The NBA season is still two months away from getting started with training camps, but already there is a clear sense of excitement in Orlando for what is coming up.
The Orlando Magic had a strong finish to the season and seemed like they took some steps forward as a team. The arrival of Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero has already helped raise expectations for the team and the group of young players who seemed to take clear steps forward have only added to the anticipation.
After a decade following the Dwight Howard trade without much direction or even hopes for a prolonged playoff run, it really does feel like the Magic are on the precipice of something sustainable.
While management will not say it outright — and the overall goal for the team is likely more focused on growing and developing to the next level — the postseason seems like the next logical step considering the Magic were the last team eliminated from postseason contention in the Eastern Conference last year.
The Orlando Magic seem poised to make the step up to the postseason this coming season. But getting there will not be easy. There are a lot of teams who can believe and fight for those precious few spots.
If the goal is to level up, there is only one place the team can go. This team should enter the 2024 season with the expectation that it will be playing postseason basketball. Or at least playing at such a level for the course of an 82-game season — the team has better depth if injuries hit again.
Of course, the rest of the conference is not going to lay down.
And so while there is one side of the equation of the Magic getting better to improve on their 34-win season from last year and get into the postseason picture, there is another side of the equation.
For the Magic to break their way into the top eight or top 10, someone has to fall out of that group. That is where the competition for the postseason is going to lie.
The Eastern Conference is very much in a state of flux. The Magic are on the rise at a time when the teams at the top are going through some potentially major changes and teams in the middle have a lot of questions.
There are a few teams poised to climb the rankings and the Magic are certainly one of them.
They will have their fair share of competition in the middle of the conference though. If we grant the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers as the favorites and title contenders and give the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks the respect as more veteran playoff holdovers, there are still four spots to fight over in the postseason.
So who is the chief competition? And what to make of their offseasons? That is what the Magic are going to have to play again as they make improvements themselves.