The Orlando Magic have plenty of questions entering the 2022-23 season, which will tip off against the Detroit Pistons on Oct. 19.
Their training camp, which starts Tuesday at their new state-of-the-art AdventHealth Training Center, should help provide answers.
The Magic’s 2½ weeks between the start of camp and the regular season, which includes five preseason games, will provide insight on the plan for their big men.
Orlando’s bigs include Mo Bamba, Paolo Banchero, Bol Bol, Wendell Carter Jr., Jonathan Isaac, Moe Wagner.
Here are three storylines to monitor once camp starts:
1. Isaac’s status
Isaac’s status and when he’ll return to the floor is the biggest storyline surrounding the Magic.
He’s missed the last two seasons and hasn’t played since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the bubble on Aug. 2, 2020.
Isaac had a setback when he suffered a right hamstring injury that required surgery during his March 15 rehab session — a couple of hours after the team announced he’d miss the remainder of the 2021-22 season.
There have been encouraging signs for his progress.
Isaac hasn’t been seen wearing a brace or sleeve over his left leg during his individual sessions in several months. He also posted an Instagram story of himself dunking in late August after mostly being seen by the media taking standstill jump shots before his hamstring injury.
But it isn’t known if he’s progressed past individual work and played in the pickup games his teammates have participated in over the few weeks.
“As for JI, he’s progressing,” coach Jamahl Mosley said on the Magic’s official podcast, Pod Squad. “He’s following all of the protocols we have for him for rehab. He’s staying on that track day by day and they keep monitoring it to see how he continues to progress. No grand news on time of when [he’ll return], but he stays on the same path every day with his work ethic, habits and wanting to get back out there. Nobody’s working harder.”
The last time Isaac played, he was one of the league’s best defenders and was building a résumé to be considered elite on that end of the floor. That was more than 2½ years ago, but Isaac could still have the skillset to be a high-level defender.
The Magic are looking to build a defensive identity. Isaac could be at the center of this as Orlando’s best defender.
2. What can Bol bring?
Outside of Isaac’s injury status, Bol is the Magic’s biggest unknown.
Since being a second-round draft pick in 2019, he hasn’t put anything substantial on film so conclusions have been difficult to draw on his skillset.
Bol’s averaged 2.7 points (47.8% shooting and 37.8% on 3-pointers) and 1.2 rebounds in 6.2 minutes (328 total minutes) in 53 regular-season games (all with the Denver Nuggets) the last three seasons, including 2.4 points and 1.4 rebounds in 5.8 minutes in 14 games this past season.
The Magic acquired Bol, 7-foot-2 with a 7-8 wingspan, from the Boston Celtics on Feb. 10 ahead of the trade deadline.
Bol, a 22, was sidelined when the Magic acquired him in a trade with the Boston Celtics on Feb. 10 ahead of the trade deadline.
He had right foot surgery on Jan. 18 and was officially ruled out for the season in mid-March before resigning with Orlando in free agency.
It’s clear Bol’s talented.
He was a 5-star recruit in the 2018 class and was expected to be a lottery pick, but only played nine games for Oregon his freshman year before missing the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his left foot that required surgery — causing him to slip in the draft.
Terrence Ross raved about Bol’s mixture of skill, versatility and size on his podcast, The T. Ross Podcast.
How Bol’s skillset will translate to games — and what his role will be — is unknown.
“Bol’s extremely talented,” Mosley said. “He’s also a very good decision-maker. He has a great feel for the game. He has a very good basketball IQ. He understands the when and the where, but it’s been some time since he’s played. That’s the great part about training camp — they’re going to get a feel for the game again. It’s going to take some time to get himself acclimated to being out there again, but he’s extremely talented and capable of so many things. We’re going to have to go through camp to see how we put together the pieces of the puzzle with these guys.”
3. Carter’s progression
Carter’s coming off a breakout 2021-22 season in which he averaged career highs in points (15), rebounds (10.5), assists (2.8) and effective field goal percentage (57.6%) — a field-goal percentage formula that adjusts for 3-pointers being worth more than made 2-pointers.
He started to dominate the simple parts of the game while expanding his skill set on both ends of the floor as the season progressed.
What comes next for him?
The biggest growth for Carter may not be about his on-court skillset, but more so about his leadership.
Coaches and Carter spoke about his growth in this area since coming to Orlando in March 2021.
The Magic need that as a young team looking for someone to step up in that regard.