Orlando Magic need proof of concept before pushing their chips in

It was not pretty for the Orlando Magic but Paolo Banchero found a way to help the team squeak out a win. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
It was not pretty for the Orlando Magic but Paolo Banchero found a way to help the team squeak out a win. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

It is hard to escape the noise surrounding NBA offseason maneuverings. Even after the Orlando Magic completely filled their roster.

As Summer League closes and many of the main roster players begin to slow down their Summer League workloads — or outright sit out the final games — the focus is on what is left to do before the NBA starts to go quiet before the start of the season.

There is plenty still to get to though.

Deandre Ayton only yesterday reportedly agreed to an offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers and had that offer sheet matched by the Phoenix Suns. That took down one of the last major free agents off the board — Collin Sexton is the only major free agent left to sign.

The dominos though will not stop falling.

The Brooklyn Nets are reportedly pushing to shop Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving after Durant’s public trade request. And the Utah Jazz’s future is in even greater flux after trading away Rudy Gobert for four first-round picks. Donovan Mitchell seems next.

It is certainly tempting for the Magic to push their chips into the middle. And everyone knows with all the youth and duplication on the roster, the magic will have to make that all-in push at some point.

The question is knowing when to do it.

The Orlando Magic clearly have the tools and assets to be players in a major trade. But the team should stay patient and figure out what they have as they continue to build their culture first.

That day is coming. And Orlando has aligned itself to remain flexible and nimble enough to go after a star whenever the team feels it is ready. But that day is not here.

The Magic are not at the stage where they should be pushing their chips into the middle. They are still at the “proof-of-concept” stage of their rebuild.

Orlando’s focus right now is on proving they have the elements to build a winning team. They need to prove to the rest of the league their talent can coalesce into a winning team. It is only at that point that the team can make the push to do more.

Last season was about establishing the basics and the foundation for the way the team would play. This season will be about beginning to pull all the pieces of that puzzle together and figuring out what will help the team win.

Paolo Banchero is certainly a big piece of this puzzle.

The Magic’s first overall pick looks like the player the team can build itself around. He feels like the central figure in an offense with both his scoring ability and his passing ability.

While everyone is excited for what Banchero can become, he still has only played two Summer League games. It is still unclear how the pieces on this team fit around him or even whether he can dominate in the same way at the NBA level.

It feels like a safe bet. But the Magic do not know for sure.

Orlando does not need to look like a championship team this year — they do not even have to make the playoffs. What this season should be about is taking steps toward winning and revealing the way the team needs to play and who the team needs to build around to get there.

That is what a “proof-of-concept” season should be. It should give the Magic a clearer idea of how to proceed and build moving forward.

This is something Jamahl Mosley mentioned during his in-game interview during Thursday’s Summer League game. He was asked about teaching a young team how to win and he said it will be a continuing process. It is something they have to learn by doing and will take some bumps in the road.

This revelation and this reality are at the center of this season and at the center of why the Magic should be focused on developing their own roster right now rather than looking to hit the trade market — expending their premium assets to do so.

Orlando’s players have largely not experienced winning at any kind of level. Acquiring or even chasing a player like Mitchell would push the team into a win-now mode. The Magic would be judged overnight on whether they are able to win and compete in the Playoffs.

Not even compete in the Playoffs, but advance in the Playoffs. That is a lot ot put on a young team. And it feels like cutting a corner for a young team.

It certainly could pan out if Banchero is that good. But again, nobody really knows.

Orlando needs to prove it is ready for that kind of pressure by winning a bit first. Then the team can push things into overdrive.

This just does not seem like the right moment to push those chips in.

Orlando will certainly be involved when the team is ready. That much has been clear throughout this offseason.

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It has not taken long for people to put together trade packages — often centering around Jonathan Isaac and perhaps including Jalen Suggs along with multiple future draft picks including the 2023 Chicago Bulls pick and the 2025 Denver Nuggets pick — to try to bring Donovan Mitchell to the Orlando Magic.

Orlando certainly has all the tools to get into this race. They own all their draft picks plus those two extra firsts mentioned. The team has plenty of young players to offer too and the roster is still enough of a blank slate and in the beginning phases to move things around.

The excitement and promise Banchero brings after his Summer League cameo only added to the feeling of boldness for the Magic to rebuild quickly and add that second star.

After all, Mitchell presents a unique opportunity. At 25 years old, he is an established star who already fits the Magic’s youthful timeline.

But it is easy to see where these things can go off the rails.

The Brooklyn Nets were similarly building a culture of young, hard-working players and gutted their roster to go after Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. That ultimately was the right decision because they got both all-world players. They were immediately title contenders.

But that era has ultimately ended with nothing. And now the Nets are scrambling to salvage something as both Irving and Durant seem set to leave. Maybe that is inevitable for every team at some point.

For now, Orlando is trying to build a sustainable culture and something that can last beyond its star — like the Miami Heat or San Antonio Spurs have built. That is the team’s focus.

Once it has shown a formula for winning, that is when the team will push its chips in and try to win. That is usually the final piece to the puzzle, not the first or second.

Next. The How is most important in Summer League. dark

The Magic still have to learn what they have. That is what the team is trying to accomplish and see this season. And why they are remaining patient and flexible for when the time is right.