After completely shaking up their roster courtesy of the Trade Deadline, two of the Magic’s big men have quickly impressed in their new roles. Both Wendell Carter Jr. and Chuma Okeke have shown plenty of potential in Orlando’s recent West-Coast trip, leading the 14th seeded Magic to three wins in their last five games, including a 115-110 OT win over the Pelicans. In those five games, Okeke has been an effective player while on the court, averaging 15.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and 2.6 APG in 29.8 MPG. Carter Jr. has also started off hot for Orlando, averaging 13.3 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 1.3 BPG, including a 21-point, 12-rebound outing against New Orleans. Initially, the trading of Nikola Vucevic didn’t sound good, but now it has opened up loads of opportunities for Carter Jr. and Okeke.
Wendell Carter Jr.’s Impact
Instead of just taking future draft picks in exchange for Vucevic, Orlando got a more established player in Carter Jr. back, and he’s quickly paid dividends for the 17-31 Magic. Carter Jr. is one of the NBA’s few centers that showcases great hands and coordination. In addition to catching nearly every pass thrown his way, Carter Jr. has made excellent decisions after the catch, contributing to his career season. Carter Jr.’s post-game has also been special to watch. While in the paint against the Pelicans, Carter Jr. made an amazing move while guarded by Steven Adams. Carter Jr. drove left toward the baseline, then spun back and finished with a jump hook. Carter Jr.’s defensive presence has been impressive, too, as he’s been a force toward opposing offenses in the paint. As Carter Jr. continues to develop his skills, he’ll only get better as the Magic’s primary center.
Chuma Okeke’s Impact
There’s no doubt that Okeke was disregarded as soon as he was drafted in the 2019 NBA Draft. Okeke simply didn’t have a role while sitting behind Vucevic and Aaron Gordon on the depth chart. But he finally got his shot in the starting lineup after the departure of Vucevic and Gordon. Okeke didn’t disappoint, notching a career-high 22 points against the Trail Blazers, along with an 18-point performance against the Clippers. Okeke has quickly become one of the NBA’s best big-men shooters. On the season, Okeke is shooting 42.8% from the field and 40.0% from downtown. In his last five games, however, Okeke is shooting 60.5% from the field and 50% from downtown, providing the Magic a stroke of much-needed shooting. Okeke is still far from becoming the face of the franchise for the Magic, but his shooting skills will go a long way for an average shooting team.