What do we make of the Orlando Magic season so far?
On one hand, the Magic have shown tremendous growth and development. The very thing the Magic were supposed to be about this season and their ultimate goal and judge for the entire season.
Paolo Banchero is a seeming shoo-in to win Rookie of the Year at this point. Franz Wagner has developed into a near-All-Star as a sophomore forward. And players throughout this extremely young roster are starting to fill in and find their roles.
The first quarter of the season was about survival in every way. The Magic continued to struggle with injuries that gutted their point guard depth especially. Their lack of experience and the experimenting the Magic were doing with their versatile young roster assured there would be growing pains. It was felt completely in the win column.
The Orlando Magic found their groove in the second quarter of the season as they began to climb the standings. The third quarter will see the team shape its short- and long-term future.
As Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony returned to the court and the team found some stability — and some health to put out the same lineup every night — the Magic started to find their groove. They went 10-10 in the second quarter of the season.
This is a small step in the right direction toward the team winning. It is becoming a more normal thing for this team.
That is the biggest point of growth for this team and where the team stands as it has begun the second half of its season. Orlando is no longer a team that is purely about development on a granular level, this is a teamt hat has shown itself capable and wants to win more.
The question left for this season is just how much is the team going to win? How much of that tangible progress can the team make? And just how far it can go?
There are obviously more questions to ask about this team as it goes in that process. Each stretch of games — each road trip, homestand, victory, setback, pitfall et al. — will bring with it a new challenge and a chance to assess where this team is at.
The Magic’s front office will obviously have the team’s long-term interests in mind as it evaluates the roster ahead of the Feb. 9 trade deadline. The team may well spend part of its next 20 games setting up the next few years as much as they aim to make the most of this season.
But there is a lot to get to still with this group as the Magic assess what comes next and see if they can make something special out of this season too.
The third quarter of the season will be about building consistency then. It will be about seeing if the Magic can continue to make winning more than a habit and climb the standings.
And then it will be about what comes beyond this season and how Orlando sets itself up for next offseason — whether that is making more moves on the edges to foster gradual growth or whether the team feels this group could be ready for a major move this team is capable of.
The next 20 or so games are critical for the team in many ways.