Orlando Magic’s offseason checklist: Build competitive team, build for the future

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Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic
Evan Fournier’s free agent decision looms large as the Orlando Magic plan their future. Mandatory Credit: Ashley Landis/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic are in a tough spot trying to build a team that will remain competitive and have a chance to win while also eyeing their future.

The Orlando Magic seem to be at a crossroads this offseason.

That is how most teams feel when they do not reach expectations. In a NBA of constant change, teams that are not moving forward might as well be heading backward. There is no standing still.

The Magic faced some criticism for holding onto Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross and largely maintaining the same roster. But that fit with the team’s overall development philosophy.

After six years out of the Playoffs, the Magic decided staying in the Playoffs was a better way for their young players to develop rather than essentially starting completely over. The hope was that retaining the veterans would further the development of young players and that they would eventually take over larger roles.

That in turn would enable the Magic to make all-in moves and become players for bigger-name players to climb up the Eastern Conference standings.

The Magic did not fail in 2020 because they made the Playoffs. But their struggles throughout the season made this proposition more difficult.

Orlando still likely made the right decision retaining all those players and trying for the playoffs once again. But now their next decision will have a major impact on the franchise.

Even if that decision is deferring things once again.

The Magic are eyeing their future. The team is trying to figure out how it grows next.

And so the big thing the Magic have to do entering this offseason is achieve that balance. They need to plan for their future and create the team they ultimately want to become — this is surely not the final product — while also filling immediate needs on the roster to remain competitive.

So what do the Magic need? What makes a successful offseason?

Ultimately a successful offseason will be determined with how the team does in 2021. Did they make the Playoffs a third straight year? Did they show signs they can progress out of the 7/8 ringer when Jonathan Isaac is healthy?

Those are the questions that ultimately matter. And to do that they will need to accomplish these three things:

Find a shooter/scorer

The biggest bugaboo for any team that sits at No. 23 in offensive rating and have struggled to crack the top-20 in offense since Dwight Howard left in 2012 is to find scoring and shooting.

The Magic have built a team that even when it has played poorly is still a top-10 defense in the league. No one questions Steve Clifford’s bona fides as a defensive coach or what he has been able to do transforming this team into a solid defensive unit.

There is no reason to think the Magic’s defense will slip heading into next season — outside of having less time to prepare in training camp. Losing Jonathan Isaac is a big deal for the defense. But regaining Al-Farouq Aminu might also quietly be a big boost to the defense too.

The Magic are not going to spend much time worrying about their defense. If that fails, the Magic might have bigger issues.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

But Orlando needs shooting and scoring desperately.

Most fans have spent the offseason so far obsessing on how the Magic could get a major scoring player — such as Zach LaVine or Buddy Hield — or other similar big names that would provide a huge boost to the offense.

The Magic should be fishing for those players. They should also be putting an emphasis on shooting and other offensive skills. The team has plenty of defnesive ability. It is not a major concern. But adding some shooting and offensive creation will be vital.

They can do this in the Draft too. While it might take longer for someone taken 15th — or someone the Magic trade up to acquire — they could still provide a big boost.

Players like Devin Vassell, Killian Hayes, Aaron Nesmith, R.J. Hampton or Cole Anthony are among the players the Magic could draft to help fill thesee needs.

For sure, the biggest moe the Magic make this offseason will undoubtedly involve some boost to the offense. Whether that comes in a trade or in the Draft.