Orlando Magic Daily Mailbag Volume 34: The one where the Orlando Magic make the playoffs

The Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder are playing very similarly to start the season. (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder are playing very similarly to start the season. (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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This is a really good question. Like I said, the team’s building future is not likely one that will get determined by the team’s playoff results. But for sure, this playoff series will give the team some look at whether this path the franchise is going down is viable.

It would be nice to see players like Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac step up to the plate and show glimpses they can be major players on this stage.

Game 1 was a mixed bag on that front.

Both Gordon and Isaac hit some absolutely huge shots down the stretch to ensure the Orlando Magic had a chance to win that game. And for long stretches, both their defensive efforts were superb against Pascal Siakam and Kawhi Leonard despite their large scoring games.

That snapshot certainly looked like they could be major players for this team. Their presence and impact were a big part of the national conversation of this Magic team. If that is what Orlando leaves behind in this series, it might well be a success.

Then again, the game came down to D.J. Augustin bailing the team out. And a good chunk of the adjustments for the team will come down to finding ways to get Nikola Vucevic more involved. He remains the best player on the team.

And key future players like Mohamed Bamba and Markelle Fultz remain sidelined with injuries. That is part of the mixed message of the season I described in the previous question. The Magic are still a development outfit but they will buttress that development with enough to keep them winning for the time being.

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So what does the future look like?

The first part of that question is deciding what to do with Nikola Vucevic. If the Magic keep him, their immediate future looks much the same as it does now. They are not likely to believe Bamba is ready to start immediately so they will need a veteran center to start the year for them.

It is still really hard to say whether this year was a flash in the pan, the ceiling for this team or the beginning of things for this group. That is actually probably the central question for management to ask as they make decisions in free agency.

I tend to think this is the beginning of something. Maybe it does not have a limitless ceiling, but the team has built the foundations for something special. Steve Clifford did a great job getting the most out of this roster and it is something they can sustain and carry through. Their Game 1 was evidence that their defensive mentality can travel.

So I think Orlando will probably look to keep this roster together if the price is right and rely on internal improvement to take the next step. The Magic are still a young team and probably ahead of schedule in some ways with this playoff berth.

But there are still a lot of questions. Unlike a lot of teams that make these surprising runs, there does not appear a straight line for improvement.