Orlando Magic keep running it back, but can they keep the vibes going?

The Orlando Magic seem set to keep continuity on their roster. They are again spending their offseason retaining players from their successful 2024 season as they try to move forward from their playoff appearance.
The Orlando Magic made one big addition and then appear set to bring everyone back from last year's roster, once again investing in continuity as their superpower.
The Orlando Magic made one big addition and then appear set to bring everyone back from last year's roster, once again investing in continuity as their superpower. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Even the day after the Orlando Magic lost Game 7 in Cleveland, president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman pondered his offseason philosophy.

The team was reflecting at that moment in the aftermath of a successful season. Disappointment from a loss in Game 7 gave way quickly to optimism about the future.

The assembled media at the AdventHealth Training Center that afternoon wanted to know about free agency. They all knew then the opportunity ahead with tons of cap room and a young team with potential that had just proven what was capable of.

But Weltman held firm. He made it a mission statement for this team that they would not lose its "north star" or its "DNA" with the opportunity to add to the team. Weltman could not acknowledge the rumors that fans were talking about but he surely was aware of what the media was talking about or hinting at.

Those rumors only went wilder as free agency approached with the Magic continually connected to star players like Paul George and Klay Thompson. There were suggestions they would get a meeting with the biggest fish in the free agent market, only increasing the anticipation for free agency.

Weltman, though, has stuck to his guiding principle. The same one he espoused in early May.

The Magic did not go for players who were not their type. In fact, the Magic stuck with the same principle that guided them throughout last offseason and into this season.

Still, it is a surprise to see the Magic approach their offseason this way. It is a surprise to see the team essentially run back their 2024 roster.

Orlando made a major addition in reportedly agreeing to sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a three-year, $66-million deal. But the front office followed it up Monday by keeping the team completely together.

The Magic reportedly agreed to bring Goga Bitadze back on a three-year, $25-million deal and then reportedly agreed to re-sign Gary Harris on a two-year, $14-million deal.

They also re-signed Moritz Wagner after declining his $8 million team option before free agency.

The Magic may even use its remaining cap room to further solidify a player already on the roster. Jake Fischer of Yahoo! Sports reported the Magic may agree to a renegotiate-and-extend with Jonathan Isaac.

It all adds up to an offseason not of change, but one where the Magic not only doubled down on the principles that helped build the team's successful playoff run and rebuild but also brought much of the same roster.

For the second straight offseason, the Magic are essentially running it back hoping to recapture the magic of this rebuild.

The Orlando Magic have had a patient rebuild that bets on internal improvement

If anything, the Orlando Magic's offseason moves are banking on the culture and group they have invested in for the last three years. The front office believes the team has not peaked in any way.

There is something special cooking internally with the group. There is not much of a reason to break it apart.

The Magic's project leans on Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. They will go as far as their stars take them. And with the forward duo at 21 and 22 years old, there is no reason to think they won’t improve.

Banchero took a big leap to become an All-Star last year, improving his efficiency and playmaking. Wagner struggled with his 3-point shooting but made major gains last year too.

Jalen Suggs' development as an elite defender and shooter—going up to 39.7 percent from deep—elevated the team to a playoff level. Suggs maintaining that level and improving as a playmaker will be what defines the Magic again this year.

Still, the Magic again bet on familiarity over adding critical needs to the team.

Orlando needed 3-point shooting and got a better shooter in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and drafted a solid shooter in Tristan da Silva.

Further internal improvement from Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner and opportunity for Jett Howard may change that. But the team may still limit its attempts and did not get the gravity-bending 3-point shooter the team may still need.

The big need for the Magic appeared to be chasing a point guard and playmaker. That was something Banchero specifically noted after the season. But the Magic seem content to give Suggs a chance to grow in that position.

Orlando doubled down on what it is comfortable with this offseason. It bet on the team's great vibes carrying forward. But even that is a risk.

The Orlando Magic hope the vibes don't go stale

The biggest criticism Jeff Weltman faced last offseason was how he flipped his cap room forward one year. He displayed extreme patience to keep his team together and believe in what they were building.

He only added three players—two rookies in Anthony Black and Jett Howard and one free agent in Joe Ingles.

In February, as the Magic kept their heads just above .500 at the trade deadline, Weltman held firm, knowing the team had just come out the other end of a rash of injuries and illnesses and the schedule would lighten up.

It all paid off as the Magic went 21-11 in the final 32 games and earned the 5-seed on the last day of the season. The young team learned a lot in that process—everyone lamented those losses in January as they had to win on the final day of the season to clinch their playoff spot.

The lesson, though, is that the margin between the 5-seed and the 8-seed and the Play-In Tournament is very very narrow. The Magic are in the pack of Eastern Conference contenders, but where they finish might still be a luck of the draw and the right win at the right time.

It is fair to wonder if the Magic can continue to rise above. The team is betting on internal improvement to grow the team. But that is rarely a straight line. Some players will take a step back (like Franz Wagner did with his shooting last year). And in this instance, a step back could be the difference between homecourt advantage and the Play-In Tournament.

As much as Weltman hates the concept of a team culture, he is betting on the team's vibes and culture continuing to grow the team. He is betting on the team's environment breaking that development curve and continuing to push the team forward.

He is betting that everyone still likes each other enough, the competition of playing together to sort out rotations and roles and the depth to withstand injuries to push the team beyond where they were in 2024.

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Orlando is again investing in continuity and that culture with this offseason. All the while, Orlando appears positioned to get in on the next big move and strike when the team feels ready.