Orlando Magic have so much to play for the rest of this season

The Orlando Magic cannot move too far up or down the standings. But there is still a lot to play for as the season gets set to resume at Disney.

On its face, there is not a lot on the line for the Orlando Magic. In the big picture, the Magic’s plight and concerns did not really matter.

They are likely not fighting for a championship and their concern about holding onto one of the lower playoff spots was something that the league seemingly could ignore as it tried to find the right incentives to bring everyone to Disney to finish the season.

Even for the franchise itself, the end of the season feels a bit pro forma. The team is a bit disappointed with how the season turned out and the Magic undoubtedly know they have to make some changes to take the next step.

The team has something of an uncertain future as it tries to build its way out of the bottom of the playoffs. There are big decisions to be made as president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman maps this team’s path forward. To be sure, decisions the Magic make this offseason and into next season will determine just how far the Magic go in this iteration.

And all those plans likely are already set. Nothing the Magic can do in this resumed season will likely change many of the decisions the Magic have to make, barring a surprise title run.

But even still. Under regular circumstances, the Magic were scuttling around and had seemingly hit their ceiling.

In the bigger picture, there does not seem like there is a lot to play for.

Jonathan Isaac is not likely to be able to return to play before the end of the season, sucking away one of the more interesting developments from this season. Salary cap realities are probably going to keep Evan Fournier in his contract. The team cannot move too far up and down the standings.

Orlando will be spending its eight-game regular season trying to hold onto its playoff spot essentially and then exit in the first round.

But this is all wrong. There is still a lot to play for. The rest of this season and the playoffs still have tremendous meaning and importance for this young team.

The Magic’s stay at Disney will have short-term and long-term impacts for the team. And this is not an opportunity the team should waste.

Weltman and the Magic staff rightly expressed enthusiasm to get back on the floor. There is still a lot to learn from the players and the team.

The team is rightly eager to see how this season ends and go through the whole process of making the Playoffs. That is a learning experience in itself. A second straight playoff appearance is more reps playing high-intensity games and going through the preparation of a playoff series.

That experience proved valuable this year in keeping the team stable through all the injuries. And it should help the team continue to grow.

Momentum is the next day’s pitcher as the team learned this year. They still need more and that is still hovering in the background. But that will not be important once they arrive at Disney.

The most important thing is the micro stuff — making the most of this team and what they have left. And that could be very valuable.

The Magic have to assure their spot in the Playoffs. And this setting with only the best teams present is going to be a test for the team.

The main goal for Orlando when the season resumes is to secure its playoff spot. The Orlando Magic hold a 5.5-game lead over the Washington Wizards for the final Playoff spot. They will need to stay four games clear of the Wizards to avoid the play-in game. That puts the team’s magic number to clinch at six Magic wins or six Wizards losses.

Orlando will have its work cut out for it.

Additionally, the Orlando Magic have the added incentive to play well to try to catch the Brooklyn Nets for seventh. Orlando currently trails Brooklyn by one-half game (assuring there will not be a tie) with the potential for the teams to play each other twice in the eight-game regular season.

The two teams will almost certainly be battling for the seventh seed throughout the entire rest of the regular season. Those two games will take on added importance as the season winds down.

And this is exactly what the Magic and any team want. They want to be playing meaningful games with a chance to win something as the Playoffs are picking up steam. And they want to be playing against the best teams too.

The campus setting with only the 22 teams in Playoff contention will assure that.

Orlando needs that practice and they need that experience winning and playing these games. It will force them to enter the bubble sharp and stay sharp to finish the season — even with a potentially lighter (on paper) schedule.

Orlando was just 5-26 against teams with winning records, the fewest wins of any team entering the bubble. The Orlando Magic are likely to face under-.500 teams like the Sacramento Kings, Brooklyn Nets and New Orleans Pelicans for at least three, if not four, games at Disney. But they will not likely take advantage of their 25-9 record against the dregs of the league.

The Magic will need this time to prove themselves and prove they are capable of competing and winning against the best teams in the league. That is something that has not played itself out throughout the course of the season so far.

That bit of confidence is important for the team and its development.

This is ultimately about what the rest of this season is about. The Magic should be looking to develop whatever they can in players like Markelle Fultz and Mohamed Bamba and Aaron Gordon.

For Fultz and Bamba, this will be their first time as key players on a Playoff roster. Both players have never gone through the pressure and process of going through a playoff battle. They will both get that — even if they do not get the feeling of crowd intensity with it.

If Isaac can play, getting him back out there and preparing for the Playoffs is still very important.

This is still a lot to play for. This is still a ton of work to get done and things to gain. The rest of this season is not about going through the motions.

Whether it is going for the 7-seed and trying to climb a spot or maintaining their spot in the Playoffs. The Magic still have team goals to achieve.

Or whether it is getting young players more Playoff reps and testing themselves against the league’s best teams, the experience this team will get will help them in some way moving forward. Even through the frustration of this season.

The Magic are clearly very excited to get back to work. They are excited to get back on the court.

Next: Orlando Magic must find lineup stability when they return

And they still have a lot to play for.

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