Orlando Magic’s flexibility is their greatest tool to rebuild

Orlando Magic fans have circled Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Poole among the rumors this offseason. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Orlando Magic fans have circled Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Poole among the rumors this offseason. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic’s offseason has been fairly quiet. The team added Paolo Banchero and sent out Robin Lopez in free agency. Otherwise, the team brought back every player from its 22-win effort last season.

The Magic still count themselves as having a great summer. That is what getting the top overall pick will do and only compounds with how well he played in Summer League and then showed out in summer pro-ams.

Orlando entered the offseason with a ton of cap room to spend and then decided to roll it over to the next season, doubling down on the vibes and culture they were building at the end of last season.

President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman has repeatedly said his team is not looking to get the sugar high of a playoff berth or rush their process. They want to wait and see what they have. This is their proof-of-concept season.

That has not stopped Magic fans from racing out and trying to speed things up. And to their point, there is no waiting in the NBA. When the opportunity to improve is ripe, a team has to strike.

Orlando Magic fans are eager to see the team accelerate their rebuild as excitement for the roster builds. For now, the team sees its flexibility as its biggest asset to build and grow.

That is why there were calls early in the summer to try to chase the still-unsigned Collin Sexton as an extra scorer or to push all their chips in now to go after the young and under-contract Donovan Mitchell or now preparing for 2023 free agency with Jordan Poole.

Orlando fans are hopeful about the team’s future enough to believe in its present and want to push that pace.

This is all part of the point. Weltman may not be ready to advance the team at the pace some fans want — and probably not to the point that he is willing to cash all his chips for a star player like Mitchell and kick his rebuild into overdrive right now.

For now, Orlando is content to continue building the foundations of its culture and see what they have before deciding what that path is. No doubt, if things go right the Magic will need to be aggressive and find their path forward. Their clock is already ticking in many ways.

But this is the bigger point and the brilliance of how Weltman has set up his table.

It is good that Orlando fans can feel in these conversations — even some national media acknowledge the Magic are lurking in these conversations too even if they are not ready to pull the trigger. The team wants to be in these conversations and think big about its future.

For the Magic, it is about being in a position to make these kinds of major moves when they are ready. That time could come soon and the Magic will have to be able to act quickly.

To this point, then, flexibility is the biggest tool the Magic have. Their ability to move in any direction is what makes the team so intriguing in how they map their future.

They can go all-in and commit young prospects and draft picks to a trade and take on some extra salary. They have cap room to straight up acquire more salary in a trade from a team looking to reset or rebuild. Or they could use that cap room to sign a major free agency.

Orlando knows it has one shot at this and one chance to cash in its chips. It is about doing so with the right player and at the right time. And that timing is incredibly difficult to figure — maybe Mitchell is the right risk, maybe it is worth investing in Poole, maybe it is someone else.

This is the difficult task that stands before Weltman.

But he and the team are empowered by the flexibility they have created.

They hold all of their own draft picks in addition to the Chicago Bulls’ top-4 protected pick this year and a protected pick from the Denver Nuggets in 2025. Those are all valuable ammunition for a future trade.

The team also has tons of cap room available. The team could easily get more than $60 million in cap room ahead of the summer of 2023. In reality, the Magic are likely to have $30 million in cap room.

Orlando rolled over its cap room from this past season giving the team the ability to choose its path forward. The team can use this cap room in any way that it wants.

There is no one way forward for Orlando. The team can choose how it wants to build its team.

The only time pressure the Magic are facing are the expiration of rookie contracts and the sudden bump up in salary that would come for players like Cole Anthony and Chuma Okeke (in the summer of 2024), Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs (2025) and Paolo Banchero (2026).

There will be a lot of changes in the meantime — a new or renewed collective bargaining agreement comes in the summer of 2024 and a new media rights deal that will further boost the salary cap in the summer of 2025. That could boost the Magic or hurt them by adding flexibility to more teams than anticipated.

It all starts for the Magic with how they perform on the court. The Magic need that foundation to build upon first before they get aggressive in the trade market or free agency. That will not only sell the team to potential future acquisitions but make Orlando a place and the Magic a team these top stars want to go to.

Weltman probably understands this well. His team has to prove it has something on the court and perhaps a star player in waiting before he gets aggressive to look for that final piece. That part may be coming in the next season or a little further down the road.

What Weltman has done and what he has set up is the flexibility to go for it when the team is ready. And that is the point for now.

Everyone is trying to connect the dots and predict when the Magic will deploy all these tools. The hope has to be the team will pick that moment rather than run out of time and have the moment pick them — that is how you end up signing Bismack Biyombo, Jeff Green and D.J. Augustin in the same summer.

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Orlando will have to spend these considerable resources at some point. But for now, flexibility is the team’s biggest weapon and all the team worked to preserve this year. Everyone else will speculate what the team will do from there.