Orlando Magic have to decide when to push their chips in

Dec 11, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. (33) shoots the ball against the Orlando Magic in the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. (33) shoots the ball against the Orlando Magic in the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

Nobody knows what the Orlando Magic are going to do.

Anybody that tells you they know what Jeff Weltman is thinking and can predict what they will do is either lying, making wild predictions or actually works for the team and actually does know. They might be Jeff Weltman or John Hammond themselves.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN remarked the day after last year’s NBA Draft when the Magic stunned the entire NBA world (including those who follow the Magic closely) for taking Paolo Banchero that the league was impressed with how quiet the Magic worked. It was one of the great misdirections in league history.

Really, it was just the Magic being silent. They let everyone else do the talking while they did their work with the ultimate chip in the first pick in the draft.

Things have worked out pretty well. The Magic got the Rookie of the Year through their subterfuge — or just making their pick and not playing media games — and seem to have their star in place. They have added some solid surrounding pieces and invested in a lot of quality young players.

The Magic had a solid 34-win season last year. Their young group got a taste of winning and a whiff of the postseason for the first time. Players are eager to see how they develop and grow and eager to make the Playoffs. They have laid down the gauntlet.

Coach Jamahl Mosley has talked about leveling up again openly. Although what that next level is would seemingly be the postseason but is ill-defined enough to be anything the team wants to define.

The Orlando Magic seem eager to advance and improve their standing. What that means or actually looks like is still the big question. And Orlando has a lot of options and a choice to make in the offseason.

The pressure is going to increase whether the Magic want it to or not. That is the natural part of growth.

The question everyone around the league has is: How quickly the Magic want that pressure to increase? The question is: What will the Magic do to ensure they take their next steps?

Everyone seems to recognize the team has a budding star in Paolo Banchero. So the real question then becomes: When will the Magic push their chips in?

It could be as early as this offseason.

It does seem that executives and scouts around the league are openly wondering this question especially when it comes to this season. There are no concrete rumors involving the Magic — there are not even many concrete rumors about who the Orlando Magic are working out beyond UCF forward Taylor Hendricks confirming he worked out in Orlando after his workout with the Indiana Pacers — everything is just speculation.

Sean Deveny of Heavy.com dug a bit into this question by talking to some NBA executives and scouts.

The consensus among them is the Magic will retain Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz this offseason, the team could decide to decline Gary Harris’ option and turn him into free agency and the team could pursue Toronto Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. or Boston Celtics restricted free agent Grant Williams.

The possibilities mentioned in that post hint at what the team could accomplish this offseason.

As things stand, the Magic have $59.8 million guaranteed for next season before dealing with team options or the team’s draft picks. The sixth and 11th picks will run the Magic $10.1 million.

Essentially this means the Magic’s max cap room this offseason is around $64.1 million. If the Magic wanted to go for a star — like Fred VanVleet — they could easily do so.

More realistically, the Magic are likely to keep Isaac and Fultz — adding $24.8 million to their total — to take them out of that running. That would give the Magic roughly $39.3 million in cap room this offseason. Gary Harris becomes the swing between max cap room and simply a lot of cap room if the team keeps the final year of his $13 million contract.

That still gives Orlando $26.3 million to play with that they could use. And they can eat some into it by keeping Bol Bol, Moe Wagner or Goga Bitadze. That is why we have been operating as if the Magic have around $22-26 million in cap room.

The question everyone seems to be asking then is when do the Magic push their chips in? Or how many chips does the team push in when they do?

It does not seem like anybody expects the Magic to go for bigger free agents this offseason. It is not a particularly deep free-agent class, to begin with. Orlando has typically taken a patient approach, often doing smaller moves to add to their roster and allowing for internal growth.

Still, the Magic clearly need to shore up their depth some more to take their next steps. It is hard to see them not using at least some of this free agent room.

The Magic have been linked to Trent Jr. in reports since at least the trade deadline. He was among the targets mentioned and certainly fills in a major need as a shooter — he averaged 17.4 points per game on 36.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Trent seems set to get a contract in the $20-plus million range if he is going to decline his $18.8 million player option.

Williams is categorized as a 3-and-D power forward after averaging 8.1 points per game last year on 39.5 percent shooting from deep on 3.7 attempts per game. Williams is a restricted free agent this offseason and it is uncertain how much his salary would increase (certainly more than $10 million per year, but probably less than $17 million).

It is not really important to highlight these players as potential targets. Orlando could just as easily throw its money at Naz Reid, Austin Reaves or someone else on the free-agent market. The team has the money to go after a big-ticket guy.

The question is more about what they want to do and where — and when — they want to expend their resources.

The Magic have structured most of their contracts to maximize flexibility. And as everyone notes, the team could come into even more cap room for the 2024 offseason when Jaylen Brown, James Harden and Pascal Siakam become free agents.

That is also the summer when they will have to offer new contracts for Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz if they want to retain those guards.

This is all to say, the Magic are starting to have to make decisions on guys. And they are having to start deciding when they are ready to push their chips into the middle and how exactly they want to do it.

Orlando may be better positioning itself to push its chips in for the right guy in a trade — a big reason to re-sign Fultz and Anthony to extensions and set their salary slot now for future trades. That might be the opportunity the Magic are waiting for.

But this gets back to the bigger question this offseason will start to ask: When do the Magic push their chips in? When do they take the plunge and take the risk to make their team better? And how will they do it?

It does not seem this is the summer to do it.

They might chase a $20-million-per-year player like a Trent or a Reaves, but they are probably more interested this year in seeing just how good their roster is and which of their young players can take the step up and truly fit around the core they want to build around.

Orlando will probably still act patiently and that might mean the team values flexibility. Weltman will want to be able to do anything and be open to all possibilities. This might not be the summer to close all their doors.

Next. OMD Mock Draft 2.3: Resetting the balance. dark

Anything is indeed possible this offseason. And everyone is eager to find out what the Magic ultimately do.