The biggest piece of the puzzle for the Orlando Magic has been filled.
The moment the Magic’s season ended and the team knew it would have one of the top picks in the draft, they knew this would be the most consequential player they added this year. Everything else would be seeming window dressing, especially considering the still-deliberate pace the Magic have hinted they would go at.
To say the least, Orlando can call this a successful offseason just on drafting Paolo Banchero alone. The team will begin aligning itself and figuring out how to fit their new draft pick into the fold.
Orlando had some sense before the draft took place that it would be adding a forward and it would slot that into their depth chart. Banchero especially gives the team some versatility and flexibility offensively.
Indeed, offense was certainly the big focus of the Magic’s draft. And considering the Magic were near the bottom of every offensive statistical category — including 29th in offensive rating.
The Orlando Magic are done with their draft. Now comes the preparation for free agency and how the team aims to complete its roster.
They added a primary scorer in Paolo Banchero and then another shooter in second-round pick Caleb Houstan. They both should help the Magic in whatever role the Magic end up settling on for them.
Banchero obviously is the place to start. At this point, it is unclear just how the Magic plan to use him. Or what kind of players the team will need to make all of that work. Maybe that is a thing the team tries to discover throughout this year.
Orlando will not be a complete picture this year. The Magic are hoping to make sizable and measurable improvements. They will not be satisfied with another trip to the top of the Draft Lottery and counting ping pong balls in April, despite how promising the 2023 Draft is shaping up to be.
So while the biggest piece of the Magic’s puzzle is in place, it is certainly not the last piece of the puzzle.
Orlando still has some work to do to complete its roster and plenty of cap space and tools to get that done, no matter what the team’s goals and expectations for the upcoming season might be.
The first place to start in evaluating what comes next is another global view of the current roster and a look at its depth chart:
|Markelle Fultz||Jalen Suggs||Franz Wagner||Paolo Banchero||Wendell Carter|
|Cole Anthony||Terrence Ross||Chuma Okeke||Jonathan Isaac||Moe Wagner|
|Devin Cannady||R.J. Hampton||Caleb Houstan|
Free Agents: Gary Harris, Mo Bamba (Restricted), Robin Lopez
The Magic certainly have all the versatility they advertise. Trying to put players into boxes and into a sensible depth chart is quite difficult with this group.
And Orlando can do whatever it wants and build whatever lineups it wants and get creative with it.
All three of the Magic’s nominal point guards could play both guard positions. Terrence Ross can float between both wing positions. Franz Wagner, Chuma Okeke, Paolo Banchero and Jonathan Isaac can play both forward positions. Wendell Carter can play alongside another center just as easily as he can play that position.
And everyone has toyed with the idea of playing all three of Wagner, Banchero and Isaac together at some point.
There is a lot of positional and playmaking versatility in these lineups. It is easy to see what the Magic are starting o build. Of course, so much more experimentation and growth will happen on the court.
The task now is completing the roster. With free agency set to begin Thursday, June 30, the offseason is picking up steam quickly.
It is clear just from the basic look at the depth chart that Orlando needs a backup center. It is the biggest need facing the roster. Whether that comes from re-signing restricted free agent Mo Bamba or elsewhere, this is an undoubted need.
It becomes more urgent because Wendell Carter has never played more than 62 games in a season (last year). Even on some optimistic measures, the Magic should be planning to be without Carter for at least 15 games.
That will most likely make finding a backup center the biggest priority for the offseason. One way or another, the team needs to bolster its center position.
Beyond that, the team certainly could use a replacement for Harris too. The Magic need to find a veteran wing player to fill in those minutes, either as a starter or coming off the bench. Especially with the seemingly impending trade of Terrence Ross on the horizon.
Orlando could certainly trust some of these young players who struggled at times last year. And that would not necessarily be a bad thing. But the team could also use some stability and competition too. Orlando’s youth is both its strength and its weakness right now.
Who the team might target is still up in the air. No one should expect a super splashy free agent move or even a trade. The Magic have made it clear they will still progress slowly and with patience as they grow their young group organically.
But Orlando has money and cap space to throw around this summer.
According to figures from Spotrac, the Magic have $63.8 million in guaranteed salary for next season. That does not include Isaac’s $17.4 million non-guaranteed salary (guarantees on Jan. 10). That is the same day Devin Cannady and Moe Wagner’s contracts ($3.6 million total) become guaranteed.
Pairing those and Banchero’s rookie contract, which will pay him $9.1 million, the Magic will add another $30.1 million to the total.
In all, the Magic have $93.9 million committed to next season. That puts them roughly $28.1 million below the league’s $122-million salary-cap line.
Orlando remains one of the few teams with money to throw around this offseason. And the Magic could easily move some money if they wanted to add a max contract player — the Magic were at one point connected to Miles Bridges (that always seemed far-fetched considering the team’s deep investment in big forwards) and have been considered in the past one of the betting favorites for Deandre Ayton (hard to see them further clogging the frontcourt with Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter around).
Do not expect those kinds of moves though. Jeff Weltman has made it clear he wants to see the team make progress, but they are not seeking the “sugar high” of a quick playoff trip or to “rush back to mediocrity.”
Instead, the Magic may be willing to rent their cap space out to teams looking to get deals done around the league. They should be looking for opportunities to grab future assets and perhaps some overpaid, but underused assets to fill their needs on their bench.
They have 13 players under contract already. That leaves two roster spots and two two-way contracts available. This should not be considered the team’s final roster. There are still changes and additions to make.
For now, it is clear where the Magic should put some of their priorities.
They are still incredibly young and need to add veteran poise to their roster if they can. Orlando needs to find shooting as a skill. But the team needs to ensure that it adds a veteran wing and a backup center to complete this roster.
The Magic have the tools to do things this offseason as free agency gets set to begin.