There’s about a seven-month gap between when the Orlando Magic’s 2021-22 season ended and when they’ll start the 2022-23 season.
Luckily, summer league will help fill the void.
Orlando won’t waste time in getting back on the court. With a roster headlined by Paolo Banchero, the No. 1 pick in the June 23 draft, the Magic kick off the Las Vegas summer league against the Houston Rockets at 10 p.m. on Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The matchup will be the first of five games for Orlando. The Las Vegas summer league runs from Thursday through July 17.
The Magic have four games scheduled, with a fifth foe to be determined. After all 30 teams play four games through July 15, the two teams with the best records will play in the championship game two days later. The other 28 teams will play their fifth games on July 16 or 17.
Assistant coach Jesse Mermuys will lead the summer league squad.
Here are five things to keep an eye on while watching the Magic:
1. Paolo Banchero’s debut
All eyes will be on Banchero Thursday, when he makes his debut in a Magic uniform, and every game he plays during summer league.
The attention is understandable. It comes with being the draft’s top pick.
“I definitely embrace it,” Banchero said, adding he understands opponents may try to go after him during summer league. “I’ve kind of always had a target on my back since high school. Going to Duke, it was the same thing. Every guy I went against wanted to get the best of me. It’s going to be the same thing in summer league and the NBA. Just got to be ready for it and accept the challenge.”
How young players, like Banchero, produce in summer league isn’t the be-all and end-all.
Gaudy stat lines with pristine efficiency shouldn’t be dismissed, but the next 1½ weeks of practices and games for Banchero will be about further understanding Orlando’s concepts on both ends of the floor.
“Just getting sharp on that and all the principles on defense,” he said. “It’s a little different from college. Perfecting that and using summer league to work on it.”
2. R.J. Hampton’s development
Entering his third season, Hampton isn’t required play summer league.
But he asked to be. Not only so he can get to know his new teammates better but because he’d benefit from getting reps in a backcourt rotation that’s less congested.
Hampton mentioned his on-ball game is a part of his skillset he’s looking to showcase.
Those opportunities will come easier than they did compared to this past season when he often shared ballhandling duties with Orlando’s young guards (Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs and Markelle Fultz).
Hampton is an elite athlete who gets to the rim with ease but sometimes plays too fast or out of control with the ball in his hands. His progress in this area will be something to monitor.
“There’s a lot of summer to play basketball,” he said. “I only got to play one summer league. My first year, there wasn’t a summer league. Just turned 21 a couple of months ago. It’s a great opportunity for me to get run and get extra reps.”
3. Devin Cannady’s role
Cannady made a big step in his comeback from the open right ankle fracture he suffered in April 2021 when he signed a three-deal year with the Magic on the last day of the 2021-22 season.
There are more steps he needs to take, including showing what he can do further removed from the injury before it’s guaranteed he’ll be on the opening-night roster.
“My biggest thing is my health,” Cannady said about what he’s been working on since the season ended. “The past two months since the season ended was just really focusing on my body from a nutrition standpoint, sleep and just overall healthy. This is going to be my first showcase since before my injury where I can show what I look like and how I can play when I’m healthy.”
Cannady’s $1.75 million salary for 2022-23 and $1.9 million for 2023-24 are nonguaranteed. His salary for next season becomes fully guaranteed if he’s on the roster past Jan. 10, 2023.
Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley mentioned using Cannady, who is 6-foot-2, in multiple roles during summer league — as a point guard, off-ball guard and even as a small forward in small lineups.
Cannady has proven he’s a reliable shooter (39.6% on 3s in NBA, 39% in G League). His performances in summer league won’t make or break his chances of making the roster, but they could help show what he can bring outside of shooting.
“I’ve taken an unconventional journey but being here on a non-guaranteed deal, I’m just trying to show what I can do,” he said. “That’s leading, having good energy and making shots. It’s a great situation.”
4. Caleb Houstan’s usage
Houstan, the Magic’s second-round pick (No. 32), has the potential to knock down 3s and defend at a high level on the wings.
The Magic need it. He also can be more than that.
Houstan, a former 5-star out of Montverde Academy, was projected to be a first-round pick — and at one point top-10 — before his lone up-and-down season at Michigan.
He fits the “3-and-D” mold but showcased his ballhandling skills better with Canada’s national team during the 2021 FIBA Under-19 Basketball World Cup.
Houstan’s usage during summer league could provide a glimpse of where he fits.
“He can be a very capable shooter,” Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman told the Orlando Sentinel. “He has a very team-oriented outlook. He guards. He does a lot of little things that don’t show up in the boxscore. He’s just a very smart, sound player who quietly does winning things.”
5. Who else stands out?
For players with guaranteed deals, summer league is about development.
For players without guaranteed deals or looking to make training camp rosters, summer league is the time to stand out.
Like most summer league teams, the Magic’s roster mostly consists of players who ended last season playing in the G League, played overseas or recently left college.
For many of those players, this will be one of their better opportunities to be scouted and evaluated by all 30 teams before roster decisions for late September and early October are made.
2022 Magic Summer League schedule:
Thursday: vs. Houston, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Saturday: vs. Sacramento, 4 (ESPN)
Monday: Oklahoma City, 9 (ESPN)
July 14: vs. New York, 7:30 (NBATV)
Fifth game: To be determined.
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.