Moe Wagner stepped up as Magic’s backup center in best season of his career

When speaking about the Orlando Magic’s future and his own during his April 10 exit interview, Moe Wagner consistently used words such as “we” and “us.”

While this won’t dictate how his free agency will play out, it offered insight into how he’s approaching the offseason decision after a career-best 2022-23 season.

“I’ll be honest with you — it’s crazy — I don’t even realize it’s the offseason,” Wagner said. “I can’t believe I don’t have anything to report to tomorrow. I really love this team. I love these guys. Either way, I’m super involved in how this organization will do. That’s kind of where my mind is at.”

Wagner, who averaged multiple career highs, will become an unrestricted free agent this summer once the 2-year, $3.6 million contract he signed with the Magic in August 2021 expires.

He’s currently slated to be the Magic’s lone free agent, with Orlando also holding team options for 2023-24 for multiple players (Goga Bitadze, Admiral Schofield and Michael Carter-Williams).

Wagner, who originally joined Orlando in April 2021, stepped up as the Magic’s primary backup big man for most of the season after returning from a sprained right midfoot in late November.

His averages of 10.5 points, 1.5 assists and 19.5 minutes were career highs. He filled in as the starting center for most of December, including when the Magic won eight of nine games to help turn around their season.

Throughout Wagner’s career, with most of his playing time coming with the Magic, he’s become synonymous with high-energy play and irritating opposing players.

“He plays with an unlimited amount of energy and he’s just out there yelling, getting on the ground, frustrating the other team — just all the little things you have to have,” rookie-of-the-year Magic forward Paolo Banchero said. “You have to have a player like that who’s bringing that energy and has that intensity no matter what.”

But 2022-23 gave Wagner the opportunity to show he brings more than that: off-ball scoring, passing, driving to the rim and screening.

“He brings a little bit of everything,” Banchero said. “He’s a lot more skilled than people realize. He’s a super smart player. Him and his brother [Franz Wagner] are very smart and cerebral. They have very good awareness of what’s going on in the game. Not just what they’re doing, what their man is doing. They know what’s going on with your man and what they see you doing. They’re just very aware. Having him on the court, it’s a big help.”

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