Orlando Magic Daily Mailbag Volume 38: While we wait

The Orlando Magic are eager for Nikola Vucevic to make his return to the court. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic are eager for Nikola Vucevic to make his return to the court. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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Orlando Magic, Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon
Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic have struggled offensively and are in unprecedented shooting slumps for their careers. (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The star question

The biggest question for many Orlando Magic fans is where the team’s next star will come from. Undoubtedly to win in this league, you need star players.

It is not as much of a chicken and an egg problem as I am making this sound. Yes, star players are made by teams winning. But teams win because of star players. And teams win at the highest level because of their stars.

The Magic have made no secret, they still have championship aspirations. That is ultimately where they want to be, even if it will take some time to get there and they count on little victories on the way up the ladder.

Orlando is not about to tank their way to a top pick. Maybe they have a bad year at some point and luck into a top pick. But the top pick has been less of a guarantee for a title than you might think. Good players come from everywhere and it is more about internal development.

So the Magic’s strategy to build up from the 7-seed and playoff scraps is to internally develop their young players and look for opportunities in the trade market when the time is right.

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For a small market especially, free agency is going to be tough. Essentially, if the Magic want to make a big splash, they would have to take a risk on someone to get them.

Remember, the five-year, $29.4 million deal Hedo Turkoglu initially signed was roundly criticized (and was also a key bargain when the team ultimately started competing for something real). And everyone thought the Magic bid against themselves to sign Rashard Lewis.

Those turned out to be the sharpest and probably the best free-agent signings in Magic history — behind Tracy McGrady and Horace Grant. Both those signings were for different circumstances — a homecoming for Tracy McGrady and a chance to win a title and get paid for Horace Grant.

Regardless of anything else, if the Magic want this iteration of their team to become title contenders, they need to develop a star internally. They need Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Mohamed Bamba or Markelle Fultz to develop into the star.

Or they need to combine those players into acquiring a star via trade. That seems like it is the plan now.

There are definitely fans who want the latter path to happen sooner than later.

But I would still argue we are in the early stages of the rebuild under Jeff Weltman. This is just year three and the team already has (essentially) two Playoff bids. All four of those players are still very young and still nowhere near their peaks.

Obviously the clock is ticking a bit more for someone like Gordon even though he is just 24 years old.

The problem with the Magic and their rebuild plan is that they lack top-end talent. That part is clear. they do not have someone who seems destined to become the best player in the NBA or one of the top five players in the league. Usually, it is clear a player has All-Star potential fairly quickly into their careers.

Right now, Isaac is probably the one player who tracks to be elite at something. He was leading the league in “stocks” before his injury and he was top-5 in both blocks and steals at the time of his injury. But his offensive game still has a lot of development to go.

Nobody is building an offense around Isaac yet. And the words of Rob Hennigan still ring true. With very few exceptions, you pretty much know what a player is by the end of their rookie contract. Maybe players are coming in so young these days that there is some allowance beyond that.

Orlando is going to find out soon whether the core they have built up will do much more than make first-round cameos. But they still have time to see how things grow.

Until then, waiting for the right opportunity is probably the right path. It might be a while and next year will be big to see what steps these players and the team take next.