The Orlando Magic's tank is going just as planned. They have the worst record in the league and have a great chance to clinch the best odds in the draft lottery.
Not only are the Magic losing in the short term but they are winning in the long term. They routinely start a lineup of five young players and feature many of them off the bench to get the most development possible out of their young core. The team has been bad but they are benefiting from the losses perfectly.
The Magic have 19 games left in the 2021-22 season. They are not going to make the playoffs and likely won't have any impact on the playoff picture. But they can still make some noise in the remainder of their season.
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3 bold Magic predictions
1. Markelle Fultz plays great down the stretch
After a lengthy rehab of a torn ACL, Fultz debuted earlier this week. The Magic fans and his teammates were thrilled to see him back out there.
Fultz didn't blow anyone away with his production — 10.5 points and 4.0 assists in 15.5 minutes per game — but he looked as smooth and confident as ever. He wasn't afraid to attack and popped a few pull-up jumpers.
Markelle Fultz's jumper gets a lot of flak, but one shot he's very good at is his stop and pop/1 dribble jumper. 2 examples from last night #MagicTogether pic.twitter.com/HZPCeJndrc
— Mavs/Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) March 3, 2022
Looking this good right away is a fantastic sign for Fultz and Orlando. His steadiness on offense and reliable defense should allow him to see big minutes once he gets his legs even more under him. He could (and should, if he is able to) become the team's sixth man and a member of the closing lineup in close games.
2. Jalen Suggs makes a late All-Rookie First Team run
The Magic spent the fifth overall pick on Jalen Suggs in last year's draft. He is averaging 12.5 points, 4.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game while shooting 36.9 percent from the field and 27.7 percent from deep.
Those numbers are not very strong, but they also aren't terrible for a rookie. Suggs has shown the ability to score and make plays. With less than a quarter of the season remaining, his chances of taking home the Rookie of the Year award are slim. The race for that honor is a five-person race that Suggs has no chance of catching up in.
However, Suggs can disrupt the head of the pack by playing great down the stretch. His playmaking numbers have gotten noticeably better — he averaged 0.5 more assists in February than January despite playing over two fewer minutes per game and he committed 1.1 fewer turnovers. His scoring numbers have stagnated but he can make an impact on other areas. If he can continue growing his game and making his presence felt on defense, he could easily have a case for being one of the most impactful rookies.
3. Franz Wagner takes home the rookie scoring title
Wagner, despite having a very good rookie campaign, faces an uphill battle in the ROTY race. Evan Mobley has been too good for a tremendous Cleveland Cavaliers team to not win the award. Josh Giddey, Scottie Barnes, and Cade Cunningham are also shining. But the Magic's rookie forward can make a strong case if he leads all rookies in points per game.
Right now, he is averaging 15.7 points per game. Cunningham leads the pack at 16.1 points per game. What gives Orlando's youngster the advantage is his scoring efficiency. While he shoots 46.8 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from deep, the Pistons' prized rookie shoots 39.9 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from deep.
Cunningham, though, will likely have the advantage when it comes to shots per game down the homestretch of the season. The Magic might have to feed their rookie wing more in order to help him out. Wagner posting a few big scoring outbursts and maintaining his efficiency would allow him to secure the rookie scoring title and improve his case for the Rookie of the Year award.