biggest players and the team as a whole.
Let’s start with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Anthony Black. The former Arkansas freshman is as advertised. He is a massive traditional point guard who can distribute and play defense with the best of them but has a long way to go when it comes to shooting and scoring.
Black should be the team’s starting PG this season, and whether he is or not, he will have the ball in his hands a ton when he’s on the floor. This is how he operates and where his value comes in. He will run the offense and the break like an orchestra conductor, and that will only help the team.
When it comes to scoring points, though, that’s a different story. Black showed flashes at times in the Magic Summer League games, but he needs to use his size and strength to go by his defender more. And as for his shooting, it’s not great. He was 1-of-6 from behind the arc in his three games, and the one was a banked prayer he shot up and got the foul on.
On defense, Black was a -3 overall, but that doesn’t tell the tale. He was switchable and played tight D, holding second-year Indiana Pacers star Bennedict Mathurin to 4-for-16 shooting. It was an impressive performance overall, and Magic fans should feel good about what they will get from their top-six pick in 2023-24.
2. Jett Howard needs to shoot well to contribute (and he did in Magic Summer League)
Jett Howard is who we thought he was, too. He is a shooter who needs to shoot (and make baskets) to have value, as his defense is shaky at times. Howard averaged a respectable 13.3 points per game in NBA Summer League and shot 40% from 3-point range, connecting on eight of 20 long-range shots.
All that’s a good sign. The Magic took Howard over Kansas’ Gradey Dick, the (presumed) best shooter in the 2023 NBA Draft. Maybe they knew something. Dick was just 5-fo-22 from deep in NBA Summer League this season.
Either way, Howard has the most value as a shooter. If he continues to excel in that aspect, he’ll get on the court. And, if he gets on the court, he can continue to show off his underrated playmaking skills as well. The former Michigan man has 10 assists in three games, including some really slick passes to open cutters.
2. The Magic are still a young team, and there will be growing pains
Overall, the Magic summer league takeaways were positive. Anthony Black and Jett Howard looked good and made everyone feel good about the team’s first-round picks. And second-year players Calen Houstan and Kevon Harris both showed that they could become contributors with the big club next season.
However, despite the nice play at times, the Magic lost all four games, highlighting the youth and inconsistency on the squad. And this just doesn’t extend to Summer League.
Of the current Magic roster, a staggering 13 players will be 26 or under when next season starts. This includes Chuma Okeke, Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac, Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., Paolo Banchero, Caleb Houstan, Admiral Schofield, Goga Bitadze, Howard, and Black.
Orlando has a ton of talent and may be set up for the future, but the path to an NBA title will not be a straight line, and next season, there will likely be a few steps forward and a few steps back as the team tries to build its identity.
1. FREE KAI SOTTO!!!!
OK, this last one should go without saying, but can we get 7-foot-2 Filipino center Kai Sotto some time in the preseason maybe?
The pride of the Philippines got three DNP-CDs in three Magic Summer League games. This lack of a single minute of playing time lit up social media, with Sotto’s (awake way early in the morning fans) fuming at the franchise.
I mean, Sotto likely won’t be on the regular season Magic roster, but he was a cool human interest story, and the coaching staff didn’t play him a single minute, even in garbage time. Do better next summer!