Which young players will look ready to start?
If the primary goal for the Orlando Magic’s season is to make the playoffs, the secondary goal will still have an eye on the future. Yes, the Magic are looking to have the best of both worlds — competing for a playoff spot while developing a crop of young players to take over eventually.
The team is younger than it was last year. And the team is set to rely on young players and even rookies heavily during the course of the 2021 season. All of these players will have key parts to play in the team’s future.
As coach Steve Clifford put it in a pre-training camp media availability, the Magic’s goals with their limited money was to get players with shooting, playmaking, high basketball IQs. They wanted to improve their skill level. And through adding Chuma Okeke and Cole Anthony to the roster, Steve Clifford believes they have done so.
Albeit, both of those players are rookies. Clifford still preached patience. But said he believes by the end of the season both will be major contributors to the team.
That is promising and should give fans some idea of what is in store for the team moving forward.
But that second goal of developing a team for the future is certainly still in focus. The Magic have some financial decisions to make this offseason — Evan Fournier will be a free agent and, unless either signs an extension before the season begins, Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz will be restricted free agents. There is not enough money to sign everyone unless the team wants to pay the luxury tax.
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Orlando needs to figure out what they have in some of these young players quickly so they can begin to make the inevitable changes. How players like Chuma Okeke, Cole Anthony and Mohamed Bamba develop this season will inform what the Magic look to acquire in a potential Evan Fournier trade at the deadline. It will help them decide which move sthey are willing to make in the offseason too.
The whole idea of developing players in winning environments is to have them “graduate” into bigger roles. That way free agency and trade capital can be spent elsewhere and the team can home grow role players to fill in or stars to take over.
The Magic need to start seeing these seeds grow to fruition. Especially with Jonathan Isaac out — thus giving Aaron Gordon perhaps a reprieve from trade rumors for a little while — the Magic are trying to put their future in focus.
The injury might have led to a delay to the inevitable as the Magic did not have their most promising young player available to keep this year’s team afloat.