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Orlando Magic X Factor: The Health Of Their Young Players

The Orlando Magic are, in a word, funky. Eleven of their 15 players are 24 or younger. Five of them haven’t played more than one NBA season. At both guard and big, they are stocked with young depth. Among the guards, there is Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony, RJ Hampton, and Markelle Fultz. For various reasons, all of them are still searching for firm NBA footing. In the front-court, three guys all likely optimized at center — Jonathan Isaac, Wendell Carter Jr., and Mo Bamba — exist. At the (big) wings, Franz Wagner and Chuma Okeke, perk up.

Aside from Suggs and Wagner, each of these players has previously suited up for Orlando in a regular-season game. The issue, however, is finding them on the same wavelength. Last year, Isaac missed the entire season due to a torn ACL suffered in the Bubble a season prior. After an encouraging 2019-20, Fultz only played eight games before tearing his ACL. Okeke sat out 2019-20 as he recovered from an ACL tear and hasn’t played a minute with Isaac or Fultz.

Whether it’s injuries or the residual effects of contracting COVID-19 (fingers crossed he’s worked past this), Bamba has struggled to maintain consistent health. Even Anthony missed about a third of the season with injuries. Meanwhile, both Hampton and Carter arrived in Orlando post-trade deadline, and notched fewer than 50 combined games with the Magic.

Fultz, Carter, and Isaac already received rookie contract extensions. Bamba is set to become a restricted free agent and Okeke is eligible for an extension after this season. To clarify which young guys are the pillars of this rebuild, health is imperative. Let these dudes mesh and share the floor together. Trot out some youth-heavy lineups that feature one or two of the team’s, well, four veterans (Terrence Ross, Michael Carter-Williams, Robin Lopez, E’Twaun Moore) for a modicum of stability, while still prioritizing the future.

Discern whether two of Carter, Bamba, and Isaac can play together. The backcourt rotation is full of secondary handlers. Can one of the guards become a more consistent perimeter creator and simplify the offense for everyone else? Are Wagner and Okeke exclusively 4s or can one of them slide up to the 3 and form a versatile, complementary duo on the wing? Among this 11-man core, is there enough volume shooting to space the floor and offset potential troubles generating paint touches?

There are so many fascinating questions surrounding this team as it fully embraces an era of development. With Nikola Vucevic leading the way, Orlando toed the line between a playoff chase and rebuilding the past few seasons. He’s now in Chicago and while there’s a clear direction, who exactly should be guiding that journey remains hazy. Remedying the situation requires health and converging timelines, something the Magic’s prospects have failed to enjoy thus far.