5 NBA teams on the rise that will surprise everyone in 2023-24

NBA All-Rookie Team favorites Paolo Banchero & Jabari Smith II (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)
NBA All-Rookie Team favorites Paolo Banchero & Jabari Smith II (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic
Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic -Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

2. Orlando Magic

Is this finally the year the Orlando Magic turn the corner on their rebuild? With Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, and a plethora of young guards, the Magic may no longer need to wish upon a star for a playoff trip.

Orlando has been in the postseason wilderness for a few years and in the title contention thorns for much longer, really ever since Dwight Howard left. The team is finally starting to recognize the core it can build around.

That starts with last year’s first overall pick, Banchero. After much subterfuge about who Orlando would take, it seems like Banchero was the right move. He won Rookie of the Year after averaging 20 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. The sky’s the limit for the Duke product, who won’t even be old enough for his first legal drink when the 2023-24 season starts.

Franz Wagner doesn’t get as many accolades, but the tall small forward was an All-Rookie First Team player a year earlier. He averaged 18.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game for the season. He’s a good-to-great three-point shooter and should be a great second option for Orlando for years to come.

Then, there’s the guard pipeline. This year, they drafted Anthony Black in the lottery (as well as forward Jett Howard, viewed by many as a reach). The other guards on the roster include Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz, Gary Harris, and Jalen Suggs. That’s a crowded backcourt to contend with.

At some point, it will be time for Orlando’s students to graduate into a full-blown team of solid rotation pieces that can compete for the postseason. Don’t be surprised if this is the year.