Orlando Magic fans should dream big for 2023 (for now)

Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton made several clutch plays to give the Orlando Magic a win over the Utah Jazz. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton made several clutch plays to give the Orlando Magic a win over the Utah Jazz. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The path is laid out now. The 2022-23 schedule is out for the Orlando Magic and everyone can begin planning their lives for the next seven or eight months.

If there is a reason everyone gets excited for the schedule to be released it is because it is an oasis of basketball news in the quietest part of the basketball calendar and that it officially kicks off the new season. July 1 may be the start of the basketball year, but it is like flipping over from December to a blank page.

Now that page is all filled out.

Fans are buzzing over a November TNT game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. That is how starved for attention Magic fans are.

But the excitement among Magic fans is palpable at this point. Not just because Turner Sports deemed it fit to put the Orlando Magic on their air — national TV appearances are earned or because you are the New York Knicks.

It is hard not to find optimism bubbling within the Magic kingdom for the first time in a long time. Having the number one pick in the draft will do that for you. And his stellar performance both in Summer League and in pro-ams have raised the bar for what is possible.

Orlando Magic fans are buzzing about the future of their team and the potential for 2023. It is August, now is the time to be optimistic.

Anyone outside Orlando is not quite ready to buy in. Most predictions have the Magic winning somewhere in the high 20s this season and still settling in at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Orlando, for its part, is also tempering expectations. The Magic’s goal is simply to improve — “level up” as coach Jamahl Mosley has put it. They are not trying to say Playoffs or even Play-In Tournament out loud.

Magic fans are saying it and loudly. As fans are want to do.

But no one should blame them for that. This is the exact time everyone should be optimistic and believe their team can be the best version of itself.

It is not like anyone is seriously saying the Magic can win a title this season. All anyone wants to do is make the Playoffs or Play-In Tournament and play some competitive games.

The truth is those dreams are exactly what this team should believe. Orlando absolutely has the talent if everything comes to get to be that surprise team this season.

They have plenty of young players who can take sizable leaps in their games — whether that is Franz Wagner taking a big step up toward stardom or Jalen Suggs bouncing back from a difficult rookie year or Wendell Carter further solidifying himself. They have a potential star in a rookie in Paolo Banchero that they are looking to curate and develop.

And that does not even dive into the return of an injured player in Jonathan Isaac and the first full offseason of development and work from Markelle Fultz.

There are a lot of things that can break the Magic’s way. They have solid depth of talent of players who have contributed well to their team. And they have a strong chemistry to build from. Orlando liked how it ended its season last year and they believe that chemistry will carry over this season.

So why not believe this team is a playoff team? Why not look at the schedule and that road map ahead and imagine where the team will need to be to make that playoff push?

This is the time to do this because everything is in front of the team and everything is possible. This is a talented team and a team capable of surprising a lot of teams around the league.

Someone in the league is going to surprise. The NBA is not so predictable that the playoff field is set completely before the season starts — nobody saw the Cleveland Cavaliers coming last year.

The path will not be easy. The Magic are going to learn a lot about themselves through the first part of the season, with the road-heavy start to the year and then the difficult run of games from Thanksgiving until Christmas. Orlando is going to have to be ready to play from the start.

This is where the realists will jump in.

In all likelihood the prognosticators are right. The Magic may not be ready to make a run for the Play-In Tournament. They are still going to go through the difficulties and inconsistencies of youth.

And the early part of the season may put them in a deep hole.

As Mosley has repeatedly said, this is a season for evaluating and improving. Success this season is not going to be measured fully in wins, although everyone acknowledges the team needs to start looking more like a team capable of winning and learning the process of winning.

That is how the Magic should be judged. When we get to the end of the season, Orlando will have a whole lot more information to figure out how to build next — and plenty of tools to do it from their own cap flexibility to holding two picks in the 2023 Draft.

That is really what the team wants to see.

Those are the evaluations for April and May. That is what the team will be considering and looking at for the end of the season.

For August? The focus should be on what is possible and the belief that what seems impossible today can be achieved by then.

Orlando has a very talented team. As young as the Magic are, they could do a lot of good things and surprise a lot of NBA fans very quickly. That is what has everyone so excited for this team, this rebuild project and what will happen the rest of this season.

There may indeed be some hard days ahead for the Magic. It will not be smooth sailing through the 2023 season.

Next. 3 things to watch in the Orlando Magic's schedule. dark

But the Magic have a lot to be excited about. And this is the time to be excited about all the possibilities.