Orlando Magic need experience, poise, consistency this offseason

Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley is working to teach his young team at every moment. That includes giving them the chance to fail. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley is working to teach his young team at every moment. That includes giving them the chance to fail. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic are excited about their future. They feel exiting their season they took some important steps forward and pointed toward a brighter future.

The team shook off a rough start thanks to significant injuries to rally their way to the periphery of the play-in race. They could at least talk themselves into believing they were playing for the postseason and they were not eliminated officially from postseason play until the final week of the season.

That felt like progress. And everyone at the team’s exit interviews felt the team had made significant progress. They felt significant enough progress to already set expectations for next season. They believe they are a postseason team.

Of course, things are not that simple.

Progress is not always linear. And, as president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman is quick to remind everyone, the team still sat at home when the regular season ended. There was no game 83 to the season. No Play-In Tournament and no playoff series to prepare for.

As good and as encouraging as the team was this season, there is still something missing. The Magic still have to add something to their team to get over the hump.

The Orlando Magic know they will need something more to take their next step. But as they stare down their offseason, they are looking less for a specific skill or upgrade but more for poise and experience.

This is not an offseason for sitting on their hands. This is an offseason for setting the team up for its future and for that playoff run everyone sees on the horizon.

What those needs are to do that? That is a bit more complicated to answer. It is not about a specific need, but rather a mindset and experience this team needs to gain.

"“I think we have a lot of needs,” Weltman said during the team’s exit interviews. “I think, as I’ve said before, we want to play clean basketball. Fewer fouls, fewer turnovers, the right spots defensively, understanding how each player’s role moves our team forward, a level of consistency, maturity, shooting. All of those things are going to lift us up.“We have a lot of talent on this team, we have a lot of togetherness, we have a lot of character. Some of it is just going to be more of what we did this year next year. We are going to bring it forward. There are a whole lot of things we need to get better at. But I wouldn’t say we have one thing in mind where we are going to target this one need. We aren’t that good.”"

That is a roundabout way of saying then that the Magic are trying to create a tricky balance. They know they need to add to their growing roster. But they also know they have to continue fostering development and growth within the group they have.

They know their core group is likely set with Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner at the center of it with Markelle Fultz and Wendell Carter not too far behind them. They have young players who continue to develop in Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony. They have a good veteran in Gary Harris to try to balance things.

Orlando does not quite seem to be in the market for any wholesale changes to that group. They should get better having gone through this past season.

Yet, the Magic were not world-beaters this season. Even taking out that 5-20 start, the Magic were 26th in offensive rating (112.5 points per 100 possessions) although they were sixth in defensive rating (113.0 points allowed per 100 possessions). That still leaves some room for growth.

Weltman is right at the initial step. Any improvement for the Magic will happen internally first. It will come from reducing turnovers — they were still 23rd in turnover rate at 14.4 percent even after taking out the 5-20 start — and being more consistent.

These are things young teams often struggle with. Another year of experience should help the team improve automatically — it is not automatic of course.

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Now that they have won a little bit, they have to show they can do that consistently and every night. That remains the biggest challenge for this young team.

Clearly, there is more outside of the team that they can add.

Everyone will easily point to shooting as the biggest need. The 3-point math was working against Orlando all season. The Magic have to increase their volume, and thus their makes, from beyond the arc to improve their offense.

"“I think every team is looking at shooting these days,” Weltman said during exit interviews last week. “It has just become too important a part of the game. For sure we need to get better at shooting the ball. That can come from a lot of different avenues. It could come from internal growth over the summer working individually with our players. It could come from the draft. it could come from discussions with other teams. It could come from shot selection and these are all part sof a growing team.”"

There is no hiding from that. But where that extra shooting will come from is not entirely clear. Internal growth though is part of that equation.

It again seems to hint the Magic are still more focused on making their improvements internally as much as it would come from adding draft picks like Gradey Dick or Jordan Hawkins or free agents to help boost the team’s shooting.

The Magic will have a lot of resources available to them. At this point, Weltman said he cannot say exactly how this offseason will go. Opportunities could present themselves and the team will have to act quickly on them to take advantage.

But the team’s fluidity and flexibility with how their books are set up — several non-guaranteed contracts and what looks like will be at least $23 million in cap space to spend this offseason after their draft picks — should help the team add and improve.

Still, that does not mean the Magic will spend. That does not mean the Magic are not looking just to work on the edges of what they already have.

"“The fluidity, the flexibility is definitely I would say the high water mark for us,” Weltman said during exit interviews. “That doesn’t mean we want to burn through it either. That is part of what we will be discussing in our preparations.”"

At the end of the day, the message Weltman had for his team is the same message and philosphy he has had for his entire roster.

Winning in this league is increasingly about the overall IQ of the players on teh floor. It is about understanding the situation and how to play together. Knowing the right moments to attack and the right moments to move the ball.

At the end of the day, this is still the biggest element the Magic are missing. They are a young team that has not been through the battles of the postseason. They do not quite know how to win and win consistently.

They may not even know how to get an open shot properly.

And this is what the Magic are searching for. They are not necessarily searching for a skill to add to the roster, but the experience and know-how to win and win consistently.

"“The real challenge of winning with a young team has a lot to do with role orientation and knowing the difference of time-score,” Weltman said during exit interviews. “These are the kind of things you need reps, experience and togetherness to gain a full understanding of. That feeds into the type of shots you are getting and your understanding. I think we have a lot of capable shooters on this team who will be good shooters. But we are young. It doesn’t always happen right out of the gate.”"

What does the future hold for the Magic? That part is certainly not clear.

Knowing how Weltman and his front office likes to operate — especially after a positive season like this one — it probably is not any dramatic change. The Magic will let their young players have a chance to grow up.

It does mean the team will look to add more consistency. They may look to add a key veteran who can help spread the floor and give this team the consistency and experience they may still lack currently on the roster.

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But this is where the team sees its biggest needs. It is not anything skill based. Rather it is the confidence and consistency the team ultimately will need to win.