For a young team like the Orlando Magic, the Playoffs are still a far more valuable learning tool than putting hope in the Lottery.
There has always been a split between people when it comes to being a lottery team or being one of the lower playoff seeds.
For young teams, growing and getting better, being one of the lower seeds in the Playoffs is a mere stepping stone to something greater. Nobody wants to get stuck as a lower seed. But it can still be better than the alternative.
You want to be a 7- or 8-seed on the way up rather than on the way down. And you do not want that to be your ceiling.
Finishing with a similar record and back at the bottom of the Playoff picture has seemingly put the team in that purgatory of the middle. That has made fans antsy again. The team’s future is fairly uncertain as the Magic look for that elusive path forward. And it is still unclear just how the team moves forward.
The Magic are at the stage where winning is most important. Fans may disagree and feel the team should have turned back after last year’s Playoff appearance and turn things over to younger players. There might be merit in that.
While both rebuilding methods do have their pros and cons, Playoff experience is more valuable than a trip to the Lottery.
There is a distinction between the regular season and the playoffs that cannot be ignored. The intensity and energy go beyond the regular season. Aaron Gordon stated the playoffs last year was eye-opening for someone that never had made it there.
Although the Orlando Magic lost to the Toronto Raptors lost 4-1 in the first round, the Magic have key young players that know what is going to come once the Playoffs come back around. Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac made their playoff debuts last year. And it was the first time Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier played big minutes during a series.
That series was a learning moment for all four players.
Nikola Vucevic struggled all series long averaging 11.2 points per game on 36.2-percent shooting. The Raptors did a good job crowding and playing Vucevic physically. It choked off the Magic’s offense.
It did not help that Evan Fournier struggled too. He scored only 12.4 points per game but shot 23.5 percent from beyond the arc. His 1-for-12 performance in Game 3 was a big reason why the Magic were unable to win.
Gordon was the most consistent player on the team and showed his potential scoring 15.2 points per game on a solid 46.8-percent shooting and 40.0-percent from three. The series made everyone believe Gordon was destined to take a star leap in 2020.
Jonathan Isaac struggled throughout the series outside of Game 1. He never found his shot, shooting 27.5-percent from the field. Jonathan Isaac often found himself in foul trouble and struggled to completely contain Pascal Siakam who averaged 22.6 points per game in the series.
Every player on the Magic wants tome form of redemption for last year’s Playoff appearance. Coach Steve Clifford said after the series he was disappointed the Magic did not make it a more competitive series, despite the long odds to actually win it.
This postseason will gauge to see how much they have learned and improved from the previous year and how prepared they are going to be for this run.
And this is part of the growing process, even if getting back to this point was something of a disappointment.
The Magic learned how much more physical and intense playoff games are. It is a completely different animal. The Magic learned that the hard way last year.
There is a different level of play and preparation that goes into it. They can now see whether those lessons set in.
This year presents a new opportunity too. It is time for Mohamed Bamba to make his playoff debut after missing last year’s run with a broken foot and for Markelle Fultz to finally play big minutes in the playoffs. This is going to be a good first-time experience for these players.
Also, this is going to be a good experience for this team to play together for the first time in a higher level of intensity.
Players need to learn how to win, and it is not going to happen through going to the Lottery every year.
The Orlando Magic will still have its work cut out for it to stave off the Washington Wizards and secure their spot in the field. To be sure, the Magic have a lot to play for in the campus setting to secure that Playoffs spot.
While Playoff games will not have the same crowd atmosphere, the preparation and physicality will be the same. Everyone will get another taste of basketball at the highest level.
The current front office believes in building a winning culture and understands the importance of the young players to experience higher levels of intensity.
While there may be some value and ping pong balls for higher draft picks, there is no other way to show the difference between the regular season and the postseason, other than experiencing it for themselves.