Orlando Magic need clear idea of what is next to attack their next moves

Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter have made a stake in the Orlando Magic's future. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter have made a stake in the Orlando Magic's future. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports /

At last year’s trade deadline, Orlando Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman wiped the slate clean.

In trading away Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon, he signaled the franchise was moving to a new era. As frustrating as the previous nine seasons were since Dwight Howard left, he was asking the fan base for more time and more patience to rebuild the team.

He knew he had a few assets in his back pocket to start things off — two young, promising players (injured as they might be) in Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac, two upcoming draft picks that slated to be in the top-10 if not higher, and the likelihood that he would get another bite at the apple with another high draft pick next summer.

Orlando’s books were also completely clean. Even after giving a four-year contract extension (front-loaded, of course), the Magic were one of the few teams that would have cap room to spend in the summer of 2022.

Everything seems open for the Magic. There is seemingly no path the team cannot walk.

But their future is not quite set. There is a lot still to do. And the first moves to begin shaping the roster around the core that is developing on the court begins at the trade deadline.

The Orlando Magic enter the trade deadline with an important opportunity to begin shaping their roster and pursuing players who will help foster this team’s development and next steps.

This year’s NBA trade deadline has already seen plenty of big moves. Orlando is expected to make a move to consolidate and move some veteran players before their contracts expire. There might also be some moves to use their ample cap space to acquire more draft capital.

But this is also an opportunity the Magic cannot waste. Every move the team makes needs to have some overarching goal and help the team move closer to its ultimate goal.

They cannot simply collect talent. They need to build a team.

What the Magic do at the trade deadline today and the kinds of players they target with the players they are looking to move will say a lot about where this team is at. And Orlando cannot simply be thinking about making deals simply to move contracts around or extract value.

They need to be thinking aggressively and seeking players and pieces that will be part of the team’s long-term future.

Of course, there is still a lot to do. And so the team needs a focused pursuit to accomplish their goals.

Just because Orlando has cap room does not mean there are free agents worth spending for. And a lot of their success and potential still relies on a four-number combination popping up in the Draft Lottery.

As the players like to say, all the Magic can do is control what they can control.

The team certainly should look to remain nimble and flexible enough to change plans as opportunities come up. The team should not put all its eggs into signing one specific player or one specific draft class. The team should be trying to align itself for when they think the team will be ready to compete and preparing to make the big trade when the opportunity arises.

That is what controlling what the team can control means at this moment. Orlando should be identifying the kinds of players it wants to acquire and should go after them. Even at this early stage of the team’s rebuild.

The Magic should have this clear idea of what they want to build and who they want to target then as they make these next steps.

Rebuilds fall off the rails when they do not have a vision for what the team will ultimately be. Yes, the Magic have done well to collect a group of talented, young players. Shaping that roster into something cohesive — picking the right players among them to invest in and grow — is the real trick to getting out of this phase.

That is why one of the most important goals for the Magic this season was to get a picture of what their team would be about. They did not need to win this season, but they needed to see the outlines of what this team could be. They needed to see the team form an identity and begin inching forward.

In some ways, the team has done that.

Related Story. Decision time on Mo Bamba has arrived. light

Franz Wagner has put himself in the Rookie of the Year conversation, shining as an individual player. As a team, the Magic have begun making small strides defensively, finishing seventh in the league in defensive rating in the month of January.

That is at least a sign of what this team can do. And that is important as the team moves forward.

The Magic do not seem completely ready to compete quite yet. They still need that star player to tie the whole thing together. They are still woefully short offensively. And the Magic have yet to add Isaac and Fultz back into the fold.

There is still a lot to learn in the final quarter of the season. It is still hard to say whether this season was a success or not or just how far the team needs to advance.

Next year will still likely have a developmental bent, but the team should want to see more tangible progress too.

Orlando will undoubtedly be a big-time player both as the clock gets closer to 3 p.m. on trade deadline day and throughout the summer. The team has some capital and money to throw around and should be looking for specific ways to use it.

They should have an understanding of what that next step is, the kind of players this team needs and what their next step should be.

This was hardly a throwaway season. The team’s record may not have been important, but there was plenty the team learned in the process.

How far this team advances and is able to speed along in its rebuild might be determined more by internal development and the draft pick the Magic have in June. But Orlando should also understand what kind of player the team needs to take that next step and seek them out aggressively.

The Magic are not a team that should sit back and wait. They certainly should not be running their roster back as they did in Weltman’s early years.

They need to be aggressive and have a firm understanding of who this team needs to grow and take their next steps.

dark. Next. Orlando Magic Trade Value Column 2022

This is the time to shape their roster and identity. It is not an opportunity to waste.