Orlando Magic are not expected to win, but everyone sees them on the right path

The Orlando Magic’s offseason accomplished at least one of its goals.

When Jalen Suggs slipped to the Magic at the No. 5 pick, fans were elated. Draft experts believed it was the perfect addition to a young Magic team needing an identity and someone to help set the tone — both with his play and his attitude.

Everyone else became believers after Suggs’ stirring Summer League run. It might have been a short three games — really 2.5 after Suggs left the third game with a strained thumb — but it was enough to show the kind of player Suggs might one day become.

He was excellent in that showing balancing his scoring with playmaking and displaying better defense than anyone anticipated. There was legitimate national excitement about Suggs and what he could mean for the Magic.

The takeaway, it seems, from the national media is they have found their guy to lead this rebuild.

The Orlando Magic’s drafting of Jalen Suggs seemed to be the biggest positive of a fairly quiet offseason. While many believe the team is on the right path, this coming season will have its bumps.

That was undoubtedly the big goal of the offseason. All the pain of losing in the 2021 season was to get to the top of this long-awaited draft. And while the Lottery did not deliver it to the Magic, the Draft certainly did.

Of course, doing that in Summer League and doing it during the regular season are two completely different challenges. And despite all the buzz for Suggs’ arrival and the renewed hope everyone has for this franchise and its future, the present is still pretty bleak.

With the offseason wrapping up, the Magic are largely projected to finish at the bottom of the standings. And that might be generous.

ESPN’s power rankings placed the Orlando Magic at No. 28 ahead of only the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder. Early gambling predictions are not much better.

WynnBet’s futures odds have the Magic with the worst odds to win the title at 500/1. They have the Magic at 1/100 (bet $100 to make $1) to miss the Playoffs and 15/1.

BetOnline’s early over/under has the Magic at 23.5, the worst in the Eastern Conference and ahead of only the Thunder.

To say the least, nobody is expecting the Magic to factor into the playoff conversation this year.

The team’s 21-51 record from the 2021 season would project out to 24 wins in an 82-game season. So despite everything, nobody is seeing the Magic improving much. The team’s early-season schedule certainly will not help matters.

These predictions are, of course, completely fair. The Magic struggled last year even after the trade deadline and remain one of the youngest teams in the league. That is not exactly something that lends itself to winning.

Not to mention the team has a rookie coach and two starters returning from injury. It is accurately a safer bet to say the Magic will be at the bottom of the standings. And wins and losses may not be the accurate way to measure success this season.

But go back and read the ESPN blurb again. They rank the Magic No. 28, but Nick Friedell writes:

Jalen Suggs falling to Orlando on draft night gave hope to an organization that is in desperate need of a new star around which to build. . . . Suggs’ arrival has the chance to create some much-needed buzz around a team that has been dormant for almost a decade.

Then go and read other analyses from the offseason.

David Aldridge of The Athletic ranked the Magic with the 16th best offseason this year. That is essentially just from adding Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner in the draft plus Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz’s impending returns. He concluded his blurb with, “There’s hope on the horizon.”

Colin Ward-Henninger of CBS Sports gave the Magic an A- in the offseason for the defensive foundation they built with their two draft picks.

Again, the general sentiment seems to be the Magic are on the right track to start their rebuild the right way.

From a perception standpoint, this is probably exactly where the Magic want to be.

While there is still a lot of untapped and unproven talent on the roster, there does seem to be a bright future ahead. At least for the first full year of a rebuild, everyone seems to think the Magic have made important first steps.

Just how much better the Magic can be than the projections will likely depend most on how quickly the team buys into Jamahl Mosley’s philosophies and his skill and just how quickly Jalen Suggs, Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz can all adjust to playing at the NBA level again.

That is a lot of “ifs” at the moment and thus the relatively low ranking in comparison to the league.

What the Magic likely want to see is that comfort and the outlines of who this team can be so they can begin taking the next steps and growing the team to support their potential stars. That will come both with internal development and the player they take with their 2022 Draft pick.

That is all still a long way away. The immediate conclusion for the Magic appears to be that this year will not be judged on wins and losses. It will be judged on just how much of the initial optimism they can turn into reality.

Only from there can the team grow.

At least at this beginning stage, the Magic have started off well. Even if the expectations for the upcoming season appear to be low.