The Orlando Magic have picked up the stage and sound system from the AdventHealth Training Center to celebrate Paolo Banchero’s Rookie of the Year. That feels like the last piece of the celebration of what was a promising and successful season.
Because now that it is behind them, the work begins. Or, more appropriate, resumes.
The Magic are already pretty deep into offseason preparations and draft preparation. Jeff Weltman admitted as much when asked about how the team plans to build around Paolo Banchero moving forward. Everyone is eager to see what this team does next and add and build to what the team is doing.
Of course, the Magic, operating how they operate, are not letting anyone really know what the team is going to do and who they are focusing on.
The Orlando Magic are focused on their offseason now and they are expected to be active. Already rumors are circling around the team’s needs with shooting.
Yes, the Orlando Magic have tons of flexibility — potentially two Lottery selections depending on where their own pick (sixth-best odds) and the Chicago Bulls’ pick (11th-best odds) end up and functionally $25 million in cap room to spend — but it is still unclear what the team will do.
Will they do something big and swing for the fences? That is not so much in Jeff Weltman’s track record, although it is something he will have to do one day perhaps.
Will they work on the margins and add key pieces to the roster? That seems more likely. Especially as the team plans potential extensions for Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony this offseason.
All of that is part of the plan. But it is also clear the team needs to add something.
The rest of the league may be curious to see what the Magic ultimately do and what leap this young team might make. But they also seem to be certain of what kind of skill the Magic are going to target.
As the rumor mill starts to churn a bit, and revisiting rumors from throughout the season, it is clear what the Magic will target. It is so clear that Weltman addressed it directly when asked about the team’s needs for the offseason.
It is shooting, of course.
The Magic finished 24th in the league in 3-point shooting at 34.6 percent. They have not finished in the top half of the league in 3-point field goal percentage just once (in 2019) since Dwight Howard left before the 2013 season. They have been in the bottom five in 3-point field goal percentage five times in that timeframe.
One of the biggest issues facing Orlando this season was the team’s lack of 3-point volume. No matter how you track things for the Magic, they need to address shooting in some way.
That has been the case with almost every rumor involving the Magic. And now that the rumor mill is starting to churn with most of the league focused on the offseason, everyone is starting to pitch their ideas for the Magic to acquire shooting.
The latest came from Sean Deveney of heavy., who cited an Eastern Conference executive who expects the Orlando Magic to chase Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard. The phrasing here matters as it does not appear to be an executive related to either the Magic or the Celtics. It is just some educated dot-connecting.
Orlando needs shooting. Boston is not really using Pritchard. It sounds like there should be a deal, right?
Pritchard averaged only 5.6 points per game and shot 36.4 percent from beyond the arc, his first season shooting worse than 40 percent from deep. He played in only 48 games for 13.4 minutes per game. Pritchard has a team option worth $4.0 million for next season.
That is not exactly exciting anybody. And the Magic may not offer much more than their second-round pick (No. 36) or their own out-of-the-rotation youngster in Chuma Okeke.
Why this particular rumor seemed to escape is probably the real question to ask. It feels so small that noting it is irrelevant.
But it is of a piece of the things that consistently get leaked or discussed about with the Magic and their offseason plans.
Everyone seems to know what the Magic need to be successful. Shooting just keeps coming up.
Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel recently reported the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat had discussed a deal last year that would have sent Terrence Ross to the Heat for Duncan Robinson and the No. 27 pick in the Draft (used on Nikoal Jovic). That deal obviously did not go through — Robinson’s contract with three years remaining at $57.4 million after this season was certainly a hindrance.
That proved to be a good call with Robinson dipping in and out of the rotation for the Heat and playing in just 42 games despite his shooting proficiency. Although Ross continued his nosedive statistically — he is out of the rotation for the Phoenix Suns in their playoff run.
Then there were the in-season rumors.
It started with a lot of executives speculating the Magic would chase after Jordan Poole with their excess cap room as the team looked for a consistent scorer to boost their team. He ended up signing an extension before the season began, putting that talk to rest.
It then continued to the trade deadline where some anticipated the Magic might chase after volume shooters like Fred VanVleet or Gary Trent Jr. Orlando may still be players in their free agency this offseason. How real that trade deadline interest was will be proven out in July with who the Magic ultimately target and chase after in free agency.
That is the part we will wait to see. But rumors like these are likely to persist because the need is obvious.
If Orlando wants to compete for a playoff spot and eventually compete for a championship, they are going to need shooting.
As much as everyone is excited to add someone to help boost the shooting — the draft could also be an avenue to do so too with solid shooters like Gradey Dick, Jordan Hawkins and Keyonte George.
Internal development is going to go a long way to addressing this issue. The Magic have shown some signs of improvement there too.
Franz Wagner boosted his shooting from 35.4 percent to 36.1 percent while increasing his attempts from 3.4 to 4.5 per game. Jalen Suggs jumped from 21.4 percent to 32.7 percent on only a slight decrease in attempts and finished his season hitting 36.0 percent on 3.9 attempts per game after the All-Star Break.
Cole Anthony turned in a career-best season from deep at 36.4 percent from deep on 3.4 attempts per game, upping that to 41.8 percent on 3.8 attempts per game after the All-Star Break.
Gary Harris, the team’s best shooter, made a career-best 43.1 percent from beyond the arc on 4.5 attempts per game.
There are improvements like this throughout the Magic’s roster. There is a fair argument that Orlando has more shooting already. It is still just inconsistent.
And the biggest thing is the low volume.
The reason a player like VanVleet or Trent seems enticing is they shot six or seven 3-pointers per game, giving them a chance to have really big shooting games. Orlando simply did not have that — especially with how much Ross tailed off the last few years.
Still, shooting is at a premium in this league. The Magic clearly need it. So now that the offseason is coming into some focus, shooting is clearly the biggest need everyone expects Orlando to address.
Of course, the Magic will keep quiet and do things at their time and their pace. And likely in quiet until it is done.