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Magic fanatic Geraint Jones assesses the 2021-22 season and then casts an eye ahead to the 2022-23 campaign for Orlando.

Where my love for the NBA and the Magic came from…

My name is Geraint Jones from Cardiff, Wales. I have been a fan of the Orlando Magic since a family holiday to Orlando in 1997. It all started with a visit to Orlando and using my holiday money to buy myself a memento of the holiday. That turned out to be a black Horace Grant #54, Orlando Magic jersey. Little did I know this would snowball so that the Magic are my favourite team across any sport in the world.

I have been back to Orlando some 13 times since and watched over 50 Orlando Magic games live, be it regular season or playoffs, in Orlando, New York, Brooklyn, Miami and at the Global Games in London.

Before the Global Games back in 2016 a few Magic fans on Twitter and I decided it would be a good opportunity to tell all the fans to meet in a specific pub before the Magic vs Raptors game to meet one another. We did and it was very well attended. This resulted in Mikey Clark and myself starting Orlando Magic UK. We quickly got Paul Bacon on board and have gone from strength to strength in growing the brand and recruiting new members in Gary and Conall.

The Orlando Magic UK crew regularly attend games and organise events and are one of the most active NBA fan groups in the country

We started our now weekly podcast back when lockdown hit in 2020 called ‘Penny For Your Thoughts’ and are approaching 100 episodes having had notable guests on such as Nick Anderson, Darrell Armstrong, Kristen Ledlow, coach Brian Hill, Greg Anthony, Jeff Turner, David Steele, Dante Marchitelli, Bo Outlaw, Admiral Schofield and Magic CEO Alex Martins to name but a few.

Our podcast is available from all podcast providers as well as on YouTube on our Orlando Magic UK YouTube channel. We can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok (all @OrlandoMagicUK) and on our website

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My favourite player

Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz dribbles the ball against the Detrooit Pistons in March 2022
Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz dribbles the ball against the Detroit Pistons

All time, it is no secret that my favourite player is Nick Anderson, the original draft pick of the franchise in 1989, ‘Mr Orlando’ himself. The guy who stole the ball from Michael Jordan in 1995, who spoilt Shaq’s return to the O-Rena in 1997.

From the current batch of players my favourite is Markelle Fultz. Markelle is a true wizard with the ball and we have seen this in flashes as of course he incurred a significant injury in January 2021. I am confident that he becomes our floor general for many years to come!! Mikey’s favourite player is Wendell Carter Jr; Paul, Gary and Conall select Cole Anthony as theirs from the current team!

Grade for last season: C

There were ups and downs, we knew that the season would be a developmental year and it proved to be the case with wins hard to come by. Highlights included beating the Warriors, Anthony’s performance in New York, the development of Franz Wagner and Carter Jr. We hoped to see more out of Jalen Suggs but as a guard in this league it is very difficult in your first year, so we hope he has a better offensive year in 2022-23.

As for what needs to get better… health is the answer to this! A fully healthy Fultz (he’s already picked up an injury again, as did Suggs recently) along with Jonathan Isaac and the No 1 pick in Paolo Banchero can easily propel this team from the foot this year.

The Magic dealt with another season full of injuries with countless games lost during the course of the season lost to injuries and Covid. This resulted in many games being played by eight healthy players and many call-ups from the G-League affiliate, the Lakeland Magic.

The team under rookie coach Jamahl Mosley battled away and we saw players such as Wagner and Carter Jr blossom. We got to enjoy a few wins against the better teams and we hope for many more this season!

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Assessing the offseason for the Magic

Main talking point was where we would be picking and luckily the lottery gods answered our prayers and we ended up picking first. The next point was which of the three prospects should we pick – and from what I have read and seen I believe we made the correct decision in drafting Banchero. Bringing back Bamba and Harris to team-friendly deals was also a great move as we continue to have the flexibility with the cap should we want to make a run at a free agent in the summer of 2023.

We have not seen ‘Bol Bol’ in a Magic uniform in an NBA game as of yet so it will be interesting to see how he does and if Bamba proves invaluable I am sure Magic brass will keep them around next summer. Harris, sadly, has picked up a serious injury, tearing his meniscus last month.

One other thing to note is that Robin Lopez was allowed to walk after one year with the Magic. He proved to be a great veteran leader in the Magic locker room and will be missed.

Overall, I’m very happy with the business done in the offseason, nothing momentous but we drafted well and brought back players who will be key rotation players and kept the balance of the team where it needs to be.

Points of note from the 2022 NBA Draft

Paolo Banchero, right, poses for a photo with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being selected as the number one pick overall by the Orlando Magic
Banchero, right, poses for a photo with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected as the No 1 pick by the Orlando Magic

With the first pick we took Paolo Banchero and Caleb Houstan was taken with the 32nd pick. I’m very happy with these picks. Anytime you get the No 1 draft choice you need to make the right pick and after digesting everything that was said before and after the draft I am sure the Magic got it right. Hopefully now Banchero can do what Shaq and Dwight did after being taken first overall in the past and emulate them or maybe even go one step further by not only taking us back to the NBA Finals, but winning a championship here in Orlando!

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The Magic’s aims for next season

Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac disputes a call with officials during a clash in 2019 – he's endured a very injury-prone NBA career so far
Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac disputes a call with officials during a clash in 2019 – he’s endured a very injury-prone NBA career so far

There is a bit more of an expectation this year with the likes of Fultz and Isaac returning along with the expectation that Banchero will carry as the No 1 overall pick. Fultz’s absence has been felt hard in pre-season games though so it will be another developmental year bringing people along. But we also need to see what we have as a healthy unit. At the end of last season, we were a top 10-rated defense in the league. If this can be sustained throughout the season that will be an accomplishment as will racking up some more wins and completing for a play-in spot.

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Banchero will be key to achieving that objective, and I’m looking for leaps to be made by the other key players in Wagner, Carter Jr, Anthony and Fultz. If those members of the core can have successful seasons individually, then the Magic will make a leap this season.

Three predictions for the season ahead…

  • Markelle Fultz will win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award
  • Orlando will make the Play-In Tournament this season
  • Paolo Banchero will win the Rookie of the Year award

Why should people watch the Magic?

We have put together an exciting young core since the changing of the guard and the Magic shipping out Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon the season before last.

We must be up there as one of those ‘League Pass’ teams to watch for the average NBA fan because of the excitement that the roster possesses. Adding No 1 overall draft choice Banchero to an already young core of Wagner, Suggs, Fultz, Anthony and Carter Jr. has Magic fans salivating at the potential of the team.

Paolo Banchero #5 and Devin Cannady #30 of the Orlando Magic celebrate against the Sacramento Kings during the 2022 Las Vegas Summer League on July 9, 2022 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Banchero and Devin Cannady of the Orlando Magic celebrate against the Sacramento Kings during NBA Summer League

If you watched the team last season, coach Mosley has the team playing with a never-say-die attitude and giving it all until the final horn. Couple this with Anthony’s post game interviews, Fultz’s playmaking abilities and the upside of Banchero, and for us there isn’t a more exciting young core of players in the league!

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