Seeing the forest through the trees

Mike Stobe/Getty Images/ZimbioThere is a final picture to this crazy puzzle that Rob Hennigan is trying to put together. For those outside the inner offices of Amway Center, that picture does not look so clear. What the Magic will look like in 2016 or 2017 when the team should be preparing to contend again is a complete mystery.

There are a few pieces here and there that seem to make the most sense for the long-term future of the franchise.

In two short years, Nikola Vucevic has shown he can be a strong rebounder in the league and a versatile offensive option, if not still in need of some improvement on the defensive end. Tobias Harris had a fantastic final half to the season after the trade from Milwaukee, enticing fans with his versatility. Maurice Harkless showed a ton of potential as a defensive athlete and his offensive game appears to continue to be growing.

Then there is the draft pick in Victor Oladipo, a hard-nosed and experienced defensive player with improving offensive skill and the will to become great in the league (even after just one week in Summer League).

Then, of course there are the veterans such as Glen Davis, Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson who provide leadership and a calming presence in both the lineup and the locker room.

In all, these are nice pieces. Fitting them together is another issue. Fitting them together to field a team for the 2014 season while still being mindful of that long-term plan is a completely different matter too.

That is the balancing act Rob Hennigan has had to examine as he continues this rebuild project. The plan is clearly to build around the 2014 Draft and the potential cap room Orlando will have in 2014 and 2015. Orlando's projected payroll has them in line to have somewhere around $10-12 million in cap room in 2014 with no guaranteed contracts (at the moment) set for the summer of 2015.

The ability to plan for the future and have flexibility was key in the wake of the Dwight Howard trade, and in two short years the Magic will have that once again with the ability to go in a number of different directions once all that cap room is freed up.

Jonathan Daniels/Getty Images/Zimbio That is in the future though and the formation of the puzzle that Rob Hennigan is putting together will not truly be formed until the Magic reach that summer (which will include whatever Draft pick comes out of the 2014 Draft).

As we have seen though, putting together a team for the 2013-14 season has been one-half stop gap and one-half mining for talent.

Even before the Draft, Hennigan was thinking about filling a need for a player that fits the team's long-term goals rather than someone who would come in and fill an immediate need.

"I think we're going to take the player that we feel make sthe most sense for us," Hennigan said before the draft. "That may not necessarily mean the most sense for training camp, let's say. It may mean that. It's going to come down to what we believe is in the best interest of our team. That's not really a factor that would sway us against anything.

"We get to look at both [long-term and short-term needs]. I think where we're at right now, we probably take a little bit of a longer view than a shorter view maybe. Again, that's open for debate and constant evaluation."

So when the Magic drafted Victor Oladipo, it did not matter that they had Arron Afflalo just like it probably would not have mattered that the team already had Nikola Vucevic if they went the Nerlens Noel route or how it did not matter that the Magic already had Glen Davis and Andrew Nicholson when they acquired Tobias Harris.

The Magic are still in asset collection mode. They want to assemble the right pieces for when the puzzle comes into clearer view. Where the current players fit on that roster is not necessarily clear. Day-to-day improvement is important, but it still seems like it is about the long-term projections.

The one thing that did seem important was getting a player who could contribute to that long-term plan. They seemed to have at least done that in drafting Victor Oladipo. After he took that cold-blooded game-winning shot against the Sixers in Summer League, the Magic (everyone) was raving about his maturity and skill to make and even take that shot.

"He looked comfortable to me and that's why we didn't call timeout," James Borrego said. "It looked like he wanted the ball in the end. He looked like he had been in that moment before. That's a special talent, skill, mentality, whatever you want to call it to be able to take a shot like that. The comfort to fill up that pressure in that moment, that's a big piece for us moving forward."

Of course, Summer League has been a notoriously bad predictor of regular season success. It is more about finding out who cannot play rather than who can. Oladipo at least showed that he will have a chance at making it in this league.

Elsa/Getty Images/ZimbioWhat the Oladipo clearly came to represent though was the work ethic and attitude the Magic wanted to bring to the organization. Oladipo already has a reputation for his hard work mentality. That is the reputation that reported signing Ronnie Price brings with him and free agent power forward Jason Maxiell brings with him. Nevermind if they do not fit the long-term plans as far as their place on the roster (both are 30 years old). 

That is what perhaps matters least at this point.

What matters at this point is building that foundation and thinking about the long-term for the Magic. It is easy to focus in on the day-to-day for the Magic. After all, Orlando still has to sell tickets for the 2013-14 season. 

The forest though still is where the Magic's focus is. They are planting trees right now.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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