The Orlando Magic are trying to remain competitive and find value as they look toward their future. They are not finding equal value on the market.
Draft night passed in relative quiet for the Orlando Magic.
They got their backup point guard and a player they feel has some star potential in Cole Anthony. The Magic are very happy with the talent they feel they have added to the roster.
But it was always clear the team needed to do more than simply add a player in the Draft. To get where the Magic want to go, they would need to begin flipping over the roster. Things ultimately need to change.
The Magic as an organization need to start planning this team for its future rather than clinging tightly to its past. Even if that change is ultimately gradual rather than instantaneous.
The team is trying to have its cake and eat it too in some respects — the Magic want to continue competing for the playoffs as they make this transition. And so it will be slow going as the Magic patiently wait for their opportunity to strike and for players to develop and take on bigger roles.
But contract realities are looming with rookie contracts for Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz set to expire. The Magic know they cannot stand still forever.
That slow going though is creating a new reality the Magic probably understood implicitly.
Finding equal value for any of their players will be difficult. Packaging a few of their starters together to chase after a star, such as Russell Westbrook, will gut the team too much — especially in a season without Jonathan Isaac.
And for a team competing for a playoff spot, a straight salary dump for draft assets or cap room is not going to help much — not yet, at least.
Orlando is going to have to concede that in order to push forward, the team may have to trade a starter for less value and hope they can have someone step up already on the roster or mine the other team for a player who can contribute quickly.
The Magic will have to accept lesser value and trust their roster and development. This prospect has become more difficult with one of the team’s prized young players in Jonathan Isaac out for the year and the uncertainty facing rookie Chuma Okeke and third-year center Mohamed Bamba.
Orlando is just not sure what it can count on as it tries to map its way forward — remaining competitive while still developing young players.
No one will doubt the Magic have been active in the trade markets throughout this entire process.
But it became clear as the draft process went on that the deals were simply not there for the Magic despite all the reports about the Magic trying to move up in the Draft.
There was a report circulating that the Orlando Magic turned down an offer of Trevor Ariza the 16th overall pick and a lottery-protected 2021 pick from the Portland Trail Blazers for Aaron Gordon. The Portland Trail Blazers ended up making a similar deal with the Houston Rockets for Robert Covington.
Even if that report was not completely true — Jeff Weltman lamented the amount of false information and reporting going around about his team, as little as there was — the reaction of fans almost universally to decline that structure for a deal suggested fans were not super interested in a salary dump of Gordon or amassing late-round picks.
It is probably why the Orlando Magic did not get super involved in trade talks with the Golden State Warriors in the wake of Klay Thompson’s injury. The Golden State Warriors ended up sending a top-20 protected 2021 pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Kelly Oubre (another favored target in Aaron Gordon deals).
Maybe the Warriors preferred Kelly Oubre’s athletic profile over Evan Fournier. The two players are at least statistically similar. But the Magic likely would not have liked to trade a starter and one of their few shooters for a draft pick that may not even convey — it reportedly becomes two second-round picks if it does not convey.
Lest anyone think the Magic were not exploring everything. Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports reported Friday the Magic and Rockets discussed a deal centered around Gordon and Westbrook, but ultimately broke off talks.
And adding further fuel to the fire, Zach Harper of The Athletic noted in a throwaway line in his post-draft power rankings that league sources say Fournier is trying to find is way to a team “like the [LA] Clippers, [Phoenix] Suns or [Denver] Nuggets.” Who knows how true that is what level of interest there might be in a deal.
The Magic’s position playing for both the present and the future complicates things indeed. It limits what they are likely to want in return for their players and what deals they are willing to take.
It is becoming clear with the Magic’s roster position that an all-in move is not the direction this team is headed. Otherwise, they would be making more noise to acquire a player like Westbrook with three years to figure out how to make things work — as handicapped as that would make their cap situation.
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The move then is to try to find more cap flexibility somewhere while adding quality players to the roster.
Weltman acknowledged as much when he said Monday that one of the team’s goals was to create better cap flexibility to make these moves when the team was ready.
Orlando clearly has pieces the team can move around. It has always been about waiting for the right moment to employ those pieces or finding the right player or deal to get it done. That has not presented itself to this point, it seems.
But reality is starting to creep in.
Trades are going to happen. But there is no equal-for-equal trade in this market involving the Magic.
Orlando can fight it all it wants, but the team was always going to be viewed and have to act like sellers on this market.
It may frustrate some fans, but this offseason may not be the time for the Magic to make a major move. The quick turnaround to the season and the Magic’s goals of competing to give their growing group of young players experience in meaningful games may force them to pause and wait to make the major moves many are anticipating.
Then again, if the Magic abandon this idea, they could start selling off pieces quickly to reshape the roster in a new image.
As inevitable as they may seem, the Magic are still waiting for the right opportunities to sell off the players they need to sell in order to move the team forward again.
For now, the Magic have to get the most value they can out of these players. And if the timing or package is not right, they need to keep understanding and gauging their value to make their move at the trade deadine or beyond.