Orlando Magic should aim to win to end their season

Mar 3, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs (4) talks to head coach Jamahl Mosley as Orlando plays against the Charlotte Hornets during the second half at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 3, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs (4) talks to head coach Jamahl Mosley as Orlando plays against the Charlotte Hornets during the second half at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports /

It has been a season of ups and downs for the Orlando Magic, something that should be expected for a young team in the NBA.

After the rough start to the season, the Magic turned it around in the middle with some high-level basketball fueled by defensive intensity and ball movement.

This level of play paired with general excitement around the young core immediately raised expectations for fans. In the eyes of most, the play-in was always attainable.

With just seven games to go in the season, the Magic still find themselves on the outside looking in, once again proving that growth is not always linear. They face an impossibly small margin to make the postseason, but this team is still pushing to climb the standings even with those slim hopes.

So what should be the goal for the remainder of the season? There seems to be a split amongst the most loyal Magic supporters.

The end of the season is near and facing slim odds to make the postseason, the Orlando Magic should continue to push to make the postseason and build as much winning experience as they can.

The Magic are still alive in the race to the play-in, but the chances are getting slim. The Chicago Bulls have played great basketball in the last month, almost locking up the 10-spot.

The Orlando Magic are four games back of the Chicago Bulls, with the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards a game ahead of them in the standings as well as further obstacles to the team’s postseason push. The Magic would likely need to win out or only drop one more game, all with help from the aforementioned teams to play basketball beyond April 9.

On a positive note, the Pacers and Wizards are both moving in the other direction, each holding losing streaks of some sort. The Magic may very well be playing a game to pass the Wizards in the standings when they visit Washington, D.C. on Friday.

But it does not look like the Bulls plan on giving up the last spot. Chicago has gone 10-6 since the All-Star Break, seemingly wrapping up that final Play-In Tournament spot and putting them in line to reach the Toronto Raptors for ninth and a home game in the tournament.

For fans pursuing the other side of the argument, there is another race to keep an eye on – the race to the bottom.

The Magic have not been too shabby and have eliminated themselves from one of the bottom four spots in the standings — the Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs have essentially wrapped up the bottom three spots with the Charlotte Hornets’ recent mini surge locking them into fourth.

Various shutdown efforts around the league has brought that field closer to the Magic as the Magic have continued winning.

The Portland Trail Blazers have fallen off and with Monday’s loss to the New Orleans Pelicans are now tied with the Orlando Magic for the fifth-worst record in the league.

Should the two teams remain tied, they would split the number combinations with their current odds at 39.5 percent for a top-four pick and either a 9.8 percent or 9.7 percent chance at winning the top pick depending on how the tiebreaker draw goes.

The Magic are, again, just a half-game back of the seventh-place Pacers and one game back of the eighth-place Wizards. Orlando could really climb the standings with more wins and thus hurt their Lottery odds. They trail the Utah Jazz by three games for ninth in the Lottery standings so it seems likely the Orlando Magic could finish anywhere from fifth to eighth on Lottery day.

In a world of absolutes, the Magic would have two options here – continue to win games in a race for the play-in or do a little bit of strategic tanking to preserve their odds in the upcoming draft.

But it is not that simple.

Paolo Banchero addressed this debate with a sly Tweet just a couple of days ago.

It sure looks like the attitude inside the locker room is to compete. Both Jalen Suggs and Markelle Fultz have echoed this sentiment in their time in front of the media.

It has long been said that players do not tank, front offices do. This is true and a player is never going to say they are not actively trying to win.

Here, this striving for excellence is not just the players. The front office wants to win too.

Players, coaches, the media and most constituents around the team have been talking about the standards they are playing for and the confidence they want to continue to lean into.

We know that the Magic have an exciting offseason ahead and that they have some big questions to answer, but there is no need to rush into that.

The Magic gain a lot in truly competing these last seven games and continuing to establish a winning culture.

With a young core and plenty of assets in the chamber, the Magic are in a perfect position to try to win now and plan for the future.

No matter how many games are won or lost to finish this season, the team will likely have two lottery picks. Teams have won the lottery with odds as low as one percent. In recent history, the Pelicans won the Zion Williamson lottery with just a six percent chance at the top pick.

The Magic have only one player in their rotation older than 25 years old and many of the young guys have been taking the lumps and have carved out nice roles for themselves.

They have collectively been growing with coach Jamahl Mosley and have really begun to take form.

In weighing the options, the team gains more from making a late-season push at the play-in. It may sound cliché, but something this small can go a long way.

A team in a similar position just a couple years ago was the Phoenix Suns. They went on a run to end the Bubble season, still missed the playoffs, but immediately hit the ground running the next season.

The Suns made some key additions — especially acquiring Chris Paul — in the following season, but the Suns established the culture first with the players they had in front of them. They had proof of concept of just how good they could be and saw their team thrive under the most intense pressure.

In the same way, the Orlando Magic can finish this season off hot, address their needs in the offseason and hit the ground running the following year.

This may not be the season that the Magic get over the hump, but they can set the groundwork in their approach.

Next. Orlando Magic in position to make the biggest moves. dark

And who knows, maybe the basketball gods looking kindly on their respect for the game and the ping pong balls bounce their way again.