The NBA Draft Lottery and the advance of the calendar toward Memorial Day and the NBA Playoffs to the NBA Finals are bringing the Orlando Magic’s offseason into greater focus.
The shine of a successful and promising season has started to wear off. And now everyone is thinking how do the Magic make their next steps? How do they improve and climb that hump into the postseason and perhaps even more?
The team is due to take some important steps this offseason to get better and make that improvement.
But while internal improvement is still the main driver for the team’s ascension, they will need to make some moves this offseason.
The Orlando Magic seemingly have a bright future ahead of them. But they still have a lot to put together to get there. And this offseason the general focus of improvement is internal but also about depth.
The Draft will provide the first step with two Lottery picks the team could spend in any way they want. Free agency will also be a big tool in this process. Orlando is set to have functionally around $23-25 million in cap space to spend either in free agency or in trades.
That is a real opportunity for the team to improve its roster and shore up some of its depth issues.
While there are already plenty of fan wishlists for the offseason and plenty of people starting to get into their camps for the draft, the best place to start with any offseason examination is with the depth chart.
Yes, we have already begun to identify some team needs — like going after a veteran bench presence or chasing after shooting. But the depth chart is the best place to start to identify where this team is at and what they will focus on this offseason.
Unlike in previous season, Orlando’s 34-win season and flirtation with the postseason suggests the team can actually begin to address needs and shore up spots on the roster.
This is not a team in search of talent purely for talent’s sake. This is a team that has to start building itself together with an eye toward winning in the very near future.
So the depth chart is indeed the best place to start for the Magic. Here is the Magic’s roster not including upcoming free agents but including players on non-guaranteed contracts for the 2024 season:
Moe Wagner is the only upcoming free agent for the Magic. And, it should be noted, Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz, Gary Harris, Bol Bol, Goga Bitadze, Michael Carter-Williams and Admiral Schofield have non-guaranteed deals for next season.
Carter-Williams and Schofield are not likely to be retained. Isaac, Harris and Fultz are likely to be retained. And Bol and Bitadze are probably going to be retained but could go either way.
There are two problems that should become evident from this chart.
First, the Magic have seven players currently under contract with another seven players with non-guaranteed deals. Even if we take out the two that are likely to be let go — Carter-Williams and Schofield — and keep Bol but let Bitadze go, that still leaves a roster with limited spots remaining.
Orlando is operating it would seem this offseason with eight rostered players. That still leaves some room with seven open roster spots. But two of those spots will get taken with the team’s draft picks, barring a trade. And Orlando could still opt to re-sign Moe Wagner in the offseason too.
There are a lot of decisions for the team to make before we get to free agency and the meat of the offseason.
Looking at the depth chart though, there are clear needs the team has to fill.
The Magic are surprisingly thin at forward behind Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner.
The team would love to have a healthy Isaac. But that is not someone anyone should count on at this point considering his extensive injury history.
Chuma Okeke is coming off an inconsistent season filled with injuries too. It is hard to know how much to rely on him. And while Bol had his bright spots last season, he fell out of the rotation by the end of the season.
Orlando loves a specific kind of forward — versatile and able to guard the perimeter and the post and preferably capable of playmaking some at their height. And the Magic should be hunting for players like this.
It is why, despite the team’s clear shooting needs, Orlando could very well fill this need by taking Taylor Hendricks or Jarace Walker with their first pick in the draft. Or they could go with Cam Whitmore who could slide between the 2 and the 3.
That would be a fair argument because the Magic need more depth at those positions too. Orlando seems set at point guard between the trio of Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs. But leaning on Jalen Suggs behind Gary Harris and leaning on Caleb Houstan behind Franz Wagner is leaving something to be desired.
Everyone also expects the Magic to think about, at least, upgrading the starting shooting guard position with Harris as a potential trade chip and Suggs’ play still fairly inconsistent on offense.
The general goal for the offseason should be to add depth to the team. Beyond the skills the team needs — and there are a lot of skills from shooting to interior presence and rim protection — the team needs to add to its depth.
The Magic’s bench played better later in the season, but they could use more consistency and upgrades to the roster to cover for the inevitable injuries that will hit the team.
The biggest thing the Magic can do this offseason is steel themselves better for injuries so that the season does not fall apart if Carter has to miss 15-20 games (he averages 52 games per year) or if Isaac again has to miss time or if Suggs misses time or if one of the two stars gets hurt.
The Magic cannot have a 5-20 start and while that was caused largely by unprecedented injuries to one position group, it was still devastating.
The draft is important because it could add two key rotation players.
Say the Magic add Taylor Hendricks and Jordan Hawkins or Grady Dick, both of those players would slide into the rotation fairly cleanly and easily. Then the Magic would have to work to shore up their backup center spot and keep adding depth to create competition within their roster.
For sure, the draft and free agency will play with each other as the Magic look to fill their needs. Draft night will tell us a lot about what Orlando thinks it will accomplish in free agency or the rest of the offseason.
While the team could certainly use some more veteran players, the Magic simply need more consistent, useable players to help them get through the 82-game season and prepare for the Playoffs.
Certainly, everything Orlando is doing this offseason should have a focus on building a playoff team. And having multiple options and having depth will make it easier for them. The only thing that would seemingly be the wrong thing is losing financial flexibility and mobility and getting every decision wrong.
If there is a goal for the Magic this offseason then, it is simply depth. Orlando needs players at almost every position — point guard feels the most safe and secure this offseason. They need reliable depth more than anything else.
The Magic are probably not going to address every need this offseason. There will be some weak spot that this upcoming season might hinge on. The thing Orlando will try to do this offseason is shore up as many weaknesses as they responsibly can.
But before we get to any single player the Magic might need, it starts with an understanding that the Magic need depth above everything else. They need a roster they can rely on and can compete at a high level against each other to set up a run to the playoffs in 2024.