Orlando Magic will have to make decisions on roster sooner than they think

The Orlando Magic are facing something of a problem as they enter their offseason.

Everyone who is watching the roster can see it. Everyone preparing for the draft can see it. The realities of the roster and the youth of this team make it clear that Orlando is nearing some critical decision points.

With the team at such an early stage of its development, it feels like some of these decisions can be delayed. The team can collect young players and let them develop naturally.

The team is so young and has so many players who have shown some sign of progress and potential that it is hard to know who to pass on. That is always dangerous in itself — no team wants to hold on too long to where a player loses all value but no team wants to let go a young player too soon.

The Magic a lot of these young players. They have these young players at seemingly every position.

And they are only about to add more. That will only add to the urgency and immediacy of the decisions coming to this young roster.

The Orlando Magic is already starting to look full. The team will have to make some decisions on its roster to start pushing the team forward.

Whether they like it or not, this offseason will need to be a time of careful decision-making. As much as the Magic might want to delay some of these until the offseason, the team needs to spend this offseason shaping its future. And that will include making choices on young players on the roster and more clearly cementing the team’s future.

The reality is that a roster crunch is not merely coming. It is already here. And the Magic cannot play anybody while still making the gains they hope to make.

Undoubtedly Orlando’s main focus this offseason is on getting the team’s draft pick right. The Magic will have a top-six pick in this year’s draft. There is certainly some hope the team can get a player bursting for stardom.

But it is also undoubtedly clear the Magic have to take the best player on the board. There are not too many players who are clear building blocks — Franz Wagner is certainly chief among them and Wendell Carter seems entrenched as the starting center or power forward. There are several nice players with still plenty to prove — Jalen Suggs, Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac chief among them.

Orlando though should not feel married to any position or feel that almost any position is filled.

The thing the team needs more than anything is a star to center the roster around. That player has not developed. And until that player develops or emerges — or is acquired — it is hard to get a sense of how everything will fall in place.

That is at least part of what is so difficult to figure out about where this roster moves forward.

Who is the team building around? How will the team take that step forward?

It is for that reason that some decisions have to be made not only so the Magic can figure this question out about who they will push forward with but they can also put those players in the best position to succeed and reach that level.

Orlando needs to be testing players to see what roles they can take on and how the pieces of the puzzle will come together. But they also need to make sure those players are not overburdened and hamper their development.

The team’s draft pick, subject to the random whims of the NBA Draft Lottery, will have a big say in how the Magic develop and what skills they feel they will need. It will do a lot in sorting out the roster.

But a quick look at the current depth chart makes it easy to see some of the issues ahead:

PGSGSFPFC
Markelle FultzJalen SuggsFranz WagnerJonathan IsaacWendell Carter
Cole AnthonyR.J. HamptonTerrence RossChuma OkekeMoe Wagner
Devin Cannady

 

The Magic are pretty loaded with young guards. They have Markelle Fultz on a semi-expiring deal (he has a team option for the 2024 season) and two first-round picks in Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs. But none of those players should preclude the team from taking a guard if they feel a better option is there.

It makes sense that the Magic would be focused more on their frontcourt. They almost certainly need to add a center this offseason — whether that includes signing Mo Bamba or acquiring one otherwise. And they are certain to add another forward either through the draft or through trading Terrence Ross. And the Magic still could potentially re-sign Gary Harris.

What should stand out about the Magic’s current depth chart of players under contract is just how young the roster is.

There are only four players who will be beyond their rookie contract that are not on minimum or non-guaranteed deals. And one of them has seemingly already asked for a trade.

But what should also stand out is just how full the roster is. Including non-guaranteed deals to Devin Cannady and Moe Wagner, the Magic have 11 players under contract. They almost certainly will need to add at least one more veteran player in free agency, if not two. And then they have three draft picks — their Lottery pick and pick Nos. 32 and 35 — ahead in the draft.

That leaves the team with a full roster. And that inevitably means some young players are going to have a hard time finding consistent playing time. Or the Magic are going to be relying heavily on young players and throwing them into the deep end to sink or swim for the year.

Almost everyone agrees the Magic have to aim to be beyond the deep lottery next year. Jamahl Mosley called for the team to “level up” in his postseason press conference. Nobody is going to accept being one of the worst teams in the league again.

Figuring out how to develop and grow the team to get there and take that next step — as small a step forward as that might be considering how young this team is — will be the task this year.

That will require making some choices and putting the focus on the players they want to build.

Orlando may not need to make major roster moves this offseason as they figure out the answers to some of these questions. They can afford to let players grow and develop naturally.

But that time is coming sooner than later. And some of those choices should come this offseason as the Magic look for ways to improve.

The Magic likely knows to some degree who they want to build around. There is no time to wait to figure out how to get the best of them.

Orlando spent the last year tearing things down. Now the team has to start building itself back up. And they cannot waste an offseason doing it waiting to figure things out.