Orlando Magic are neither buyers nor sellers at the trade deadline

Orlando Magic guard Gary Harris has struggled ot find his footing this season. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando Magic guard Gary Harris has struggled ot find his footing this season. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic are in a strange spot developmentally.

On a macroscopic level, the team is exactly where it wants to be and imagined it would be entering this season. The team is learning to win and trying to play at a higher level consistently, but the team can clearly see the outlines of its future and what the team could become.

The team’s two young forwards are already emerging into potential future stars. The Magic are still looking for the right pieces to pull it all together.

They are starting by trying to develop it in what they have already on the roster. The organization will not say the goal is anything more than development for this season.

What might become clear then or the conclusion that the Magic may be using this full season to reach is that they need to find what this team is missing outside of the roster. The question is really not if the Magic make a move or look to add to this roster, but when.

Whether the Magic have made that determination now or want to wait for the offseason, they are stuck in the middle as the league begins to prepare for the Feb. 9 trade deadline.

The NBA trade deadline is quickly approaching. The Orlando Magic find themselves in an interesting position where they may not be buying or selling as they look to improve the roster.

The deadline forces action — that is what deadlines do and it is why we typically see most of the transaction activity occur at the deadline, at the draft and ahead of free agency — and teams are going to assess what they want to accomplish the rest of this season as they pull the trigger on deals.

The trade deadline more than anything else is a time for buyers and sellers.

Deals around the deadline tend to feature a team trying to add something to their roster or a team preparing for its offseason — whether that is free agency or setting the table for a fresh rebuild. There are rarely the kind of sprawling or complicated deals that seem mutually beneficial.

The aggressive teams look to prey on the teams looking to, or accepting a, move down the standings.

These are the buyers and sellers. And the Magic are neither right now.

They are a team caught in the middle.

They are not a team looking to sell off players for their future. But they are also not a team desperate to improve their immediate present. That will make it hard for the Magic to find an impactful deal and may well lead to a quiet deadline.

In-season trades are always very difficult. The teams that tend to pull off the biggest moves are either the ones knocking on the door for a title or the ones ready to hit the reset button as the Magic were in March 2021.

It is just much more difficult to make an in-season trade than the Trade Machine would suggest. There is a human element that the team has to consider.

During the season, there is less time to assess and evaluate what a roster needs and fewer options to go out and get that exact piece.

Especially those teams trying to climb the playoff standings, they are less likely to cause major disruptions to their roster. For a team to make an additive move, it would have to be something they feel confident can take them over the top and can fit in seamlessly.

For teams thinking about the offseason already, it is about setting the table for the bigger moves to come.

When the Magic traded Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon in quick succession, the main goal was to try to add young, cost-controlled talent and clear the team’s books to be nimble in the offseason for whatever opportunities would arise.

Not to mention, secure a roster that would clinch one of the top picks in the draft.

This is the most important thing to consider with trades at the deadline. There are rarely like-for-like trades. It is teams buying and teams selling. Teams going up and teams preparing for the offseason.

So where does that leave the Magic?

They are really neither. Or the market will not see them as either.

Orlando sees itself as a team on the rise but it is not in a position to push some chips in the middle to chase a postseason spot. That would make it unlikely the team goes out and buys players, expending rostered players and draft capital to make a move.

So they are not buyers in that sense.

But the team is also not yet focused on its offseason. The team is already awash in draft picks — including two projected first-round picks in the 2023 Draft — and roughly $30 million in cap room with the ability to create more if they want it. So the team is already set up well for its offseason.

If anything the Magic have to be thinking about how to consolidate some young talent so that there are clearly defined roles and clearer runways for young players to play.

Outside of veteran Terrence Ross (an upcoming free agent for next year) or Gary Harris (with a non-guaranteed deal for next year at a reasonable number) the Magic are not exactly itching to dump any players.

So they are not quite sellers either.

The Magic are indeed stuck in the middle and focused on their present and what they can make out of this season. They are a team encouraged by the progress it has made to climb onto the periphery of the postseason chase.

Unless the Magic want to expend some draft capital now, are willing to take on some dead-weight salary, or are looking for another reclamation project, it feels unlikely the Magic are going to go out and meaningfully improve the roster.

There are no major players they are looking to move and while draft capital might be intriguing it feels excessive unless the team just wants more in their coffers. With the struggles the Magic have historically had to unload Terrence Ross, that might be all they can get if they are looking to free up playing time for Caleb Houstan to end the season or to open a roster spot to convert Kevon Harris to a full contract rather than just a two-way.

This feels like the most likely trade that goes down.

That just makes it difficult to see the Magic being able to make a significant move. The Magic will be better positioned with information and understanding of their roster to make those moves in the offseason.

Next. 3 Magic games to watch before the All-Star Break. dark

The reality is the Magic are neither buyers or sellers at the moment. But there are still three weeks to go and a lot can change in the meantime.