A new season is set to begin for the Orlando Magic. But they face many of the same questions with a clock that is ticking louder.
Once more into the breach.
The Orlando Magic are getting set for the 2021 season. And if things feel familiar, you are not alone. The Magic made few changes to the roster from last year, adding only Dwayne Bacon in free agency and drafting Cole Anthony to go along with 2019 draft pick Chuma Okeke.
The team did not have the 2020 season it wanted, failing to advance out of the first round of the playoffs or the bottom half of the playoff bracket. The team finished far behind the 6-seed and while the 7-seed was in reach if the team season had ended normally, the results are what they were.
The Magic, injury-riddled as they were, finished where they finished. It was a clear step back finishing seven games below .500 and in eighth place. Orlando at least had an improved showing in the playoffs in another five-game loss.
Where after the 2019 season, the Magic were optimistic looking ahead to what the team was growing. The team now feels like it has reached a crossroads. The team has to start planning for its future and plotting a way to improve and get to that top half of the Eastern Conference.
Even if that means taking a step back in the standings.
The playoffs remain the goal though. The Magic made that clear in deciding to stick largely with the roster they had last year. They see no reason to expect otherwise.
What they do not know is whether this is truly it for the team.
After a year of stagnation, the sinking suspicion is that it is. Fans have already seemingly come to that conclusion. And as the Magic sat out the offseason, keeping the same starting lineup that essentially finished last season, fans got extremely frustrated.
The only thing that seems clear as the Magic enter the 2021 season is that they have to start pointing toward their future. They have to begin carving a path forward for the next five years and not just a yearly ringer through the postseason.
They are doing that in part this offseason. Before everyone jumps on the team for doing so little, the biggest acquisitions the team made were draft picks Anthony and Okeke. The team did get younger and will be relying on and staking their future on these young players.
By the time the team reaches the 2022 season, they should be more focused on their future than ever before with Jonathan Isaac returning from injury (and likely on a new four-year deal) and Markelle Fultz entering his third full season in the league (also likely on a new deal). This with Mohamed Bamba, Cole Anthony and Chuma Okeke means the Magic’s future is quickly approaching.
What Jeff Weltman has to figure out is how best to set this future up or whether that future is worth investing in or pushing into bigger roles. Without Isaac in the lineup this year, the Magic have a year to figure things out and gather more information. There are still too many uncertainties about these young players to trust them to run the team.
Thus, Orlando stood still (relatively). The Magic preferred to keep their chances at making the playoffs rather than hitting the reset button — collecting heavily protected draft picks and expiring contracts on veterans who would not help the team much this year.
Whether that was the right call or not is certainly something Magic fans can and should debate. How the team moves forward will remain a major question hovering over the course of the season.
And to be sure, a slow start this year, might change the calculus and allow the Magic to relent and hit the reset button many fans are asking the team to do. That might actually preview a much harder path forward.
The Magic are not quite punting on this season. But with so few changes, the questions facing this team throughout the offseason and even most of last season remain. The result is expected to be the same.
So how do the Magic carve a path forward? What are going to be the key storylines?
We will certainly explore all of that this year. But with the NBA season set to begin, it is time to turn the microphone to you and get your questions. It is time to set the narrative a bit and what to watch for and ask how the Magic get better.
Submit your questions to me on Twitter @omagicdaily, in the comments below or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to hearing from you!