5 questions for the fourth quarter of the Orlando Magic’s 2023 season

Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic enter the final quarter of the season with a lot to play for and a lot of growth still to make. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic enter the final quarter of the season with a lot to play for and a lot of growth still to make. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /
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The dream for any young team is to play meaningful games late in the season. To make it to the end of the season with something in front of them and a potential goal to achieve.

The ultimate sign that you are moving beyond the “tanking” phase of your rebuild and ready to think about what it will take to win in a real way.

The Orlando Magic were likely hoping to be in this position back in October. But here they are playing meaningful basketball at this stage of the season.

They are close enough to the postseason that it is a little carrot to hold out in front of their players. Every single one of them is talking about and at least partially focused on reducing that 4.5-game gap separating them from that final play-in spot.

The Orlando Magic enter the final quarter of the season as long shots to make the Play-In Tournament. But that still leaves the team with a lot to gain and learn in the final quarter of the season.

That is still a tall hill to climb. But for such a young team — Gary Harris is 28 years old and the elder statesman on the team with the recently signed Michael Carter-Williams checking in as the oldest player on the team at 31 — getting this experience is critical to their future growth.

The Magic may well become the next “it” team. And the experience they get playing these kinds of meaningful games will make the next phase of this team’s development that much easier. Everyone expects the Magic to take that leap next year.

This is the time to make mistakes and gain this experience. Even getting to .500 like the Magic have done essentially since Dec. 7 is a huge step forward.

These final 20 — now 19 — games this season will be about setting up the team’s future and continuing to evolve into the postseason team the Magic surely believe they will become in the 2024 season. It is about figuring out which players will fit into the team’s bigger picture as they begin to turn this into a winning outfit.

There is a lot to prove still for the Magic, even if we already consider the season an unqualified success.

There is nothing like time to figure this out. And the Magic have lots of time to figure things out. But once the season ends, they will have some decisions to make on how to get this team to the next level.

And that is the part that is so exciting for the rest of the season.