Orlando Magic opting to rebuild with point guard decision

CHICAGO, USA - DECEMBER 20: Jerian Grant (2) of Chicago Bulls in action during an NBA basketball match between Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic at United Center in Chicago, Illinois, United States on December 20, 2017. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, USA - DECEMBER 20: Jerian Grant (2) of Chicago Bulls in action during an NBA basketball match between Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic at United Center in Chicago, Illinois, United States on December 20, 2017. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic’s decision to acquire Jerian Grant to help at point guard seems to signal the team is planning to rebuild and focus on their youth.

Orlando Magic fans were salivating, imagining all the best-case scenarios and highlights that might come.

Word had leaked the Magic were in discussions with Isaiah Thomas, the former Boston Celtics All-Star. Depending on which reporter you believed, the team was either close to a contract negotiating the length and years or they were merely in discussions with his representatives.

Just having the team’s name attached to such a major name, even with his baggage from last year, was enough to get everyone excited.

This site got in on it, pondering what a healthy Thomas could bring to the team. Isaiah Thomas’ former college teammate Terrence Ross liked a tweet linking to that article. And there was that odd Twitter watch of Thomas following the Magic recently and several Magic players engaging with him on social media.

Indeed, it felt like a low-risk move for a team desperate for some help at point guard and desperate for a primary scorer. It would provide an instant boost to a team desperately in need of attention and a spark.

Of course, that is not the only part of the equation. Thomas was coming off a major hip injury that sapped some of his athleticism and his efficiency. He needed some time to get back into rhythm.

And even with all that, Thomas is a poor defender. Could the Magic cover for his defensive shortcomings with their young group.

Are the Magic really ready to push in to make the Playoffs, even in the weakened Eastern Conference? And how would putting the ball in Thomas’ hands affect the development of Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba?

All these questions may have been too much to answer. It appears their interest in Thomas has cooled. And, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, the Magic merely discussed the possibility of signing Thomas internally and never formally offered a contract.

Orlando seemed to move on — although perhaps the team has not with most of its mid-level exception still available — in acquiring Jerian Grant in a three-team trade that sent Bismack Biyombo to the Charlotte Hornets.

Grant is a bit of a tweener. He is a 6-foot-4 guard that has tried to learn how to play the point guard position but does not have the shooting to play off the ball too much. Last year, he averaged 8.4 points and 4.6 assists per game on a 47.5 percent effective field goal percentage. He was a part-time starter, averaging about 22 minutes per game for the Chicago Bulls.

Grant has a long way to go and a lot of development on the way. He was a shaky defender at times, despite his physical advantages. The question is whether he can put things together in yet another new environment. Orlando is at least willing to give him that chance.

The Magic have filled at least one of their slots at point guard. They also added Isaiah Briscoe a few days ago. And it is still widely expected the Magic will sign Troy Caupain to a two-way contract.

The Magic then might have a glut at point guard full of young, unproven players and D.J. Augustin. The team may not yet have its long-term solution at point guard but the signal now is the team is going to remain young and focus on rebuilding.

Orlando, it would seem, is fully committed to the young players it has collected. The team seems committed to an ideal style of player — long, defensive-minded and versatile — over immediate results.

For the moment, the Magic seem to believe building their culture and their identity is more important right now.

Grant, at his best, is a rangy defensive guard. His shot and his offense are still a work in progress. And in three years, Grant has yet to make good on the talent that made him the 15th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

This is a project for sure, no sure thing. If fans were looking for an upside play that would help the team immediately, Isaiah Thomas certainly has more upside with all the same risks and uncertainties that a Jerian Grant/D.J. Augustin point guard platoon might give.

But that is not what the Magic are looking to do. At least, that is what they signalled in this move.

A Twitter follower to @omagicdaily asked whether the Magic actually made any gains in acquiring Jerian Grant and Timofey Mozgov over Shelvin Mack, whom the team waived in June, and Bismack Biyombo. Maybe that is a fair thing to say.

Orlando saves a bit of money in their new duo and they no longer have the pressure of paying a $17 million-per-year player in Biyombo. Although, Timofey Mozgov is owed $16 million in each of the next two seasons.

But it is also clear the Magic are looking to embrace their young players and want young players to fill the majority of their rotation.

They want the ball in Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba’s hands. They want those players to get the attention and care. More importantly, the Magic are trying to find a type and fill in that type.

Grant fits that type with his 6-foot-7 wingspan (that word again) and his 6-foot-3 height. He will be able to defend both guard positions. That is part of the ethos and type the team wants.

That trumped any short-term jolt the team could get.

Then again, the Magic still have plenty of money to spend through their mid-level exception. Maybe that is not enough to find a starter. But Thomas is still sitting out there if the team wants to circle back to him. And it still feels like Orlando’s summer is just getting started.

It was hard to imagine the Magic moving Biyombo’s contract this summer — although they exchanged him for another bad contract.

Next: Orlando Magic's versatility on display to whet the appetite

For now, it seems like the Magic are rebuilding again. That was what seemed in the offing when the team transitioned to this offseason. It feels cemented now that the Magic will focus on rebuilding their young players rather than tyring to push them faster than they can go.