Aaron Gordon represents the future at the end

Apr 13, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) drives to the basket as he is defended by Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lamb (3) during the first half of the game at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 13, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) drives to the basket as he is defended by Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lamb (3) during the first half of the game at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports /

In the Orlando Magic’s final game of the 2016 season, Aaron Gordon proved to be the lone positive. His potential will be the light of a long offseason.

38. Final. 117. 170. 103

Aaron Gordon checked in midway through the first quarter, and it was easy to see his eagerness to play.

Gordon, of course, did not have to play this game. He had missed the last three games with a concussion and was working his way through the concussion protocol. He finally got the go-ahead before the game — the final game of the season — to return from the concussion that had sidelined him just as it seemed like he was getting going.

There was no time to waste.

When he got the ball, he turned and began backing down Marvin Williams. Perhaps because the Magic had been so generally soft physically to that point, Gordon more or less shoved him into the paint. He then turned and flipped the ball into the rim.

Gordon was going to be this aggressive the rest of the night. He would not let this last opportunity in his sophomore season go to waste.

And so it was for much of the rest of the game. With so few Magic players willing to force the issue and play with any kind of energy, Gordon was going to be that guy for Orlando. He was going to attack off the dribble and look for his shot. He was going to get after things defensively some.

He was going to do all the things he does and has done for the Magic all season.

When the dust settled, Gordon did not have any crazy slam dunks that have punctuate his season and set the narrative on his career. This was Gordon looking more like he did in Summer League. Aggressive off the dribble, but patient looking for his shot. And deadly efficient.

Gordon posted 22 points on 9-for-17 shooting. It was his career high in points and field goal attempts. Gordon was not going to be shy on this night.

As much as anyone on the roster, he holds the keys to the franchise’s future.

Yes there are other important players to this team. Nikola Vucevic finished the year as the team’s leading scorer and is a consistent option. Victor Oladipo had the most explosive games and the highest upside among the Magic’s core players. That star turn seems right around the corner. Evan Fournier is the prized restricted free agent, consistent and reliable on both ends — if not spectacular beyond that. Mario Hezonja too shows flashes of his potential and what he can provide the Magic down the road with his playmaking and shooting.

Gordon though is the one that holds the most promise. The one with the right amount of potential and mystery to capture everyone’s imagination. He was the product of those difficult years from the Draft the Magic had seemingly targeted for their star.

On this day when the Magic were seemingly looking forward to the end of the season and just gliding to the finish line, Gordon was the one who took charge and tried — at least tried — to get them interested again.

When the rest of his team followed, Orlando nearly pulled out the win on this lazy game. He took an open 3-pointer and missed, and it all came crashing down again.

Gordon is not a complete player yet. The Magic are not going to be able to rely on him as the team’s primary offensive option even next year. That would be an incredible leap.

But throughout the season, the Magic saw what Gordon can do when he is at his confident and best on the offensive end. Like in Summer League, he can be patient attacking his spot, pulling up for an elbow jumper on a dime or willing himself to the basket for a difficult finish. His athleticism allows so much.

Defensively, he established himself as a quality individual defender, someone the Magic can trust to lock his man down one on one. He improved slowly as a help-side defender.

But what is most impressive about this 20-year-old forward is his calm and composure. He rarely forced action and after every game he had the big picture in mind.

That was no different in this final game.

There will be changes to the Magic this offseason. There will be new players. There will be players departing — likely key players.

Gordon will be the one guy who should remain constant. He will be the one the Magic pin their hopes on for internal improvement and to fit their new reality more than ever. His career too will progress to that point of pressure where he has to make good on his promise.

That is the nature of things in the NBA.

Improvement is expected and pressure always springs forward. The Magic want their players and their team to take that next step forward. Gordon clearly feels that pressure too for his third season — and hopefully his first healthy offseason.

Aaron Gordon with his limitless potential is the embodiment of what the Magic can be still. There is still the opportunity for this team to grow and take that step forward.

Next: Orlando Magic falls to Charlotte Hornets in finale

No matter who returns to the roster, this is a team that is knocking on the door and looking for a way in. Gordon could be the key to breaking this Playoff drought and making these four hard years worth it in the end.