The Orlando Magic are in the most difficult phase of their rebuild

Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner helped the Orlando Magic wake up from their malaise and score a come-from-behind win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner helped the Orlando Magic wake up from their malaise and score a come-from-behind win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

How many times in sports have we seen a franchise rise from the bottom of the standings, only to get stuck in mediocrity for the next decade?

The Orlando Magic are reaching an important moment in the organization’s history, and it will be interesting to see how they proceed.

In the past few seasons, the Magic have succeeded in building a young roster full of talent, which was the first step of their rebuild. It was also the easy part.

The Magic achieved this almost exclusively through the draft. What comes next will be the real challenge. How the team go from promising young team and develop or turn into future championship contender.

While we must give credit to the Orlando Magic’s front office for bringing in Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner, these decisions were not as difficult as the next phase.

At this point, they will need to decide which players to keep and which individuals best align with the plans head coach Jamahl Mosley and the front office have going forward.

These decisions will be tough. Mo Bamba is going to have to be moved at some point. One of the four young guards (Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, R.J. Hampton and Jalen Suggs) might also find themselves no longer a part of the long-term vision.

Building a winning NBA franchise takes talent, luck, player development and, most importantly, a strategic winning philosophy that allows the players and coaches to succeed.

With Jonathan Isaac’s return, coach Jamahl Mosley is currently playing a 10-11 man rotation. This is without R.J. Hampton and the injured Chuma Okeke, two young players who need to see the court to continue their development.

So the bottom line is the Magic have 11-12 players who are talented enough to see the court on a nightly basis.

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For the first time in two seasons, it seems as if the injury bug has finally left the Magic. While Mosley has a great deal of talent at his disposal, he also has a young, inexperienced group of players who have not spent much time on the court together.

Having a consistent rotation that is trimmed to 9-10 players will help build continuity and allow the front office to evaluate what they see on the court.

The trade deadline will be a test for the Magic’s front office and will give us an indicator of their mindset.

Do they move Bamba and/or one of the veterans? Or do they sit pat and let the rest of the year play out?

As mentioned earlier, moving one or two players is a necessity to reduce the rotation. Bamba has seen his playing time diminish with the plethora of big men the Magic have. At 24 years old, many teams would be interested in his services.

Terrence Ross and Gary Harris are veteran wing players helping the Magic win games. Harris was phenomenal against the Indiana Pacers on Jan. 25, scoring 22 points and going a perfect six-for-six on 3-pointers.

Ross has also had his share of big games over the past few seasons. However, each player could become the final piece of the puzzle for a championship-contending team.

There is logic as to why the Magic would benefit from engaging in trade talks for one of the two players.

The offseason will be the second test for this front office. The roster decisions will be predicated partly on how the Magic finish the season.

If the Magic make a push in the second half and get into the play-in tournament, the front office might be convinced to remain idle and let the team continue its development without major changes. Players like Banchero are doing just fine with the opportunity they are being given.

However, if the Magic struggle and finish near the bottom of the standings, it might persuade them to take a bigger risk in the offseason.

Perhaps this will be the time to swing for the fences and use some of the young talent on the roster as trade bait for a superstar.

There comes a moment or two in every rebuild where a team is presented with an opportunity for a big-time signing or trade.

This offseason will prove to be one of those times for the Magic’s front office. It will be interesting to see how they proceed.

Mosley’s job security will also be impacted by how his team finishes the season and what the front office decides to do with the roster. Next year, Mosley will likely face the external pressure to win for the first time in his young head coaching career.

While he is only in his second season in charge, the front office and the fanbase will keep a close eye on the team’s improvements.

With a healthy roster, there are not as many excuses that can be made for the team’s performances. The young players need time on the court to continue their development, but coach Mosley will also be trying to win games.

It is a fine line for any professional sports coach who is leading a young roster. Mosley has done a good job thus far, and the fans have been patient, especially with the injury problems.

But next year expectations will increase, as will the fan’s desire to get back to the postseason. Failure to do so will test the patience of all.

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The first phase of the rebuild is complete and the Orlando Magic have passed with flying colors. Decisions become more difficult from here on out, and this is where the differences between mediocre and championship franchises are made.

It will be interesting to see what happens as the Magic enter this next phase. They have to get this part of the long-term plan right.