Orlando Magic must continue to be patient during rebuild

The Orlando Magic's Victor Oladipo (5) and Tobias Harris (12) celebrate amid a 92-87 win against the Toronto Raptors at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Friday, Nov. 6, 2015. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic's Victor Oladipo (5) and Tobias Harris (12) celebrate amid a 92-87 win against the Toronto Raptors at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Friday, Nov. 6, 2015. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) /

People are pushing for the Orlando Magic to move Aaron Gordon. That would be a mistake and they do not have to look far into their past to see why.

In 2016, the Orlando Magic seemed to be one of the better young teams with a rising star in Victor Oladipo and very strong players in Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic. Then they added promising young players in Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon, entering their sophomore years, with rookie Mario Hezonja starting to find his way.

This team seemed primed to be one of the future contending teams of the Eastern Conference. The Magic, after years of rebuilding, got off to a 19-13 start into January. They seemed poised to turn the corner.

Of course, that was until everything fell apart.

The team won only two games in January that month. They tried desperately to rescue the season with a trade for a pair of veterans and hoped free agency would solve all their problems.

It was a hurried and short-sighted plan after years of meticulous drafting and maybe haphazard growth. The organization had lost patience and then-general manager Rob Hennigan had to push the team’s pace.

That was ultimately his undoing. The team was not playing up to expectations and he was backed into a corner.

Orlando lost patience as an organization — whether that was Hennigan’s doing or from above. But it is this patience that characterizes the new management group.

With the Magic seemingly taking a step back to hold the eighth seed at 14-18, the Magic have to stick to their plan and remain patient. They have to recognize this is still a team rebuilding and still young enough to keep growing.

The team, to some extent, is still trying to get itself out of that corner. New president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman has focused on building a better infrastructure to foster player development, with new investment from management that Rob Hennigan perhaps did not have (or earn).

Jeff Weltman picked the right coach in Steve Clifford to make the most of the roster he had held over. That helped the team make the playoffs and the Magic saw something that could work moving forward.

There was something to build on now that the Magic had stopped their six-year playoff drought. That was not something to discard.

The Magic have remained patient during this rebuild after the previous front office suffered the consequences of trying to speed up the process. As of now, general manager John Hammond and president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman have done an outstanding job and have the Magic going in a positive direction.

They must continue to be patient throughout this process to make sure they do not make the same mistakes the previous regime made.

That was most evident when the Magic fell in the 2016 season and the team’s cracks eventually led to their fatal mistake.

During the 2016 season, the Magic got out to a strong 19-13 start. But the young team fell apart and ended up finishing the season with a 35-47 record.

But as a young team that is not a bad record as the season was still a 10-win improvement from the previous year. Orlando clearly had flaws in the roster, but this was still a young team learning to win.

Then-coach Scott Skiles seemed to be the right guy to build discipline in the young roster. There was still room to grow.

The problem was that Hennigan made trades to speed up the rebuilding process that completely backfired. The team no longer had organizational unity.

The first transaction occurred at the trade deadline that sent Tobias Harris to the Detroit Pistons for Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings. Ersan Ilyasova has made himself into a rotation player with the Milwaukee Bucks, but he struggled to find any traction in Orlando.

Meanwhile, Harris turned himself into a high-level starter for a contending team in the Philadelphia 76ers after strong runs with the Detroit Pistons and LA Clippers.

Things got even worse behind the scenes. While the team was at the NBA Draft Combine, Scott Skiles abruptly resigned. Reports suggested there were significant and fundamental disagreements between coach and general manager that could not get reconciled.

The team not only had lost its patience with the rebuild, but not everyone was moving and working in the same direction. That led to a franchise that was flailing for anything positive.

That led to the other trade that sent the Magic down the road to ruin.

On draft night, the Orlando Magic traded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Serge Ibaka. Oladipo’s development with the team had seemingly stagnated, but it was not for a lack of his talent. He is now an all-star with the Indiana Pacers.

Giving up Sabonis seems to be the worst part of that deal. He is now on his way to becoming a first time all-star also with the Pacers.

The Magic hoped Serge Ibaka would provide a strong defensive base to pair with Nikola Vucevic (or Bismack Biyombo, I guess) and increase his offensive output in a more featured role.

Ibaka briefly did this and he averaged a career-high that season. But he quickly became disengaged as the season got lost. the Orlando Magic traded him to the Toronto Raptors to recoup some value in Terrence Ross. Ibaka was moved during that same season to the Raptors.

These were considered win-now moves. Along with using the cap space the Magic freed up that summer to sign Bismack Biyombo, D.J. Augustin and Jeff Green, they hoped they built a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.

These trades ended up setting the Magic back and finished the following season with a 29-53 record. The Magic cleaned house and moved on.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The Magic experienced some success last year in making the playoffs at 42-40. They got a taste of success.

At this point in the rebuild, there is a portion of the Magic fanbase that is trying to create pressure for the front office to make a win-now move. This notion was ignited after a rumor came around that the Orlando Magic were interested in San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan, and speculation arose that it would be a swap for Aaron Gordon.

That would be repeating the same mistake. The Magic must build to be competitive for the future, not for the next few years.

This does not mean they intend to lose and focus on the future. Making the playoffs is still the team’s primary goal.

This is a sign that the Magic are heading in the right direction even if it is to make a first-round exit. Every move the Magic makes must have some eye on the bigger picture, not merely on achieving some short-term success.

This is why the team acquired Markelle Fultz at last year’s deadline. That was an investment — an investment that already seems to be paying off.

People are pushing to move on from Gordon and make some splashy move.

That would be a mistake that will set the Magic back again. They must look at their recent past to learn from their mistakes and make sure they build this team right.

Next. Orlando Magic's foundation still fragile. dark

Right now, Orlando must remain patient and measured with their building and approach.