First Take’s Stephen A. Smith says he likes what he see’s in Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic Aaron Gordon (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Orlando Magic Aaron Gordon (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

As the Orlando Magic lick their wounds from the gruesome five-game playoff series against the Toronto Raptors, the organization gets a blessing from the national media.

They are almost there.

The Orlando Magic won Game 1 of their first-round matchup against the Toronto Raptors only to lose four straight to the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

Another poor shooting night from the Magic’s perimeter player resulted in another double-digit loss for the team. This loss eliminated them from a potential playoff run and has now fast forwarded them to the offseason. An interesting offseason to say the least.

This offseason is one where there will be legit expectations for the team for the upcoming year. There will be a different vibe about the organization looking to repeat its success or even make it to the second round of the playoffs next year.

The Magic exceeded everyone’s expectations and broke through that black cloud that was hovering over the franchise since Dwight Howard left in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Magic received national attention for how well they played throughout the year. Many pundits and journalist respect what is brewing in Central Florida.

Even Stephen A. Smith was quoted on First Take on Monday praising the Magic.

"“Toronto is going against a Orlando Magic team that have young athletes but don’t really know how to play as well as they will. They have a lot of improved, they are going to be a vastly improved team in years to come. I like what they are doing in Orlando, but they are clearly young and not ready yet.”"

Stephen A. Smith makes an interesting point. They aren’t ready yet.

The Magic made drastic improvements as a whole. The proof is the winning streaks during the year and the playoff berth they earned. They got the Raptors’ attention in Game 1 but still were not ready to win home playoff games after they stole home court from the Raptors.

As coach Steve Clifford said after Game 5, the Magic struggled to raise their game as the playoff series wore on. Meanwhile, the Raptors got better and better offensively as the series continued, eviscerating a venerable Magic defense.

That speaks to the youth of this group. This was the first time most of the core players on the Orlando roster played in any meaningful games. This was the first experience for a young team.

And it was the first time for a reason.

The Magic have been terrible since 2012. They were far out of the playoffs and an also-ran in the league for years. With much of the same players from last year’s team, no one thought they would make it this year either.

All this was unexpected. This is a team that finished 14th in the Eastern Conference with a 25-57 record just last year. Anyone who predicted this turnaround would have been labeled delusional.

The last time the organization had legit playoff hopes in the offseason after the Dwight Howard era is when the organization shocked the world in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Building off a 35-win season, the Magic pushed all their chips in trading Victor Oladipo and the draft rights to Domantas Sabonis to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Serge Ibaka.

Orlando believed it was shoring up some defensive deficiencies and force fitting an identity to make that postseason push. It was a rushed and short-sighted decision made only worse with Oladipo’s sudden rush to stardom a year after the trade.

Nevertheless, that decision came with expectations for a playoff berth in the offseason. The Magic thought they had found their veteran player to take them to the next level.

Now three years later, the Magic have actually made the Playoffs but have done so with a different style of play. They have actually developed their players and have seen improvement from players they where looking to see growth from.

Particularly Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac.

When all is said and done this offseason there will be two players that will be labeled untouchable — along with likely young players Mohamed Bamba and Markelle Fultz. Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac will be the two unquestioned leaders of the team going forward.
Their battle in the playoffs on the court against the Raptors bodes well for their future together.

As Stephen A. Smith said, the Magic were not ready yet for this stage and this series. But who knows how much more improvement a player will make from year to year? Gordon and Isaac could begin to potentially turn into rising stars over the offseason.

In Game 4, Gordon scored 25 points grabbed seven rebounds and had five assists. These are the type of stat lines from games the Magic will need from him in order to take the next step.

For example, who knew Giannis Antetokounmpo who be considered the best player in the NBA and leading the Milwaukee Bucks to a better record than the Golden State Warriors the next year after he lost to the Boston Celtics in the first round? Things can change in the NBA, really, really fast.

Next. Orlando Magic offensive woes doom playoff hopes. dark

But the early consensus is the Magic made the nation aware they have a bright future and could be a team on the rise for next year.