The Orlando Magic face some big decisions as the trade deadline draws near and a big summer is ahead. How should they evaluate their assets?
At this time last year, nobody knew what to make of the Orlando Magic.
This was a team with some interesting young players and a coach who was good at establishing a foundation that had not found itself yet. Nikola Vucevic was named an All-Star, the team’s first in seven years, but his team was no closer to breaking through to the playoffs.
The Magic seemed like a team that had big decisions to make about their future. It seemed like this was a team that was finally ready to make a reset.
The trade deadline passed with only a future-looking move for the Magic. The team did not trade away either of their free agents. Instead, they took a risk on a reclamation project in Markelle Fultz.
The team was locked in.
Suddenly things picked up for the team. Jeff Weltman’s — and Steve Clifford’s — instincts about his team was correct. They had a run in them to make the playoffs. And the decision to stand pat paid huge dividends.
The Magic still had those big questions to answer then. With the success in their back pocket, they kept the players key to that success. They were not about to turn back and concede their playoff appearance was a fluke. Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross and everyone else came back.
Orlando enters this year’s trade deadline in a much different frame of mind.
The team is ahead of last year’s pace and seems capable of returning not only to a playoff berth but a possible .500 record even with a massive amount of injuries.
But the Magic are still not satisfied with their season. They thought they could take a step forward. Injuries, especially to promising forward Jonathan Isaac, have hampered the team’s ability to reach its potential. But still, the team has shown tons of inconsistency.
Worse still, the team feels like it is reaching its ceiling. And, at some point, the Magic have to transform into the team they ultimately envision for themselves down the road. Everyone is antsy to see the team shift responsibility to their young players.
Everyone is antsy to see this team’s future come to life.
Excuse the Magic if they are not quite ready to go all in. They have a long-term picture in mind. But they also value the playoffs and putting those young players in an environment where winning, even on a small scale, is expected.
That makes the trade deadline a bit trickier for Orlando. The team is certainly looking to move some players and free up space for other players on the roster. But the Magic still want a good return.
And this trade deadline — despite Tuesday night’s four-team trade — does not seem to have a lot of the juice as others. Teams are not angling for cap room for free agency this summer and plenty of teams still have playoff aspirations.
Orlando will have to look at trades carefully at the trade deadline and in the offseason to push past the ceiling their team seems to have. they will have to find a way to get better and clear the way for their young players.
And, yes, they have big free agency decisions to make with Evan Fournier and D.J. Augustin this offseason that will put some major changes on the roster — whether that happens at the deadline or in the offseason. It seems that neither player is exactly in Orlando’s plans moving forward.
The trade deadline is a good chance to take a pause and assess the players the Magic have and how they can use them.
As I have done for the last several years — 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 — I am following Bill Simmons’ lead and writing a trade-value column. Quite simply, I am ranking players by who I would trade for straight up, taking into consideration the player’s output on the floor and salary.
Let’s dive in. . .