ESPN.com came out with its regularly released "Future Power Rankings" in the network's attempt to see which team is not only good now, but is set up well for the future.
Obviously, the prospects for the Magic are not the brightest right now. There is no escaping the distinction of having the worst record in the league for the 2013 season. That does not mean the Magic did a poor job setting themselves up for the future though.
ESPN has the Magic as No. 22 team in the league, up from No. 26 in August 2012 (the last time ESPN released a future power rankings). ESPN's criteria include an analysis of the team's current roster, the quality of the team's management, the team's market appeal for free agents, future salary cap space and future draft picks.
For a rebuilding team, the Magic are in decent position. ESPN ranks Orlando sixth in future salary cap space and second in future draft picks. The rebuilding is just beginning, but the national pundits see growth and progress already from the Magic. Kevin Pelton writes:
The package Orlando received for Dwight Howard exceeded expectations, with Nikola Vucevic solidifying the center position and Maurice Harkless starting 59 games at age 19. Hennigan added another cornerstone piece at the trade deadline, plucking Tobias Harris from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for impending free agent J.J. Redick. Harris, Harkless and Vucevic combined to average 44.8 points and 26.6 rebounds after the deadline, and the three players could start together up front for the Magic for the next decade. Patience remains the order of the day in Orlando.
Yes, it is still about the future.
Tracking the Magic's progress in the power rankings shows us this graph:
The future power rankings started when the Magic were at the height of their powers in the 2010 season. They were championship contenders and arguably the best team in all of basketball. Things started going south very clearly in the aftermath of the Hedo Turkoglu/Gilbert Arenas trade and the future really looked bleak once the Dwight Howard situation became increasingly murky.
Orlando is now leveling off it seems and beginning to make its way back toward a brighter future. A good draft here and some shrewd moves should improve the Magic's future prospects in the very near future.