Orlando Magic cannot be cautious this offseason

The Orlando Magic have an opportunity to improve their roster and build on their 2024 season. They will carefully measure who to target and how to improve. But the one thing they cannot do is be passive. They must pursue their needs this offseason.
The Orlando Magic have a lot of questions to answer as they build off their strong 2024 season. But they have to be aggressive pursuing those answers.
The Orlando Magic have a lot of questions to answer as they build off their strong 2024 season. But they have to be aggressive pursuing those answers. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Weltman knows his Orlando Magic are at an important point of the team's development.

The team has broken through to the playoffs for the first time as a group. It knocked on the door of the second round. Paolo Banchero is an All-Star who is knocking on the door of superstardom.

For fans, the past six weeks have been about the excitement over the team's future.

Everyone can see and feel the chance to make a splash in the offseason and dramatically improve the team. There is frustration over rumors suggesting the Magic may ease off the throttle and do something small.

Fans may disagree on who the Magic should go after. But everyone agrees the Magic need to go after someone. They need to be aggressive to address their needs. Sitting back and waiting to see what others do or running back virtually the same roster will not push the team forward.

It may have worked last year as the Magic took their growth from 2023 and improved by another 13 wins in 2024. But getting from 34 to 47 wins is not a large leap. Getting back to 47 wins and advancing above 50 is a much more difficult challenge.

In other words, the Magic cannot be cautious this offseason. This is their time to be aggressive and improve the team. Even if the fit is not a 100-percent match, the Magic need to position themselves to improve the team meaningfully.

Orlando has all the tools to do so. They have $30-50 million in cap room. They have been connected to every major free agent. It is just about which one they will go after.

President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman would not tip his hand as he met with the media Monday ahead of the NBA Draft. But he understands there is a new challenge in approaching free agency, particularly with the power the team has (and the new financial realities the CBA has created).

The Magic do have a challenge ahead of them. Because one thing is not guaranteed: It is not guaranteed the Magic will be back in the playoffs next year. And that is the thing that should be haunting the team this offseason.

"Have we turned the corner? Are we ready to add veteran guys," Weltman asked during his media availability Monday before the Draft. "I would say this. I told you guys before we aren't going to lose the north star of our team. That said, I want to really emphasize this. There is no one in this building—players, coaches, staff—that's patting themselves on the back right now. We haven't done anything yet. We have to work to get back to where we were last year. That's going to be hard to do that."

This should be all the motivation the Magic need to improve their roster while still fostering their internal growth. There is no guarantee they will be back even in the playoffs. That is the ultimate lesson: Every season is something new.

The Magic survived without their two rookies contributing last year. But they cannot bank on a No. 18 pick being a meaningful player immediately. Franz Wagner had a poor shooting year, the team is hoping he will bounce back.

Paolo Banchero and Jalen Suggs took meaningful steps forward last year. But they have to do it again.

Orlando may move on from Markelle Fultz after his injury-filled year. Wendell Carter though has his own injury questions to answer next year. The Magic were still piecing their roster together.

Standing still is not going to cut it for the Magic

In ESPN's postseason power rankings, the Magic were 11th sitting sixth among Eastern Conference teams. They were already passed by the Eastern Conference finalists in the Indiana Pacers.

But for all those calls from the Magic during exit interviews to get homecourt advantage, that road will not be easy.

Orlando surely does not have to keep up with its competition. The team should have some set goals it wants to achieve. But the Magic have to be aware teams around them in teh standings are going to improve too.

The Philadelphia 76ers will assuredly get better. And they showed even in the last 10 games of the season that they are a different team with a healthy Joel Embiid.

The Pacers will get a full year with Pascal Siakam and build off their surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Miami Heat are the Heat and while there may be major changes coming their way, they are another dangerous team that could surpass the Orlando Magic.

The Atlanta Hawks still had Trae Young and Dejounte Murray (for now) and will add the top pick in the Draft and all that is worth. The Brooklyn Nets struggled last year but could be a team that improves quickly.

While the Magic should count on their own internal improvement, they know they will need more to compete too.

And if that is the case that means the Magic will need more than what they currently have. They have to keep pushing forward.

It is not that the Magic do not have enough internally or that they have peaked. But it is clear there are needs the Magic must address. And it should be clear the Magic must be aggressive in pursuing those needs or else they could get left behind.

As Jeff Weltman showed when he dealt Nikola Vucevic to start this rebuild in 2021, it is always more advantageous to be proactive rather than reactive (something we saw the Boston Celtics do on their way to a title this past offseason).

The Magic have to approach this summer with that kind of aggression.

"The free agent market is a completely different animal," Weltman said Monday. "I can tell you we are spending a lot of time preparing on these parallel paths for the Draft on Wednesday and free agency on July 1. We'll have to see where things take us. Strategies are one thing and executing them is a completely different thing."

It will not be easy considering this year's free agency market and perhaps the hesitancy to meet long-term demands. But Orlando has to execute their plan this offseason. And they have to be aggressive to find the players they believe will make the team better.