Orlando Magic do not intend a new rebuild

Mar 5, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10) shoots a layup as Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) and forward Markieff Morris (5) look on during the second half at Verizon Center. The Washington Wizards won 115-114. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10) shoots a layup as Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) and forward Markieff Morris (5) look on during the second half at Verizon Center. The Washington Wizards won 115-114. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic face a lot of questions this offseason in what direction to move their franchise. Rebuilding is not one of the solutions for them.

Whenever a team fails to accomplish its goals in a season, there are always two thoughts and two ways forward.

There is the keep believing in your core path. The team may have fallen short of its goals or even reached them and there are reasons to believe in continued growth. The season may have fallen short, but the outlook is still generally positive.

There is the blow-it-all-up path. A team has reached its peak and can go no further. Its failure was either the inevitable end for a group or such a bitter disappointment that nothing seems salvageable.

There are paths in between, but this is ultimately the decision that awaits every team at the end of the season — to keep moving forward or to start over and try again.

The Orlando Magic certainly have an argument to go down either path.

Last summer saw the Magic try to push all their chips in, clearing cap room to supplement their young core and speed up the process to make the Playoffs.

That plan did not work. The team’s 29-win season was disappointing in every way. The only silver lining is that it landed them the sixth overall pick in a Draft that looks like it will have potential star players.

After failing to improve their win total for the first time in four seasons and after failing to make the Playoffs for the franchise-long fifth straight season, the team hit the reset button on the front office. The first act of what promises to be a busy offseason was to fire general manager Rob Hennigan.

The Magic though are not ready to pack it in. Not completely.

Change is inevitable after such a frustrating season. The team has to be realistic with its outlook. No one player the Magic can acquire is likely to turn the team from a 29-win team to a 59-win team overnight.

But Orlando is not going to restart from scratch. Some of the faces may change but the team is not about to (purposefully) head back to the Lottery anytime soon. The team sees itself in the former category — a team retooling after a disappointing season — rather than entering a rebuild.

The team sees itself in the former category — a team retooling after a disappointing season — rather than entering a rebuild.

Everyone is talking like the 2017 season was a blip on the radar and that the team can course correct quickly. The 2018 season will promise change, but it will not bright it wholesale change.

Winning remains the goal sooner rather than later.

"“I think our mindset is to win now,” Magic coach Frank Vogel told Orlando Magic Daily. “I’m hopeful that whoever we bring in here shares that approach. I think our fans have endured enough losing. It’s time to get this thing into the Playoffs as quickly as we can. That’s my mindset.”"

Vogel is not one to bypass winning and winning immediately. He came to Orlando believing the franchise had a Playoff team ready to emerge. That belief remains.

His presence with the team during the summer and some coaching continuity will certainly help the team improve even without some change.

Ultimately, though, the Magic’s ability to create some change for next season and make next year different relies on the players. Orlando will see a new infusion of talent through the Draft, where the team has four selections in the top 35 picks.

But success or failure will lie with the team that returns. Largely, much of last year’s roster will return. The Magic have only $13-16 million in cap room to spend. That is hardly enough to make any meaningful change.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

A more dramatic change to the roster does not seem in the cards. On top of the pressure to make the Playoffs sooner rather than later to break this franchise-long drought, the team will have to work with many of the same players.

Orlando needs players on the current roster to buy in and improve in a major way too.

"“I think we’ve all seen it, we were a little too selfish,” Bismack Biyombo told Orlando Magic Daily at the team’s exit interviews after the season. “We have to find a way to be unselfish. We have to play to win the basketball game. If we all cared about really winning the basketball game, we wouldn’t be here.“That’s why you see Indiana making the Playoffs, Chicago making the Playoffs, Milwaukee making the Playoffs and we’re not. We have to have a certain type of identity and we have to establish that early in the year. Even if we didn’t early in the year, we still had the time to catch up. I don’t think it was impossible, but I just believe this summer is going to be great for all of us — players, coaches and the whole organization.”"

Is it just a matter of recommitting the team to winning? Is it a matter of just committing to a play style and buying into an identity?

The Magic seemed to discover something closer to an identity at the end of the season. A full summer understanding both the players and what the coaching staff wants should lead to some improvement. At least, theoretically.

Bismack Biyombo was not the only player to bring up other teams like the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks. The Magic clearly believe they have the talent to compete with those teams and get to where they were this past season.

The team has the confidence in itself that it can take that next step quickly. If given the chance, that is.

"“Honestly, I think we’re a lot closer than it seems,” Elfrid Payton told Orlando Magic Daily. “Especially we got the offense going now. We’re putting up points. I think we have to establish a defensive identity. Obviously we were doing a lot of switching. Just being more flexible with that. Obviously we have rim protection. Just continue to work on that with the guys we have here. I think we have guys that can do it. Like me on the perimeter, we all need to improve. That will be the biggest thing and we will be right there. Along with that continuity of staying together.”"

Whether the team retains any continuity is not up to them, of course. As much confidence as the Magic seemed to have in each other and themselves, the cold reality is that this team is not good enough as presently constructed.

Even after the All-Star Break, the Magic were not a strong team. They were just 8-16 and had the 26th best offense and 25th best defense by offensive and defensive rating. That is not the profile of a Playoff team. That .333 win percentage after the All-Star Break projects to 27 wins in an 82-game season.

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Orlando needs an influx of talent to get where the team wants to go. Not everything can be the same.

A summer of continuity with the coaching staff will bring improvements. But so too will having a better understanding of the roster and what works and does not work within Vogel’s style.

The turnaround may not come right away. This is a team in transition. It is transitioning from one plan to the next. And a lot of what happens next depends on the direction the team goes with the sixth overall pick in the 2017 Draft and the vision the new president of basketball operations has for the franchise.

The only thing that is clear is that both player and coach believe things can change fairly quickly.

More importantly, so too does the front office.

"“I don’t see this as a rebuild,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said in his postseason press conference. “I see this as new leadership to take what we have done thus far to a new level. To take that foundation that I do believe we have and take us to another place. To develop that culture, most important, for our basketball program to help our organizationa nd our players understand what it takes to win.”"

The Magic will have to spend their offseason figuring out how to make all these pieces work, of course. That falls on Frank Vogel, interim general manager Matt Lloyd and the front office to figure. They are all in a better position to do that this summer than they were last summer.

Martins, in his postseason press conference noted the team still has some needs to fill to put around that foundation. In his words, “We don’t have enough.”

The Magic will have to find a better mix of talent, some veteran leadership and a new commitment to winning.

There is opportunity to find all of this. The Magic can get a new mix of talent through the draft. They can be shrewd and selective in free agency. And the pieces that do not fit, they can explore the trade market again.

Orlando, it would appear, is going to explore every avenue to improve the team in the short-term. All the while keeping to a longer-term vision of the team.

Next: 2016-17 Orlando Magic Player Evaluations

But the team is not planning on starting over from scratch. Not any time soon.