Orlando Magic need patience bringing Wendell Carter, Markelle Fultz back ahead of the trade deadline

It is trading season, rumors are going around and the Orlando Magic are among the teams mentioned. The Magic are finally getting healthy and will have another look at how the team is is going to gel. The best thing to do is to be patient before deciding to make a move.

Jan 12, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz (20) dribbles the basketball
Jan 12, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz (20) dribbles the basketball / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
facebooktwitterreddit

The trade deadline is a mere three weeks way -- just nine games after Friday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers. The pressure is starting to ramp up on a team that has lost some contact in the playoff race -- entering Friday's game three games back of the 4-seed in the East.

Everyone senses the Magic are ready to win more seriously. Paolo Banchero is on the cusp of making his first All-Star team. The playoffs are not just a realistic goal but a requirement for success this season.

And the team knows it will eventually need more. Everyone can sense that whatever special thing the Magic have built, the realities of the business and the desire to get better will interrupt it.

Feb. 8 is a big day for the Magic. Everyone is anticipating the team could begin making those moves and solidify their playoff spot.

But this organization has always preached patience. And as they are now starting to get healthy, they are going to have precious little time to make some key decisions.

Markelle Fultz and Wendell Carter have been in trade rumors as of late. They seem to be the players that are likely to move and could net Orlando a bigger return.

But as the Magic's injury report continues to shorten, patience is going to be the key before the Magic make a move the team may regret.

The team has flaws, but the sample size is too small to determine what the team looks like when complete. There are other options the team can go about improving with lineup changes and minute redistribution too.

The Orlando Magic are getting healthy with Carter and Fultz's return to the lineup. They should be getting back Franz Wagner sooner rather than later. The team is going to need time to gel as the team gets back to play together again.

That will help the team determine what it actually needs and bank on continuity and familiarity to get the team over the top this season. Change is necessary. The question is just how fast they need it.

Carter has been getting back into rhythm lately producing off the bench and has been the best version of himself this season. In his first two games back since returning from right knee tendinitis, Carter scored a total of 35 points for his first back-to-back games with 10-plus points this season. He also grabbed eight total rebounds in 42 total minutes while shooting 4 for 7 from deep. Carter has also displayed his defensive versatility as he returns from his injury.

Carter has largely played with a minute restriction -- Mosley said it was 12-16 minutes before his return game against the New York Knicks on Monday, but he blew past that to play 18:53 on Monday and then 24 minutes on Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks. It seems pretty clear that Carter is feeling good and the Magic have finished games with him on the floor at center.

With Carter's team-friendly contract and his talent, he is probably the Magic's most attractive piece at the trade deadline. And the general consensus is the magic could move him with both Goga Bitadze and Moe Wagner holding down the center spot in his absence this year.

The Magic too have been waiting on Fultz's return as he makes his way back from left knee tendinitis that kept him out through most of November and December.

Fultz has been an interesting case since his return as he has slowly returned to form in terms of being able to control the game's pace and get his teammates involved.

His shot has seemed to revert to his struggle with his thoracic outlet syndrome. He is shooting 45.8 percent from the floor overall, his lowest mark since joining the Magic. And he has been hesitant to shoot threes again.

This has caused a lot of people to worry. But Fultz has earned the right to have a little patience to see how he recovers as time goes on.

Time is not on his side though with his impending free agency this summer and only a few weeks before the deadline. Both Carter and Fultz are in the crosshairs as the Magic begin to think about their future.

Two things are important to note as the deadline approaches.

Number one: The Magic do not leak anything. And number two: If Orlando is hypothetically looking to move those players, the teams around the league are not going to give back equal value in a deal like that because of their injury histories. They both still have a lot to prove.

With that thought in mind, the Magic are going to be better off being patient in seeing what the team looks like fully healthy. The Magic should not make a move to just make a move or to save the season. Everything needs a long-term view of the team and its growth.

Patience will be the key to this version of the Orlando Magic.

With being patient, it opens two ways the Magic can improve both in the short and the long term without disrupting the roster.

The first would be changing the lineup altogether and finding the best balance.

The clear three starters would be Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero, which leaves the point guard and center spot open.

Carter has proven himself that he is ready to take back his starting role and can spread the floor for the other starters. Then, instead of going back to Markelle Fultz as the starter, reinserting Anthony Black into the starting five will give the team back its defensive guard duo and a player who will not make mistakes and take an open shot.

Black only averages one turnover per game in 20 minutes per game and shoots 34.6 percent from three although in low volume (1.4 attempts per game). But defenses are going to have to respect someone who is willing to shoot the ball and give his teammates more room to grow while Fultz continues to work back into form. It would allow Markelle Fultz to run with the second unit who have guys who are supposed to be shooters in Cole Anthony, Gary Harris and Joe Ingles.

The other option is to slightly redistribute minutes and allow other players to play more. The perfect example is Jonathan Isaac.

Isaac is continuously praised by the coaching staff and teammates for his impact on the defensive end and how Isaac changes the game. But Isaac only plays 13.6 minutes per game -- some of that because of various injury restrictions.

Isaac needs to play more and it needs to come to a point where Isaac is allowed to play and be allowed to get into an offensive rhythm. The team is going to get better as Isaac continues to play more, it's up to the coaching staff to let him loose.

The best pathway forward then is to watch and see what the team looks like in the postseason and move from there. The team is going to be healthy soon and will be better off seeing what the team looks like.

Next. Magic Margins 01.19.24. Orlando Magic's season will be determined on the margins. dark

There are multiple ways for the team to get better, but only time will tell as the trade deadline looms.