The Orlando Magic must follow a game plan that consists of trading all possible veteran assets, making a decision on Aaron Gordon, and focusing on youth.
After an eternity of despair and defeat, it seemed the Orlando Magic had finally righted the ship early this season.
With an impressive 8-4 record, the Magic put the NBA on notice. A new contender would emerge in the East. But this turned out to be a pipe dream. The Magic peaked at 8-4 and now hold an abysmal 15-35 record.
The game plan has changed as the team is no longer a playoff contender. Due to excessive injuries and general ineffectiveness of potential breakout players, this year has become a lost season. Orlando holds the second worst record in the league. The team is focused on ping pong balls more than Playoff matchups.
But there is still a way to salvage this season. The Magic must follow a game plan that consists of trading their veteran assets, making a decision on Aaron Gordon and focusing on youth.
That will set the team up for the future.
Despite the team’s relative youth, the Magic are filled with veteran role players who, while together produce mediocre results, would be valuable to potential playoff teams.
Some experts and writers have used the excessive injuries this season as excuses for the team’s derailment. But really, the team is not built to be anything in today’s NBA.
The team, even when every player is healthy, is mediocre at best and a 20-win team at worst.
Five years since Dwight Howard left, the team has very little to show for these years of rebuilding. Jeff Weltman and John Hammond need to realize a team with a core featuring Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier cannot win. The team should focus on showcasing and then trading all possible veteran assets.
For the past five years, the team has taken a halfway in, halfway out approach to the rebuild. It has proven to be a failing method.
Management must decide what route the team should take.
Trading veterans for young, controllable and athletic assets, and draft picks in this loaded class is step one to the team’s gameplan.
But it all starts with the decision and valuation of Aaron Gordon.
Gordon is the closest the team has to a major building block and is currently experiencing a breakout season. He has always had the athleticism, but this year he has put it all together and has added an effective deep shot.
Gordon is averaging a career-high 18.4 points per game and a career-best 34.6 percent from beyond the arc. Gordon’s breakout season is coming at the perfect time for him. Contract years give plenty of impetus to play well. The Magic seem prepared to give him a max contract or match any offer he might receive this summer.
The Magic need to make their decision on Gordon’s future now. They must know what they will do. Orlando needs either to trade Gordon or decide to resign him at the end of the season, no matter the cost.
If the Magic are able to complete step one (trading veteran assets), the team would have the money to sign Gordon to a lucrative contract and still stay somewhat near the cap.
This leaves the option of a trade. It is something the team must consider if they do not want to shell out more than $80 million during free agency.
The team needs to make a decision now if they want to keep this core, if they want to rebuild with Gordon and draft picks at the center, or want to completely deconstruct.
In any case, the Magic must refocus on their youth the rest of this season. That is still the future for the team.
Jonathan Isaac’s prolonged injury makes this step a little more difficult. But it is still imperative to play him and other young players. The Magic continuously get high lottery picks that just miss the elite talent.
There is only so much the Magic can control in a Lottery system.
It is quite simple, after the team trades veteran assets for young players and picks, the team focuses on youth over all else rest of the year.
In this, the team accomplishes two goals. First, young players who have had to spend some time in the G-League and at the end of the bench will get a chance for valuable reps. Players like Khem Birch, Wesley Iwundu and Jamel Artis should get their chance to play on the main roster.
Second, the team will lose and secure a top draft pick. The NBA is a superstar-driven league. Adding a top-tier talent like Marvin Bagley, Deandre Ayton or Trae Young would greatly accelerate the rebuild.
There have been reports that have stated the Magic might wait to deal veterans until the offseason. The team cannot waste another season and keep all of the decisions for the offseason.
Making choices on veteran players allows the team to evaluate young talent this year. And it would help the Magic land a higher draft pick.
This team has been in a gray area for years, it is time to commit to a rebuild.