The Orlando Magic are a month away from the trade deadline.
Judging both by their remaining schedule and the standings in front of them, their playoff dreams seem to be hanging by a thread.
FiveThirtyEight updated their playoff odds following the release of the second half of the schedule and peg the Magic with a 9-percent chance of making the playoffs. The window is certainly closing for the Magic if they want to make a third trip to the playoffs.
For sure, the Magic are running out of time to make their playoff move. They are likely at the critical point of the season where they either make their push for the playoff or begin to make plans for a better 2021.
Those are likely already in place with both Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz aiming to return from torn ACLs. They will still need some time to get back to full health. There will still be a bit of an adjustment and waiting for them next year in their return.
But the team is going to have to make decisions before then. The trade deadline is going to prove to be the first major pressure point of the season as the team tries to reckon with a season that is looking like it will coast into the Lottery for the first time in three years.
It is still too early to give up on the season entirely. But the numbers are working against the Magic. They are going to run out of time to make this decision. And there is no going back.
In either case, a simple playoff cameo is not a goal worth saving. The Magic know this and acknowledge this. They are long overdue to push this team in one direction or another and it feels like this season will finally force some decisions and force some change.
The Magic have some critical decisions to make that do have a deadline at the March 25 NBA trade deadline. With a playoff team like the Magic falling off as much as they have, there is a sense around the NBA Internet at least that the Magic will be willing to sell and begin shifting their franchise.
It will not be a full-out firesale. The Magic are not looking to restart their project completely. Earlier reporting suggesting the Magic feel comfortable with their roster and what it might do with Fultz and Isaac returning certainly makes some sense. Orlando will feel they can compete again quickly with whatever remains on the team.
But that should not mean the team delays some change. It does not mean they should sit still in this market or at the trade deadline.
What they will need is to be clear on what they want to accomplish this trade deadline. What are they looking for and what kinds of packages will get them to pull the trigger on a trade.
At this point, almost every player should be on the table for the right package. Figuring out what that package is will be the first step to coming up with workable deals.
The Orlando Magic at this point should have very few players who are completely untouchable. They are a team that needs to look at ways to improve any way that it can and so nothing should be off the table.
The Magic will not be able to trade Jonathan Isaac or Markelle Fultz at this trade deadline. And, for now, those two players should be about as untouchable as players get on this team.
For now, Orlando should be trying to build its team around Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz, their upcoming draft pick and likely Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic (who we will get to later in this post). The team needs to put its focus on tailoring a team to their strengths.
That means, probably first and foremost, adding shooting. And that should be a premium for the team.
This was the case this past offseason — and really the offseason before that too — and it has largely been ignored. What has become clear is that the team’s poor shooting has created such a small margin for error that it is easy for this team to break.
The Magic are going to need to take a gamble somewhere.
But for a team that is still relatively young, the investment in Isaac and Fultz with contract extensions should set who the team is trying to build around. The Magic are not going to transform in one fell swoop — although a Lottery win could certainly speed up expectations and potential. Their goal for next year should be to get back into the playoff conversation with the clear potential for growth.
Right now, the team needs to be building a team that puts Isaac, Fultz and that unknown draft pick in the best positions to succeed.
Add Cole Anthony and Chuma Okeke into this mix of players who are almost completely untouchable as the team is heavily invested in his development and growth too entering his second year with the team.
The Magic are not in a fire sale. But they are seemingly ready to shift.