The Orlando Magic walked off the floor to the hallway of the Amway Center after finishing their season on Sunday, doing so with an energy not quite similar to that of a team with a 22-60 record.
It helped that the Magic ended the season by tying their single-game 3-point record (23) in a 125–111 victory over the Miami Heat, with both teams making most of their starts.
But Orlando had called off his season because he was talking about Magic coach Jamal Mosley, the first year since he was hired in July.
“Our people understand that there is a bigger picture here than at the moment,” Mosley said on Sunday. “Our people have embraced every single moment; Every single day to get better at every game. That’s how you maintain that energy, and we have a special group of young people. They care so much for each other, keep encouraging each other and fighting for each other.”
This care was shown in moments small and big throughout the seven-month-long regular season: from entertaining postgame walk-off interviews and personal appreciation of each other such as celebrating Franz Wagner’s Rookie of the Month award for December to Markle Fultz. Until wearing a tee. -Shirt when he returned in late February from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
The Magic finally figured out the 2021–22 season, their first full season after starting rebuilding on the March 2021 trade deadline, was more about the development of their young players than their final record.
Progress has been made in terms of development.
Wendell Carter Jr came into his own with the Magic a year after being traded to Orlando from the Chicago Bulls by career-high averages in points (15), rebounds (10.5) and assists (2.8) and a true-shooting percentage (60.1) . %), which is a formula that includes free throws and high-value 3-point shots.
8 pick in last year’s draft, played with a consistency, versatility and efficiency not displayed by most young players, averaging 15.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 2.9 games (in rookies). The most).
Second-year guard Cole Anthony averaged career-high averages in points (16.3), assists (5.7) and rebounds (5.4). Mo Bamba also played a big part in career high points (10.6), rebounds (8.1) and blocks (1.7).
When available, Jalen Suggs showed a defensive presence and passing vision that made him the No. 5 pick in last year’s draft.
Fultz appears to be not a beat, returning from his injury, averaging 10.8 points (47.4 percent shooting), 5.5 assists and 1.1 steals in 20 minutes.
RJ Hampton and Chuma OKK also made strides especially defensively in their development.
The Magic’s defensive rating from January 1 until the end of the season – their final 46 games – was the league’s 10th best score out of 111.3.
“I know the record doesn’t always show what grew up and what happened, but this group of young men stayed together. There’s been an emotion on the court every night and it’s up another level as we move on to the next year. Going to go,” Mosley said. “Our people are excited about it and fans should be extremely excited about it because of the way these young men play and fight for each other, no matter what happens. Ho.”
A common phrase used by many players on Sunday was: “the sky’s the limit.”
“With us being so young, it gives us a chance to really mold everyone,” Carter said. “We are at a perfect opportunity where everyone understands what everyone is capable of and we all like each other. No one is hating each other. Nothing like this is happening. It’s rare.” We got the opportunity to be really special.”
Suggs was one of the players who echoed those words while speaking to the media.
“I mean that wholeheartedly,” Suggs said. “I do not say this with a false belief. I am saying this because I have full faith in it.”
But magic also knows that more steps have to be taken.
And with the amount of young talent they have, with seven lottery picks from 2017 on the roster, leveling up next season will be more difficult than this year’s.
It will help that the Magic will have a 52.1% chance of securing a top-four pick in the June 23 draft, giving Orlando even more talent to build on next season.
Orlando’s odds in the draft will be: 14% for the No. 1 pick; 13.4% for No. 2; 12.7% for No. 3; 12% for No. 4; 27.8% for No. 5; 20% for No. 6
But as Wagner put it, “At the end of the day just potential. It’s up to us to get better and move on.”
Fultz added: “It’s not going to be easy at all. We all understand that. We can be something special, but it won’t be easy. It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of faith, [and] Many lessons. We are all up for that challenge.”
As Magic finalized the season, he felt so confident that the next year and the coming season would bring more success as the foundation he laid during 2021-22 was a strong one to build on.
“One thing we’ve talked about with these guys is the foundation is ready,” Mosley said. “Now it goes down to the little things, the tiniest details that they have to understand what we are trying to do. Another leveling up.”
Or as Carter put it, “We’re going to have twinkling next year.”