Orlando Magic’s offseason should be about setting up their future

Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford has helped the team establish a foundation. Now it is time to build upon it looking toward the future. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)
Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford has helped the team establish a foundation. Now it is time to build upon it looking toward the future. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic have established their foundation after back-to-back playoff appearances. Now they need to focus on building toward their future.

There is a division right now within the Orlando Magic fan base.

The idle time of the offseason and sitting back to assess the season that just completed has only brought the uncertainty of the future into greater focus.

Nobody is satisfied with just making the playoffs. Nobody is satisfied with a second straight playoff appearance just to bow out in five games. This franchise, this team and this organization wants to see itself advance.

Steve Clifford said it best as the team was preparing for the postseason: The goal was to get back into the field and to be playing in a way where they could be a factor. That is obviously difficult when you are the 8-seed.

Before the season, the Magic had visions of competing for home-court advantage. But those quickly dissipated thanks to injury and general stagnation. The Magic still worked to make the most of their situation.

Even there, they failed to climb to the 7-seed inside the NBA campus. But at least they competed better and put up a stronger fight in the playoffs. That was about the only place anyone could point to tangible growth at the end of the season.

It is not the complete picture for sure, but the feeling going around is the Magic hit their ceiling. In any case, it does not feel like the Magic are on a path to winning a championship with the team as currently constructed.

The team needs either significant internal development — tougher with Jonathan Isaac out for the entire 2021 season — or to make a move to take that step forward. Even if that means going back temporarily.

And in the NBA, there is no standing still. There is only going forward and going backward.

The Magic did not have the season they wanted and so they are left pondering their future. And this offseason and the 2021 season needs to be about setting the team up for its future.

The Magic stood pat and re-signed their roster to maintain their playoff spot. That very well might have been the team’s best path forward to help young players grow and re-establish legitimacy within the franchise.

The first task president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman had to do when he took over was to rebuild the foundation and infrastructure of the franchise. On that front, it is clear he has succeeded.

A second straight trip to the playoffs is a sign something is working. But it is also a sign that something is not.

The Magic will still be looking to compete and stay in the playoff chase this year. But they need to start shifting and positioning the franchise to look like the team of its future.

The focus this offseason should not be on the short-term and saving the 2021 team. It should be about building the team and the identity the Magic want to have far beyond that.

Weltman needs to have a clear vision for what his team ultimately will become and what it ultimately will be. And this offseason, he needs to begin shaping that team into this vision.

What those moves are and what that future looks like have surely already been set up a bit too.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The team has invested in Isaac as a key part of the team’s future, even with him out for the 2021 season. They have defensive-minded players in Mohamed Bamba and Chuma Okeke to build their defense around. These draft picks are central to the team’s overall philosophy.

So too is the identity Clifford has helped build for this team.

In the last two years, the Magic have established themselves as a team that plays with discipline and defends at a high level. They finished in the top-10 in defensive rating in each of the last two seasons. This without players that are largely not considered strong defenders like Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier.

The Magic have played with more discipline offensively. They kept their turnovers low and play a deliberate offensive style. But Clifford said throughout the year the team wanted to play with more pace. He wants them to move quicker and seek opportunities to get into transition.

That is something that Markelle Fultz helped the team out with throughout the course of the season. With some restrictions, Fultz gained Clifford’s trust to help push the team’s pace and get the team moving. The offense flourished because of it along with the spate of hot shooting. This even as the defense struggled.

Much of the season offensively was spent trying to turn the team into a faster-paced and more precise team. And it still took almost the entire team to reach that level.

There are the contours of how the team ultimately wants to play. Now it is about implementing that style fully with a full training camp and finding players who fit that style more.

There is at least some thought Orlando is fighting against its players’ better nature. Fit has always been a question with this team. They have a lot of players who duplicate skills and positions. To this point, they have not been found to complement each other successfully.

And that is the work that has to get done this offseason. The Magic have to start moving toward this vision and play style — no matter what that vision is.

It is time for Weltman to put his stamp on this team and build the team he envisioned when he took the job.

He has done that slowly to this point. He has worked with what he inherited and built a foundation for it to grow. Hiring Clifford and rebuilding the team’s infrastructure were important first steps to building the consistency necessary to make, let alone compete, for the postseason.

With that foundation built, the Magic need to turn their focus toward the future. They need to turn their focus toward the ultimate vision they have for their team.

And they need to enact a plan to create that vision.

It may be the first step. It may mean taking a step back for the 2021 season to set up moves in the future. It may mean overselling for the one player that would make it all work — in a trade or in the draft.

But the Magic have to move forward. And that means putting their focus on the future to get there.

Next. Orlando Magic should only seek a star in return for Nikola Vucevic. dark

That is where the focus needs to be right now.