The Orlando Magic are in something of unfamiliar territory.
Their 15-7 start to the season just past the first quarter of the season has placed them second in the Eastern Conference. They are defensive juggernauts and nearly unbeatable at home.
The Magic potentially have two All-Star players in Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. The team has raised its expectations to not just merely make the postseason but to be a top-six team and avoid the Play-In Tournament entirely.
That is how much things have changed.
The question everyone has is: How do the Magic ensure they meet those expectations? How fast do the Magic want to speed things up? How far along does this team believe it is?
Everyone is eager to see this Magic team now reach the playoffs and start making noise. It very much feels like this team has arrived early. And all the talk from the offseason of making a splashy trade did not go away, it has only gone dormant.
And those feelings and that talk will reawaken on Dec. 15 when most contracts signed this offseason become eligible for trade. It is officially trade season once again with the trade deadline set for 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 8.
The Magic are going to be a team that will be involved in a lot of those conversations and rumors. They are a young team on the cusp of contention with two budding stars. They have a ton of cap room for the offseason with few players to use it on and clear needs they need to fill. They also have plenty of young players and draft capital to spend to get involved in any kind of deal.
Orlando was a hot team all summer connected to trade rumors, even though it did not feel quite like the right time for the team with how young and unproven the team was. It probably still does not feel quite like time to make an all-in trade. The Magic are still developing their core and they clearly want to give this group the chance to show how far they can go.
The early thought entering trade season is the Magic are likely going to be very quiet and let this team play itself out this year. Then use this offseason to begin assessing what the team needs externally and what the team can develop internally.
Still, this is the time of the season to begin evaluating and assessing the roster. It is time to start aligning the pieces and preparing for what possibilities might come.
Nothing should be set in stone just 20-plus games into the season. And the trade deadline is a time to balance both short-term needs and long-term needs. Orlando will likely lean toward long-term needs rather than plugging short-term holes.
Still, they have to be open to every opportunity that is out there. That starts with a careful assessment of their roster.
This list of three players who are expendable and three they cannot afford to trade will focus on players who might actually be on the trade block. So players like Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner are of course players the team would not entertain dealing -- similarly Cole Anthony is ineligible to be traded with his extension waiting to kick in next year.