Is it now too enticing for the Orlando Magic not to tank?

Jalen Suggs and Mo Bamba of the Orlando Magic meet in the fourth quarter (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Jalen Suggs and Mo Bamba of the Orlando Magic meet in the fourth quarter (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic’s Monday night loss to the Indiana Pacers was in many ways a microcosm of their season up to this point. A spirited performance in parts, with a lack of energy at the wrong times leading to their demise.

The injury bug struck again as well, with Chuma Okeke exiting the game after 12 minutes of action with an apparent knee injury. A tough blow for a player who was finding some confidence and minutes with Paolo Banchero continuing to sit with an ankle sprain.

Add Wendell Carter to the list of absentees, and it is understandable why the Magic are continuing to come up short.  Gary Harris’ return to the tune of 18 points was a welcome sight, but the reality is this is a short-handed group who are going to lose more games than they win for the rest of the season.

Which begs the very real question, is it now too enticing for the Orlando Magic not to tank at this stage?

A veteran player like Terrence Ross would say absolutely not.

At 31-years-old, he is in his prime and wants to be competing at the highest level possible. Unfortunately for Ross, there is also real value in keeping him around as the elder statesman of this young group of players because of the model professional that he is.

But Ross does not run this organization. And we all know that Victor Wembanyama is waiting for the team who ends up with the first pick in next year’s NBA Draft.

Even if Bol Bol is currently doing the best impression of the Frenchman across the entire league, his mix of length, handle and shooting makes him the Magic’s most important player to this point in the campaign.

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While losing games to try and get Wembanyama would appear to be a no-brainer, especially with fans back onside thanks to the talents of Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner, it is not as easy as simply flicking a switch to lose games and then win them again when the time comes (ironically this is a problem the Utah Jazz are having this season, but in reverse, as they seem unable to tank properly).

The Magic have appeared in the second-most games featuring clutch minutes so far this season, speaking to their ability to hang around against all manner of opponents, and head coach Jamahl Mosley recently told Dan Savage of how important that is for one of the youngest rosters in the league.

"“You can’t put a value on it, I think it’s so important for our guys to go through these experiences,” Mosley said. “You talk about us being one of the youngest teams in the league, our ability to be in these games closely is teaching them valuable lessons.”"

The Magic have not been truly relevant in the postseason picture in more than a decade now, and as the years pass by it is easy to fall into the pit of mediocrity that the likes of the Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves have.

As the latter is discovering, having multiple All-Stars on the roster does not alleviate the long-term rot that can set into a franchise with prolonged losing.

Yet this all seems like an overly negative outlook of where the Magic are at right now.

In Banchero and Wagner, the Magic have two players with All-Star potential. If Banchero comes back soon he could make the midseason exhibition as a rookie, even if relying on him less right now can be viewed as a plus.

Carter is clearly the team’s center of the future, and to have all of this in place ahead of having a possible top-five pick next year is a great place to be. The Orlando Magic could yet receive another high draft pick from Chicago Bulls, and the way this season is unfolding could be a blessing in disguise.

Mo Bamba has shown he can be something for the organization, while R.J. Hampton has had brief moments of positivity as well.

Okeke was also in that category, trying to take his chance, before getting injured against the Pacers. Injuries then is where we will leave this conversation, and it likely provides us with the answer to the posed question.

The Magic have had more than bad luck in this area. At some point, they may need to question whether their training methods or personnel are doing more harm than good in trying to get these players to realize their potential on a nightly basis. With so many players out, why not use this time to see what the back end of the rotation can produce, while also keeping an eye on next summer?

Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac will be back before long. Having two healthy bodies will be a real plus. But working them into the rotation will not be straightforward. This is especially true of Isaac, who has not appeared on the court in over two seasons. Despite all of this upheaval and with injuries mounting, the Magic have the 10th-best offense in the last 10 games (113.1).

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Mosley is working overtime to make all of the pieces fit and for this group to be competitive. It was always going to take time, and the injuries have hampered this growth.

With the play-in tournament moving further out of view, why not sit their best players for longer to ensure they come back fully healthy, and see what one more summer of drafting high in the lottery can bring?