Orlando Magic cannot stand still, but still need patience

Evan Fournier will be one of the bigger offseason decisions the Orlando Magic face this year. (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)
Evan Fournier will be one of the bigger offseason decisions the Orlando Magic face this year. (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic are expected to be active this offseason as they try to push through. But they still need patience to find the right path forward.

Twitter arguments sometimes get out of hand and sometimes lose the initial question and answer that sparked them. Robust debate is always a good thing and it is OK to come away with differing opinions or different diagnoses of how to resolve the problems everyone acknowledges.

When it comes to the Orlando Magic, everyone understands the team is missing a true star player and a difference-making playmaker. That has held them back in the last two postseasons.

Ultimately, the team has reached its ceiling. Or, at least, it has felt like it has. And the Magic are seeking a way forward after a year that did not measure up to the team’s newfound standards.

How the Magic make a change and what they do to get there is a matter for debate.

There is certainly a current of Magic fans who believe this interminable rebuild needs bold action. That a group that has seemingly reached its ceiling needs more than cosmetic changes.

That rationale is not wrong. Orlando absolutely cannot stand still again. Even with Jonathan Isaac sitting out the year with his torn ACL, the Magic have to spend this offseason putting this team in a position to be the team they ultimately want to be.

But while changes are necessary, so too is patience. There are still several young players to develop and with the potential to grow. This is still a playoff-caliber team too. And while that might be a small goal to achieve, it is still one this team values.

What the Magic need in their moves this summer need purpose and direction. And Orlando should be willing to wait to find moves that serve those needs.

The goal for the Magic this offseason is to start shaping the team into the one president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman hopes for it to become. They either need to start bringing in players that ultimately fit this vision or help support this playstyle or create the financial flexibility to do so.

It is easy to see the Magic need to make more than just cosmetic changes to take their next step. But how they do it and how quickly they should do it is the question that will drive these debates for the next several months.

The paths to walk

There are lots of paths the Orlando Magic can walk to get to this destination. It can try to make do with what it has for another year, hoping for internal development. Nobody seems on board with that idea.

The team could look to tear everything down and start completely over, building around Markelle Fultz and (eventually) Jonathan Isaac. They could look to go younger and trade away veterans who have put a ceiling on this team.

They could do a softer reset, looking to trade away some of the starters and cash in those chips with the hope of adding key pieces or clearing some cap room to create more financial flexibility.

None of these paths are easy or guaranteed routes to success. The Magic are still missing the most important piece to a championship. And their successes so far have been small.

They are still at the beginning stage. And standing still is moving backward in a NBA that is constantly changing.

Orlando seems like it might be in a good position to trade up in the Draft, they could look to use some of their veteran players to try to bring in a draft pick who would fit this vision. If president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman believes someone in this draft is worth trading up for and necessary to his vision, he should be doing all he can to get there.

Change is exciting and seems necessary after two straight years bowing out of the playoffs in just five games. Nobody wants to be stuck as a lower seed in the playoffs. And the Magic certainly should feel they have stagnated at best this year and regressed at worst this year.

That certainly has the front office thinking about change. It should necessitate some tweaking, and in some cases major moving, to get where the team wants to be.

The goal is to get closer to that vision and closer to the team they want to be. But Orlando should not be in a rush to do so if the deals, the players or the opportunities do not materialize.

Patience is not sitting still. It is still aggressively exploring these opportunities. But it is the willingness to walk away and stick with what you have if the chance is not the right one.

No rush to move

That does not mean the Magic are in any rush to make these moves. This is an important point to remember too.

The Orlando Magic have a position of power. And Jonathan Isaac’s injury gives them almost a “free” year to step back and take a breath with what they have to do.

The Magic will not be the full team they want to be in the 2021 season. They will have the opportunity to give young players like Mohamed Bamba and Chuma Okeke time to play — not to mention whoever they pick.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Orlando’s philosophy since Jeff Weltman took over was that winning is the best way for a team to develop and evolve. The Magic are not going to give up on the 2021 playoffs. That spot is theirs for another team to take from their cold, dead hands.

With Nikola Vucevic, (likely) Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have enough to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. They are simply too good, barring disaster, to throw an entire season away.

The Magic seem likely to trade one of those three this offseason to shift the lineup a little bit. But they do not have to trade them. Not unless the deal is good.

Someone like Gordon especially is still 24 years old. And while the team has gone through the carousel of waiting for him to reach his star potential, he still has plenty of areas he can grow and improve.

There is no reason to give up on a young player like him or a young player like Mohamed Bamba unless the return is worth the cost. Especially when they still have multiple years left on their contract. The Magic hold all the cards in the trade market.

Their patience will be rewarded either with that player’s development or the right deal that pushes the team forward.

Moves of consequence

It is this latter point that will matter most as the Orlando Magic try to map their path ahead.

They will need to make moves that are of consequence to them. They need every move at this point to accomplish some goal — whether it is adding a player they want to add, a skill set they want to add or simply to clear some cap. It will probably be a combination of these three.

True, the Magic are a team in need of change. At least a few minor tweaks at minimum after finishing as the 8-seed and taking a step back this year.

But they do not need to make a change for change’s sake. They do not have to make a move just to make a move.

Orlando is not likely to be bad enough to make a play for a high lottery pick. Nor should that be the team’s goal, unless the bottom really drops out in the course of the season.

The team is still going to aim for making the playoffs in 2021. That is part of this team’s organizational philosophy.

And if a team is good enough to make the playoffs, the team should absolutely maintain that as its goal.

But they cannot stand still this offseason. That much is clear. But Orlando should exhibit the patience to seek out and find the right changes to put the franchise in a better position.

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The most important thing that comes out of this offseason is that the team takes a step toward completing its vision. Even if that means waiting a little while longer to find that right step.