Which point guard do the Orlando Magic need?

Paolo Banchero was visibly sluggish at the end of the Orlando Magic's Game 7 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He left everything on the court and carried the Magic offensively through a 38-point performance in his first career Game 7.

Throughout the series, a huge burden was placed on his shoulders. He was both the main goal scorer and the main playmaker, and he had to throw himself headlong into the box to create for his team.

Banchero was the team's point guard for much of the season, averaging 76.4 touches per game, according to Second Spectrum. That number rose to 87.3 in the playoffs, the sixth-highest number in the league.

He led the Magic in assists with 5.4 per game — trailing only Franz Wagner's 4.0 per game in the playoffs (Wagner had 4.4 assists per game). Wagner was second in assists during the regular season.

Orlando was a different kind of team, playing without a traditional point guard. But even in the playoffs, it became clear that another team still needed something resembling a traditional offense.

The Magic still needed a point guard to add variety to their offense. They needed a playmaker who could get into the box and create easier shots for Banchero and Wagner, the team's two stars. They needed someone who could manage the team and calm it down in the most chaotic moments – remember the three-minute scoring drought when the Magic cut the lead to five in Game 1? A point guard would help there.

Banchero has already thrown down the gauntlet to the Magic to show them what they need. He told the Washington Post that the team needs a “guy who can set the table.” He doesn't see himself as a point guard, but more as an offensive pivot.

In the modern NBA, there is no more important position than the point guard because of the speed and accuracy of the position. But the Magic apparently aren't looking for a natural point guard.

Everyone agrees that the Magic need to find a starting guard to play alongside Jalen Suggs. But what kind of guard is the key question? This is the biggest team-building question the Magic need to answer.

In April, The Ringer put together a Point Guard Field Guide and attempted to categorize the different types of point guards in the league. This is a good guide to answer that question as the Magic enter a critical offseason to add players to the roster and take the next step in unleashing their young stars.

Let's start with what the Orlando Magic have at the point guard position and what options they have.

The team has four players who are considered more traditional point guards – Jalen Suggs, Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony and Anthony Black. Aside from Fultz and Anthony, hardly any of these players can be described as traditional point guards. To illustrate the error in Basketball-Reference's position estimates: Gary Harris is listed as a point guard for 39 percent of his playing time and Jalen Suggs for only 14 percent of his playing time.

The Ringer describes Suggs as an “enabler”; as someone who lets stars be stars. He lets the game-deciding strikers develop their full potential:

“Jalen Suggs and the Magic will put that theory to the test,” wrote Rob Mahoney of The Ringer. “Suggs has been particularly good for Orlando because he creates space for Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner and allows a young team to explore its best and craziest possibilities. The Magic wouldn't be the Magic without him.”

Rob Mahoney, The Wrestler

Of course, there are limitations here too. Players have to accept this secondary role in a world where they have had the ball for so long. D'Angelo Russell struggled to find his role as point guard when LeBron James demanded the ball to organize and create.

Suggs was a perfect fit for the team, toning down the wild drive he had shown in his first two seasons and taking on a role that backed up the Magic's two game-winning forwards. He was perfect in many ways, especially considering his progress as a 3-point shooter.

Banchero is clearly not ready to give the ball away yet. He still wants to make decisions and let things roll off him. Given his passing ability, there is still value in letting Banchero explore that space.

It seems the Magic aren't looking for a full-fledged enabler like Suggs was last season; they're looking for something more. They need something more.

It was clear that the Magic's plan all season was to have Fultz in the starting lineup as a point guard. Injuries have derailed his season and only increased his limitations. It seems unlikely that he will return to the team as a free agent this summer as the Magic look to upgrade and improve their team.

Fultz is best described as a “curator” in The Ringer. He sets everything up for everyone, but is largely unobtrusive and rarely used.

Anthony is the best backup because of his size and penchant for scoring. We don't yet know exactly what kind of point guard Black can be. The Magic used him, like Suggs, as a pathfinder who was largely uninvolved offensively aside from spot-up shooting and cuts.

It should be clear that the Magic need a point guard.

Banchero is not the ball handler that Luka Doncic or LeBron James are. He is not “the system,” even though he played like one last season. He doesn't want to be one, either.

The Magic left the playoffs knowing they needed someone to take the pressure off their forward in terms of ball handling and playmaking.

So what are the Orlando Magic looking for in a guard?

They don't seem to be looking for a point guard who has too much possession and drags the rug out from under them. They want to play a fairly egalitarian offense where everyone can do everything. That kind of role and versatility of skills is at the heart of the Magic's project and idea for the team.

What the Magic seem to be looking for most is the ability to vary their attack. In the playoffs, the Magic could only rely on Banchero or Wagner to drive to the basket. Whether they saw a wall in front of them depended on whether the shooters around them could score and give them space – which they did at the Kia Center, not at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Shooting is a must.

But if there's a reason Orlando is looking for a point guard, it's because the team wants some variety in its game. The team is looking for someone who can add variety and create shooting opportunities for others in different ways.

Are the Magic looking for a multi-player, what The Ringer describes as a “tangent,” someone who can take the offense in a different direction?

These scoring guards bring a different kind of sharpness to the offense. They create imbalance by creating and then going for it, outplaying other stars and giving them more time without the ball.

They place Anfernee Simons, a popular trading item among Magic fans, in this category.

The Magic are definitely trying to improve their offense, and they're looking for a player who can play without the ball — according to Second Spectrum, Simons made 42.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes last year.

Simons is a tempting target because of his ability to elevate his game and become a star if needed. Given their offensive struggles, the Magic likely need another dynamic scorer.

But that may not exactly match the team's needs.

Would the Magic prefer someone who fits in the background – a “curator” to simplify and organize the offense? That's something the Magic need, too.

Fultz was something of a person who could organize and create, but who still stayed largely in the background. Without the ball, he was not a sufficient offensive threat.

A guard who can organize players and put them in the right spots or get the ball into spaces for Banchero to score is certainly something the team should be looking for. Everyone can see the positive impact Mike Conley has had on a young Minnesota Timberwolves team and made that team work, even if it's not quite captured statistically.

Such a guard would be Tyus Jones, another popular free agent target for the Magic. Jones is an excellent passer and a low-turnover player who can hit from the outside. The appeal of him is that he doesn't ask for the ball a ton, but would be someone whose sole job would be to organize and set up the offense.

Even if his potential is limited, the impact of a player who simply organizes is clear. Every team needs calm in the chaos of a game.

The question then is how aggressively the Magic want to use their point guard. Are they looking for someone to take over the games or just manage and organize their team?

5 Orlando Magic transfer targets from playoff teams. dark. Next. Magic transfer targets from playoff teams 05/29/24

There are options. And perhaps the trick to figuring out what kind of point guard the Magic need starts with understanding what they don't need.

Anna Harden

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