Orlando Magic are betting on themselves

The Orlando Magic brought back much of their own roster and gave a max extension to Franz Wagner. The team believes wholly in their own philosophies.
Franz Wagner is the first foundational piece the Orlando Magic have locked into their lineup. They spent their summer betting on themselves.
Franz Wagner is the first foundational piece the Orlando Magic have locked into their lineup. They spent their summer betting on themselves. / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman stood in the tunnel heading to the Magic's locker room following Game 7 in Cleveland. He greeted each player briefly as they walked past, their heads hung low as the season came to an abrupt and sudden end in a disappointing Game 7.

Franz Wagner's head was probably hanging lower than most after a 1-for-17 showing in that game. A bad taste in his mouth—one that he would promise a few minutes later in his postgame press conference would feed him throughout the offseason.

The Magic had come so far to reach the playoffs and get to Game 7. They were not supposed to be here, not yet at least.

Paolo Banchero was not meant to be an All-Star yet. The young Magic team was overlooked throughout the season. No one could quite buy that they were the 5-seed, let alone pushing a more experienced Cleveland Cavaliers team to the limit, sending that franchise into a seeming identity crisis (their crisis has been averted).

In the hours and days after the season ended, everyone looked back at a breakthrough season for this young team and they looked forward to the potential of an offseason of massive change.

Everyone saw an opportunity to grow a budding young team by leaps and bounds. Orlando could compete for the conference crown quickly.

The team had its foundational stars set with Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. They had another high-level role player in All-Defensive player Jalen Suggs.

There was a lot to invest in and grow. There was a lot to believe in.

That seemed to be the team's mission statement yet again. With a max extension set for Franz Wagner and much of the roster returning, the Magic made it clear they believe in what they are doing. Their answer to their most successful season in more than a decade was to believe they could do it again.

The Magic continue to make one thing clear to the rest of the league: They believe in what they are building. At this critical moment for the team to set its next five years and chart its growth from this breakthrough season, the Magic will bet on themselves.

That is their ticket to climb the Eastern Conference standings.

That was most evident with the report Friday that the Magic would give a max contract to Franz Wagner—a deal that will pay him an estimated $242 million over the next five years with a starting salary of $38.7 million in the 2026 season.

Orlando is starting to put the major dollar investment in their foundational players. Wagner is just the first step in that process.

Orlando Magic make major investment in core player

There was some debate about whether the Orlando Magic would wait for the summer and to see how Franz Wagner built off a career-best 2024 season where he averaged a career-high 19.7 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game and 3.7 assists per game.

The Magic were only better last year with Jonathan Isaac and Joe Ingles on the floor. Banchero might be the clear star. But Wagner was the analytics darling and every indication is he impacts games beyond his scoring.

Still, some questions linger about him after he struggled to shoot from deep, dropping to 28.1 percent from three, and had an up-and-down playoffs, finishing with averages of 18.9 points per game and 40.8 percent shooting overall.

Not to mention that poor showing in Game 7 (or his blocked shot at the end of Game 5) despite a 26-point outing in an elimination Game 6. The Magic know they are not in the playoffs or on the cusp of advancing without Wagner. And Wagner found a way to make an impact even if he was struggling elsewhere.

There were some questions whether the Magic would hold out and ask Wagner to prove he was worth the max in the 2025 season.

In reality, it seemed like there was no debate for Orlando. This was their guy. And they had no reason not to invest in him.

Orlando Magic spent their summer reinvesting in their own players

Considering the Orlando Magic spent their significant cap space not on adding new players to the fold but re-signing their own free agents and depth—as things stand, only draft pick Tristan da Silva and free-agent acquisition Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be new to the roster—they are clearly signaling how much they believe in the system, culture and team they are building.

Jeff Weltman has not been one to make major changes. If there is a criticism of his management style, it has been his hesitance to make the big move and his reliance on continuity. The Magic made just three changes to the roster heading into the 2024 season and saw the team continue its strong finish to the 2023 season, riding that to a playoff appearance.

Weltman did not waver this year either. He and the Magic's response to their success was a clear belief in what they are building. At every turn, the Magic have doubled down on their team-building philosophies and the players that have helped build this success.

Orlando is young enough still to essentially say: "If it is not broken, why fix it?"

That must be how the Magic are feeling. The team has progressed exactly how the organization would want. Everyone has bought in and accepted their roles.

They developed into one of the best defensive teams in the league last year. Bancheor and Wagner became a dynamic offensive tandem. Suggs was an All-Defensive Team player. The bench was the fourth-highest scoring bench in the league.

There is still growth to go for this team.

But this is how teams are supposed to grow. Teams are supposed to draft their stars, foster their growth, invest in them and continue improving from there. Orlando's development is going as planned in that way.

Orlando is projecting and setting up its roster to give these young players a chance to continue growing. The team does not believe anyone has reached their ceiling.

Re-signing Wagner is a sure sign of that. Re-signing the whole supporting case this offseason with minor tweaks is a sign of how much the team believes in what they are doing already.

A new contract for Suggs is surely in the works (even if that one still waits for next summer). And Banchero will get his max extension next summer when he is eligible for it.

Progression and development may not be a straight line

Orlando knows clearly it has a foundation to build on. Now they are investing in that foundation with bigger contracts.

Next. Magic youngsters fit in 07.06.24. Where will the Orlando Magic's youngsters fit in next year?. dark

More than that, the Magic are betting on themselves. They are betting on their process. They are betting on what they have already built will continue to grow.