Orlando Magic have to continue running their own race

Apr 6, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley looks on during the second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 6, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley looks on during the second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic’s major offseason moves are essentially done.

They entered the offseason with theoretically $22 million in space and they ended up using an estimated $19 million of it to sign Joe Ingles and re-sign Moe Wagner. Both are on two-year deals and it is expected that neither is fully guaranteed for the second season.

Orlando did not kill any of its flexibility.

But the Magic once again also seemed content to run back their roster again. They did not look to upgrade their backup center position and added only Joe Ingles and two rookies to the fold.

At least, for now, there are no major changes to report or trades to simmer over. Orlando has put a lot of faith in its own development and the players they have invested in. After going 34-48 and 29-28 over the last 57 games, Orlando seems to believe it has enough internally to “level up” once again.

Meanwhile, the rest of the league has continued remaking and reshaping itself as it always does in the offseason.

While the rest of the league shifted slightly and other teams went aggressive, the Orlando Magic focused on their own roster again and continue to give it a chance to develop.

Competitors to the Orlando Magic like the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers made big moves intended to help the team take bigger leaps. The Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat are both still seemingly competing to get Damian Lillard.

The reality is there are only so many postseason spots available. And everyone is in constant competition and jockeying for position for all of them.

That clearly is not the Magic’s concern though. Their moves — or lack of moves — point to a team that is still looking inward rather than trying to keep up with the Joneses around them.

Orlando has decided it is still in a space where it is worried about what it is doing and its internal development rather than wheeling and dealing to keep up with the teams around them.

This can be frustrating for sure.

Magic fans have heard Paolo Banchero make promises for making the playoffs and everyone saw the promise the team showed to make the postseason last year — Orlando finished six games out of the final playoff spot but was not eliminated until there were three games left in the season and were the last Eastern Conference team eliminated from postseason contention.

The Magic should feel that their next level is playing in the postseason. And every player should have this as a goal.

On that front, signing Ingles will certainly help. If the Magic’s draft picks even remotely hit, they will have more depth than they did last year.

Certainly, the conditions that created a 5-20 season last year are no longer present, although the team might still be a little thin in its frontcourt and depending on often-injured players like Wendell Carter, Jonathan Isaac and Chuma Okeke.

This is what the Magic put their focus on this offseason — internal improvement as their pathway up the standings.

They were never worried about what the other teams are doing. They are not worried about the Heat adding Damian Lillard or the Pacers adding Bruce Brown or the Cavaliers adding Max Strus. Those are the neighbors they have to be concerned about.

Instead, what the Magic are worried about is their own growth. They did not go on a free-agent spending spree or spring for a big consolidation trade because they are still a development outfit.

They are still invested in the group and the young player they have and they want to give them their chance to gel together once again.

It is a fair criticism that president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman has valued continuity perhaps too much at times when he could be aggressive. He has done well to roll over the cap room and financial flexibility he has fought for in this rebuild.

That time is running out with extensions due for Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony — and Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner in the summer of 2025.

It puts some urgency into this season to figure out who is part of this team’s future and who it might be time to move on from.

With that context then, this season is not really about making the Playoffs then. It is not about worrying about what other teams are doing or trying to take their spots.

If the team grows and develops, the results will take care of itself. And that is where Orlando’s focus is.

This season is about internal growth.

It is about seeing if Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner can continue to their All-Star ascendance. It is about seeing if Markelle Fultz can keep up his strong run to end the season. It is about seeing if Jalen Suggs can make an offensive leap to match his defensive prowess. It is about properly evaluating and valuing Cole Anthony and his contributions.

It is about continuing to experiment with size and length, testing the team’s hypotheses on team building with smart playmakers at every position and skill versatility.

It is about seeing how the whole puzzle fits together and where the holes in the roster still are. It is about seeing who rises to the pressure of a team that does have postseason ambitions and who ultimately falls short.

That is what this season is about. And that is what the Magic have set themselves up to find out.

They are not yet worried about competing in the Eastern Conference. They still probably do not have a full realization of what they need to compete in the postseason. The only way to find that out is to make the playoffs and fall short in a series. That is what exposes so many of a team’s weaknesses.

It also maps the team’s future and what works well enough to get them there.

Orlando is still heavily invested in the group they have. And they showed enough last year and are young enough to see how quickly they can grow. That is what the Magic appear like they intend to do.

And so this season is truly about running their own race. It is about taking care of their own development and making progress on their own.

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That development will ultimately take care of the results.