5 Orlando Magic needs missed at the trade deadline and how to fill them in the offseason

The Orlando Magic let the trade deadline pass without making any moves, content to see how far this group could go now that they are healthy and facing a more manageable schedule. They still have lingering questions and needs to fill with missed opportunities and options this offseason.

The Orlando Magic missed out on acquiring Buddy Hield. So what direction should they go to fill the needs on the roster?
The Orlando Magic missed out on acquiring Buddy Hield. So what direction should they go to fill the needs on the roster? / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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5 Orlando Magic Needs Missed at the Deadline, and How To Fill Them

Rim Protecting Big

Wendell Carter is the team's Rorschach Test right now.

You either see him as the versatile, shooting big man who can defend the paint well and fit in with the team's overall versatility vibe, or you see him as someone who falls short of what the Magic need for success. His lack of size and explosiveness hurt him around the basket. And his injuries and inconsistency hurt.

Carter is all of those things. And the Magic are still probably figuring out what they will need for the Playoffs. Carter has earned the right to get into a playoff series and see what works and what does not.

For that point, then, Carter is not a strong shot-blocker with 0.5 blocks per game this season (he has only averaged more than 1.0 blocks per game once in his rookie season). But opponents shoot 60.2 percent at the rim against him this season, according to data from Second Spectrum.

It has been a down year for Carter as a rim protector. Injuries have played a role in that. But there are concerns about Carter as a rim protector in general. And this season has brought that into some sharp relief.

The Magic are going to find out what they need in the postseason. And rim protection might be one of those needs. The team as a whole is 12th in the league, giving up 63.9 percent shooting at the rim. Jonathan Isaac is a big part of that.

The Magic may not need rim protection as the most immediate need to fill. But it might be something they have to consider as they grow their roster and evolve in the next few years.

What Could Have Been

Gafford Trade 02.18.24

The one deal that saw an impact center go from one team to another was the one deal the Washington Wizards actually made.

It already seems to be having a real impact for the Dallas Mavericks as they bolstered their defense in a meaningful way, adding Daniel Gafford and Charlotte Hornets forward P.J. Washington to the lineup.

Gafford might be a bit limited offensively (he is a dunks and roll man almost exclusively). But he has done well as a starter for the Wizards and is a high-level backup center at the least.

His defense is very real.

This season, opponents are shooting 58.6 percent at the rim against Gafford, according to data from Second Spectrum. In his three games with the Mavericks, they have a 106.5 defensive rating with Gafford on the floor. Even with the Wizards, they had a 120.0 defensive rating but a -6.9 net rating. It shows how skewed the Wizards' mess of a season has been.

That uncertainty is probably why the Magic were hesitant to dive into any deal with the Wizards. Nobody knew how much of the problems were because of that environment and how quickly those players could ramp up their focus to be in a playoff race. Gafford, so far, has been able to.

But is he an upgrade over Carter? Probably not with Carter's offensive skill. Would he be an upgrade over Moe Wagner and Goga Bitadze? Probably. But Jonathan Isaac does so much work to cover for them defensively that maybe the team did not feel the need to find rim protection immediately.

Where they could go

But this is still an area the Orlando Magic need to go searching for some help. Or at least they should be window shopping to see what is out there and evaluate it over what they have.

They still like Wendell Carter. And they are not going to move him just because they do not believe he is the answer at center for when they compete for a title. Carter does well for what the team needs now.

So what is there to window shop in free agency this summer? There is not a lot.

Jonas Valanciunas is on the high end of things. Isaiah Hartenstein is also a solid option who has been a big defensive presence for the New York Knicks this year.

The free agent pool is very shallow. But the reality the trade deadline might have revealed is that for the Magic to make a significant move, the market wants them to trade Carter and his team-friendly contract.

So how things play out this summer might well be the Magic trade Carter to fill one of these needs and then hit free agency or another trade to replace Carter.