Orlando Magic will have to define roles and create pecking order to succeed

Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley helped build the team's foundation. But there is still work to do in what should be a busy summer. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley helped build the team's foundation. But there is still work to do in what should be a busy summer. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic are trading on good vibes.

For a young team that will have a long journey ahead of them this season, that is a good thing. It is necessary to help them get through the inevitable struggles. It helped them feel good about a 22-win season and the direction they are going in.

It shows they believe in their process and where the team is going in. It is a sign of the team’s complete buy-in on what they are doing.

The Magic are all about those vibes too. Playing for each other and being good teammates are essential to the team’s culture and identity. That is not something to throw away.

This is the attitude the Magic want to have. They want to be a team about the team. They want players who will sacrifice for each other and work together. No one should lose sight of that.

But Orlando is looking to build toward a winning club and winning mentality. And while all those “good teammate” vibes are good and important, the team also needs a pecking order. They need a clear hierarchy that creates an understanding of roles.

The Orlando Magic are still working to build their culture and their identity. That will include not just bringing the team together but beginning to establish their hierarchy and roles to succeed.

That is perhaps the biggest question and mystery facing this Magic team. It is perhaps the biggest reason fans are so keen on trying to get the Magic involved in the Donovan Mitchell discussion. It is why Paolo Banchero has seemingly raised the expectations for this team.

Orlando has lacked a true star for the better part of a decade now. And that has been the defining feature of this team.

As Orlando collected young players, it always felt like the team needed that one player to put everyone in their right roles. Someone to make Aaron Gordon the defensive seconary player he thrived as when he got to the Denver Nuggets. Someone to be the creator to set up Nikola Vucevic better or put Evan Fournier into the role as a secondary creator rather than a primary one.

The Magic needed someone to put them in the roles that optimized their abilities.

Similarly as the Magic were building up players, Victor Oladipo acknowledged after leaving Orlando that there were too many young players trying to prove themselves and establish themselves in the pecking order. All those young players were fighting against each other for their spot.

One of the great failures of Rob Hennigan’s rebuild with the Magic was that he never centered the team around a player and never had a coach who clearly established roles — not until Scott Skiles arrived and then buy-in from both players and coach became an issue despite the team’s moderate success.

These failures from the previous phase of the rebuild are all things the Magic are hoping to avoid this time around.

Orlando as it stands have a lot of players who are trying to prove themselves again and more than a few who have been key players for the team who will have to take a back seat as new players come in.

It is easy to pencil in certain players as part of the team’s future right now. But ultimately everything is going to have to be earned on the court. That is ultimately where players will have to learn where there place is on the team and what their role will be.

This will be coach Jamahl Mosley’s biggest challenge this season. It is as much the big part of his mission for this team to “level up” as everything else. Understanding how to win is understanding and accepting roles and where they belong in the pecking order.

Orlando is going to be figuring that part out this season. That is perhaps the central mission of the season.

The Magic still want to be about the team and they still want a fairly egalitarian offense. Their reliance on switching and on versatility means they will have multiple ways to attack. The way Mosley wants his team to prepare seems to suggest he wants everyone to be able to do everything on the court and off, as he told Nick Friedell of ESPN:

"“I really believe that we’re going to do it by committee, honestly,” Mosley says. “Look at the Warriors. Look at Milwaukee; you look at Memphis. There’s something about the committee in which they do it. One person will speak at times, but there’s other guys holding each one accountable. There’s one guy that will speak up and do it a different way, work in a different way.“That’s the way this team is shaping up; each guy’s going to have a different type of voice on a different night.”"

There is plenty to that. Mosley wants his team to take ownership of this project and of their development. He has said specifically that “leveling up” is about holding each other accountable.

But while the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors’ offensive styles are a bit more egalitarian and about sharing and moving the ball, they still center around their star players, as important as role players are.

At the end of the day, those teams are working to get Giannis Antetokunmpo and Stephen Curry the ball in situations where they can score or divert enough attention to free up others.

At the end of the day, those teams know those stars will keep the ball moving. But everything still revolves around those players. Everyone sort of falls into a role around them.

The Magic have a ton of offensive weapons. They seem eager to creatively deploy them and try to put pressure on defenses with their versatility. But at the end of the day, everyone still needs their roles defined. They still need a clear system to buy into to find success.

Nobody knows how Cole Anthony will react to going to the bench if he cannot beat out Markelle Fultz for the starting spot. Jalen Suggs is still a rookie, but what if Jamahl Mosley decides to start the veteran dependability of Gary Harris? Orlando will probably want to play Jonathan Isaac a certain amount of minutes as he recovers that could cut into minutes for other players.

And at the center of it all is how much of the mantle Paolo Banchero is ready to take quickly. How much of that mantle will he earn? How much will the Magic give him knowing he can take it eventually? And how will the team react to his addition and his potential focus?

In this sense, Paolo Banchero can earn that place and put everyone in his place much the same way Shaquille O’Neal did as a rookie: By dominating play and being the clearly best player everyone needs to fall beside — remember that famous line from Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott in This Magic Moment?

Who knows if that is how things will play out or what that will look like. The team is focused on its togetherness in this offseason and how to make the most of it.

Next. Playoff Lessons: Memphis Grizzlies show how to level up. dark

But every team needs a pecking order and every team needs to accept defined role to make the most of their team. That is what the team will have to define this season and move forward with beyond it.