Orlando Magic got warning for moderation from playoff opponent

The Cleveland Cavaliers were once one of the most promising young teams in the league. But they went all in and now are mired in chaos. For the Orlando Magic, it is a warning on how they should approach this offseason.
The Cleveland Cavaliers pushed all their chips in to acquire Donovan Mitchell two summers ago. That turned a promising young team into a pressure cooker. And serves as a warning for the Orlando Magic.
The Cleveland Cavaliers pushed all their chips in to acquire Donovan Mitchell two summers ago. That turned a promising young team into a pressure cooker. And serves as a warning for the Orlando Magic. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

When the Cleveland Cavaliers made the Play-In Tournament in 2022, they felt they were a young team on the rise.

Darius Garland made the All-Star team and looked like one of the best-scoring guards in the making. Jarrett Allen, acquired from the Brooklyn Nets, was a defensive monster and fresh off his own All-Star bid. This was a two-All-Star team with tons of upside.

What they lacked was experience and seasoning. Their trip to the Play-In Tournament, even though they fell short of making the playoffs, seemed like the harbinger of something that was coming.

The Cavs did not wait though. They went big.

They traded draft capital, Lauri Markkanen and Collin Sexton to acquire Donovan Mitchell. They had their superstar. The Cavaliers believe they had the final piece to put them over the top.

It undoubtedly had some success. Mitchell is a superstar player who elevates his team by default just by his presence. He brings a seriousness about winning that is undeniable.

But the results are also pretty clear. Two seasons into the Mitchell experiment—and facing the prospect of his contract expiring and him leaving in free agency—the Cavs are facing intense pressure this offseason.

The story of this young team growing into an Eastern Conference contender has halted. Now they are just trying to figure out how to keep their star happy.

The story of the Cleveland Cavaliers is a warning for the Orlando Magic. It is a warning that pushing your chips in for a star like Mitchell—he cost them four first-round picks, two starters, and their first-round pick from the 2022 Draft—is not all it is cracked up to be.

It might bring that sugar high of a playoff appearance and competitiveness, but it can stunt the growth of young players on your team. And ultimately cloud what was once a bright future.

The Magic do not want to become the Cavaliers as they consider what to do this offseason. They want a summer that is more about moderation and enhancing their young talent rather than seeking the biggest star.

Orlando has met success this season. But that does not mean the team's building process is over, as tempting as it might be to chase a star and win the headlines this summer. The Magic's offseason should be about layering on top of the success they already built.

Cleveland Cavaliers chased a sugar high from a star player

The Orlando Magic might have been the better team in their playoff series this year, but Donovan Mitchell was the best player. And he had his imprints all over their seven-game series—scoring 50 and 39 points in Games 6 and 7, putting him in a class with Allen Iverson for most points scored in these critical closeout games.

That it took Mitchell going off like that, though, especially following a season when the team fell short and looked physically overwhelmed in their first playoff series together, raised the temperature in Cleveland. The Cavs have not had the progression they all thought they would.

Granting for injuries, Darius Garland has receded further into the background, failing to match his All-Star showing. Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley form a formidable defensive frontcourt, but coach J.B. Bickerstaff seemed intent on splitting them up. Even though Allen had an excellent series, the Cavs' offense did not open up until Allen left with his rib injury.

Everyone could feel the tension inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse as the Magic made the series far more competitive than everyone anticipated. And even though Cleveland won the series, the team did not avoid the consequences.

Mitchell's arrival elevated the Cavs into a playoff team. But it accelerated the pressure on this young team. And so far, at least, they have failed to deliver. And that had consequences.

The Cavs fired Bickerstaff, and the summer has been filled with rumors involving all four of the Cavs' key players. Magic fans have (rightfully) and gleefully pondered what it would take to add Mitchell or Garland to the team.

No doubt either one would help. Garland is an excellent scorer at point guard (his struggles in the playoff series with the Magic aside). Mitchell is a superstar.

But the question for the Magic is not simply about adding a name or another All-Star. It is still about accomplishing their goals. Throwing massive assets at a star like Mitchell turned the Cavs from one of the most promising young teams in the league, growing at a natural and steady pace, into a team that disappointed and seems to have hit its ceiling.

That is how fast things turned in the NBA with one big move.

Orlando Magic should be patient and build from within first

The Orlando Magic know the team is building something special. With the fourth-youngest roster in the league, the Magic had the No. 3 defense in the league and pushed the Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in what was essentially the entire franchise's first playoff series.

Many reporters in Cleveland noted Orlando was having the same season Cleveland had in 2023–exposure to winning and the playoffs for the first time with no real pressure to perform. The difference is the Cavs had Mitchell as an accelerant, and the pressure to make real progress this year was suffocating.

The Magic are not starting from a failure or starting from scratch. They should have every reason to believe all of their players—especially their young stars in Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner—will improve.

That was seemingly the message Banchero gave when he spoke about the offseason with The Washington Post. The Magic need table setters, not necessarily someone who will take the ball out of their stars' hands.

It is awfully tempting to go for the big fish. It drives traffic and gets everyone talking.

Atlanta Hawks guard (and potential trade candidate) Trae Young is in Dallas and working out with Jalen Suggs this week. That got Magic fans talking.

A lot of these big trades and player acquisitions—whether it be pondering Trae Young and Donovan Mitchell in a trade or chasing Paul George in free agency—may miss the point of where the Magic are at in their development.

This is an offseason where the Magic have to be aggressive. They cannot be content with internal growth. They lost in the playoffs still and their weaknesses and flaws were abundant. They need to add a major piece to the roster. Everyone knows and feels it.

But what the Magic do not appear to be looking for—nor should they be looking for—is a star to share the spotlight with their two young stars.

If they believe in their Banchero and Wagner partnership, everyone should cross off the kind of stars that would take that spotlight from them—like Young, who plays on the ball to an extreme degree. They should be looking to add to what they do.

They are not looking to interrupt the growth within this roster. They are looking for role players to add to what they are already building.

That is the lesson they should learn from the current chaos in Cleveland and how that team turned from a promising young team into a repeat playoff failure. The Magic have to improve, but they have to improve with their players and let their young players grow.

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This is not the summer to push all the chips into the center of the table. This is a summer for a more moderate approach. One that will layer and add to a roster that has already made incredible progress.