The parameters for the Orlando Magic’s offseason were set long before the season ended.
Yes, the team’s draft pick would figure deeply into the plans and how this team moves forward. That is inevitably what happens when a team has and expects to have the worst record in the league.
The dream of actually getting the first pick was always a pipe dream. But here we are.
The Magic now hold the first pick in the draft and the chance to get the best player possible in this draft. The potential of drafting the three players widely considered the top pick which felt so remote that no one wanted to plan for it is now the reality.
If the team follows convention, Orlando will select one of Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren. Although who really knows what that means.
There are undoubtedly now ripples that go through the whole franchise and what the team plans to do this offseason.
The first domino of the Orlando Magic’s offseason has fallen. Now comes the effects of that win and what it means for the rest of the team’s summer plans.
Beyond the draft pick, the Magic face big free-agent decisions with veteran guard Gary Harris and center Mo Bamba. And the team is one of the few with tons of cap room to spend — even with the first pick salary now slotted for them.
The results of the NBA Draft Lottery though are changing how everyone views the team and its offseason. The dominos are starting to fall for what this team can and will do this offseason.
The first big one appears to be the future for Bamba.
With the Magic signing Wendell Carter to a long-term contract and his stellar season and the Magic having the likelihood of drafting a power forward or center to start alongside him, the odds of the team re-signing Bamba seem to have decreased tremendously.
Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report polled some rival executives who seem to think the team will favor Chet Holmgren for now.
Of course, the Magic are notorious for keeping things close to the vest and value the personal relationships they build with in-person interviews and workouts. So it would be silly to think the team has made any final decision.
Fischer adds the prospect of adding Smith or Holmgren to the roster has many rival executives expecting the team to let Bamba move on in free agency.
Bamba is a restricted free agent this offseason. If Orlando still extends him a qualifying offer, the team would have the right to match that contract.
Mo Bamba further made some headlines when he hopped on an Instagram live with Donovan Mitchell and urged him to “come home.” Both players are originally from New York.
It is still pretty unclear what Bamba would fetch in free agency. He could end up being a player who gets the full MLE around $9 million after he averaged 10.6 points per game, 8.1 rebounds per game and 1.7 blocks per game in his first year as a full-time starter.
Bamba showed enough promise in his first injury-free season where he had regular minutes that the team could keep developing him. It was always going to come down to price.
But now with the Magic holding the first pick, it seems a lot harder for the Magic to find a place to fit him — especially if the team drafts Holmgren. Even taking the forwards makes it hard to find a place for Mo Bamba to play considering the team expects Jonathan Isaac to return and the team still has Chuma Okeke to develop too.
This gets to a larger problem with the Magic’s roster right now: They have a lot of young players and decreasingly fewer opportunities for them as the Magic try to figure out who they are going to build around.
That is where the rest of the offseason will come in.
Before the Draft Lottery, the thoughts about the offseason were centered mostly on how best to use the ample cap space the team had. Many expected the team to be conservative, perhaps overpaying on a veteran to help the team in the short-term and provide some long-term trade capital. There is still some hope the team re-signs Harris.
And the other expectation is the Magic will likely trade Terrence Ross for something. That could be a tool the team uses to rent cap space and collect more young or future assets. There is still a lot of moving to do.
The Magic have $79.8 million guaranteed for next season (that counts only the $16 million now guaranteed in Isaac’s contract). Orlando can add an additional $9.1 million in cap hold for the first pick. That brings the total to $88.9 million in salary committed to next season.
The salary cap for the 2023 season is expected to be set at $122 million. That gives Orlando around $33.1 million in cap space (give or take Harris’ cap hold if the Magic want to re-sign him and potential cap holds to sign the 32nd and 35th picks).
That could theoretically put the Magic in play for big-name free agents — like Deandre Ayton or Zach LaVine.
Some bookmakers have already put the Magic as one of the favorites to chase the Phoenix Suns center, although that makes increasingly less sense now that the team has won the Lottery and will likely take another big forward to pair with Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter.
The rumblings that LaVine could be seeking his way out of Chicago — there are reports that he will take visits at least — certainly puts the Magic in play if they want.
LaVine would fill a need on the wing within the starting lineup and would be a move to push the team into contention much faster than anyone thinks. Knee concerns might give this young team some pause in chasing him though.
But the Magic have a lot of promising young players who shined last year and now they have the No. 1 pick as an enticement for any veteran that wants to come here. The No. 1 pick can indeed open some of those doors. And who the Magic pick might be a small clue to what they plan for free agency.
The point of this is not to say the Magic will chase LaVine. The point is the first pick is an added enticement for a potential free agent to join the team. Orlando has doors open to it that it may not have had before Tuesday’s Lottery results.
For now, it is a safer bet to assume the Magic will stay conservative. All indications from Jeff Weltman and John Hammond are that Orlando is going to stay patient with the young group the team is building with. They will explore a ton of different options — both aggressive and conservative.
But the point is the first pick has opened doors to everything. Just like it has opened doors for the prospects the Magic can take in the Draft, it will open doors for the Magic’s offers to free agents.
That may mean Bamba is indeed likely gone. The team has to make room for their new pick and make sure he has a chance to play. Not to mention add to the roster.
But the doors are open. And nobody knows exactly where it will lead for now.