Orlando Magic are giving young players their chance to expand roles

Wendell Carter is getting a chance to contribute and grow with the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Wendell Carter is getting a chance to contribute and grow with the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

The time has come.

The Orlando Magic went from the second-best record to the second-to-worst record in the NBA within a regular season of basketball. They were riding high in the beginning and boasting a potential three-year consecutive run to the Playoffs with a new point guard in Markelle Fultz leading the way.

At 6-2, it seemed like the Magic were poised to breakthrough. Jeff Weltman said as much last week. He believed the team could compete for homecourt advantage.

What a difference a year makes.

The Magic had to look at themselves pretty hard after injuries decimated their roster. First to Jonathan Isaac inside the bubble. Then to Markelle Fultz early in the season. And then various little injuries throughout the season that gutted the roster and often left this team short-handed.

They decided to do something drastic to try to set the franchise back on a title path. They concluded their current roster did not have enough to take that next step into true contention.

In deciding to reset the franchise, the Orlando Magic are putting their faith in young players to step up and fill roles and show their development is worth continued investment.

It is almost like the franchise has hit the reset button on the game console and will start over from scratch after the trade deadline depleted the roster.

The Magic are back to square one after trading away their three starters in Nikola Vucevic (Chicago Bulls), Aaron Gordon (Denver Nuggets) and Evan Fournier (Boston Celtics). That means young players like Mohamed Bamba, Chuma Okeke and Dwayne Bacon will have an opportunity to show what they have to offer without worrying about being pulled from the court. And incoming players like Wendell Carter and R.J. Hampton will get a fresh start to develop and grow.

That is a real thing.

Players seem to play differently when they know they are not going to get pulled out of the game just because they made a boneheaded turnover or a bad shot selection in the heat of a battle so long as they learn from those mistakes. It is comforting to know your minutes will increase but at the same time it is disappointing not having enough talent to win games in the NBA.

Bacon played 33 minutes and scored a career-high 26 points to go with eight boards in Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Evan Fournier’s absence pushed the coaching staff to allow Dwayne Bacon to play extended minutes. Bacon actually scored more points than any other player.

He is averaging only 10.4 points per game and a little more than 25 minutes per game in Orlando, which is up from his time with the Charlotte Hornets. He has looked decent during his time on the court. It is hard to say whether Bacon is part of the Magic’s long-term plans. But he is playing for his next contract and has a ton of motivation to continue impressing. Bacon has Clifford’s trust as a veteran familiar with what Clifford is asking of his players.

But even in a loss you can see the eagerness from the younger players to prove what they have to offer as four Orlando Magic players finished the game in double figures.

The new additions from the trade in Otto Porter, Wendell Carter and R.J. Hampton combined for only 22 points in limited minutes.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The Magic acquired Carter and Porter with two first-round picks from the Chicago Bulls for Nikola Vucevic. That absence left a 24-point-per-game hole in the lineup that Orlando is still trying to replace. The Magic scored only 93 points in Sunday’s loss.

Carter was not brought to Orlando to replace Vucevic’s value under the rim, but rather to be a solution to a problem the Magic had for years. The organization at some point is going to expect Mohammed Bamba to stay healthy and show the promise they saw in him before selecting him a pick before the Bulls picked Carter.

This trade is a chance for Carter to prove himself and his place in the NBA. It is also a chance for Bamba to get more playing time and find his place in the league after struggling through his first 2.5 seasons.

The younger players like Bamba and others have to play well with Vucevic, Fournier and Gordon no longer a part of this franchise. The team is relying on them to at least show hints of an ability to replace those long-standing players.

dark. Next. Nikola Vucevic's goodbye is only for now

The younger players will have to show up in times like these in order for management to believe they can be the type of players who can be consistently productive. If they do not show up they will be shipped off just like the starters were