Orlando Magic Summer League Grades: Magic’s efforts fall short


Indiana Pacers


Orlando Magic


Nothing is meant to be perfect in the Summer League.

The teams are thrown together at the last second and there is a lot of inexperience on the floor. No one expects the cleanest game.

What they expect is effort. It can make up for a lot of flaws and definitely stands out to players trying to get noticed and make a roster. It is the starting point for everything.

There can be a talent gap at times – especially when you meet some younger teams that bring a lot of the most important players with them – but the effort makes up for that gap. You can definitely tell when it’s not there.

The Orlando Magic might not have been destined to defeat the Indiana Pacers this night. But they never really gave themselves a chance either.

The Orlando Magic had a lackluster second quarter where their ineffectiveness exposed them against an experienced Indiana Pacers team as they fell for the second time in Las Vegas.

After a competitive first quarter, the Pacers blew the game open in the second with some good shots from deep. But it was more about the Magic’s poor execution on offense and slow transition defense. The Pacers pounced on each mistake and extended their lead.

Orlando showed some fight the rest of the game.

Caleb Houston led a charge in the third quarter to get the Magic within shouting distance. But the deficit was too great. Not for a team with the size advantage the Pacers had and the experience they had on the perimeter.

The Pacers easily defeated the Magic 108-85 in their second game of the NBA Summer League. There was no getting off the mat as the Magic struggled to find their footing and had a terrible quarter that put them in too big of a hole.

In the end, Orlando shot 40.5 percent from the floor and just 6 for 32 (18.8 percent) from beyond the arc. Much of that came from a team that settled for the first half-decent 3-point look. The Magic missed so many that it kept them from making any real progress.

Orlando committing 15 turnovers only added to the problems for the team. The Pacers seemed to be able to capitalize on every mistake, and it only extended the lead.

Without a veteran — Kevon Harris sat out Monday’s game — the Magic didn’t really have the stability to come back in. And the team lacked some of the cohesion and confidence to make it all the way back.

The result is not important. What is important is how the key players performed. And there were at least a few bright spots there:

After Anthony Black came out strong in his Summer League debut, everyone was eager to see what he would do for a follow-up. After all, the Summer League is supposed to be a bit about how a player improves and grows during the week.

Black was much more aggressive and confident in this game. He looked to get his shots up. And that part was good. So was his defence, as he really helped Bennedict Mathurin with some great defensive possessions. His energy was good early on.

But this was a game where some of Black’s bigger flaws came to the fore. He really was never able to get downhill with Magic struggling to get stops and some of his aggression caused him to take some slow shots and his struggles as a shooter were evident.

Black finished with eight points on 3-for-12 shooting. He was right out on that front. But he added seven rebounds and two steals to signal his defensive activity. And he didn’t turn the ball over after seven turnovers in his opener.

Jett Howard has needed some time to get his legs under him. He is a marksman first and therefore will always be judged somewhat on his marksmanship. It has taken some time to get started. But it got going towards the end of this second game. I would almost be curious to see how he plays in a third game – I personally hope that both Anthony Black and Jett Howard play one more game or at least half of one more game.

Howard scored 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting with five assists. He was part of the defense that helped contain Bennedict Mathurin (17 points, 4-for-16 shooting) and he helped move the ball. It never felt like — except for maybe an early shot here or there — he was pushing to take his own shots.

Still, it was difficult for the Magic to get him more involved. Without Kevon Harris on the floor and with Anthony Black looking more aggressively for his own shot, the Magic just didn’t have great ball movement to work the ball to him consistently.

The Magic are having a little trouble seeing everything they need to see from this group. The flaws in this list are becoming more apparent.

Caleb Houston looked like the best player for the Orlando Magic throughout the game. And it was his energy and pick-up that allowed the Magic to get back into the game in the third quarter.

Houston finished with 18 points on 5-for-10 shooting, making just one of its five 3-pointers and seven of its eight free throws. Those latter stats might be the most impressive with Houston because he’s usually limited to being a spot-up shooter. He did well on his drives to seek out contact and finish it. It was a good bit of growth.

His energy on both ends in the third quarter was the spark the Magic needed. It was good for the team to progress.

Still, the poor shooting remains a concern overall for Houston. The Magic need him to be a reliable outside shooter when the season begins and it just doesn’t fall off. Perhaps there is faith that he will get more space and better distance when the main roster is assembled again. But we don’t see that right now in the Summer League.

The Orlando Magic’s core players are certainly exciting and have shown a lot to be optimistic about. But unfortunately, much of that feels hidden with how much the Magic’s Summer League invitees have struggled. Through two games, it’s hard to say any player has stood out enough to warrant taking a two-way contract.

DJ Wilson is not eligible for that two-way contract due to his years of experience in the NBA already. He is the veteran on this team who should make everything easier for the young players.

He does in some respects — he’s a decent screener and has come off the weak side for some good blocks — but he struggles in many areas, especially as an interior presence locking down the glass and ensuring the team can get into its offense.

Wilson scored 10 points with eight rebounds (four offensive and four defensive). He also had five blocks. So there is something good there.

But Wilson consistently ends up switching and on the perimeter leaving the Magic exposed on the interior. And he’s defeated a lot and looked a bit lost as the focal point of the offense that Wendell Carter plays within this offense.

It hasn’t been a good show for him overall.

The Orlando Magic’s Summer League team returns to action on Wednesday against the New York Knicks.

  • Published on 07/11/2023 at 03:50
  • Last updated 07/11/2023 at 03:50

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