The trade wheel is always spinning in the NBA.
When you are a team in the playoff hunt, the wheel is seemingly in overdrive. The pressure to stay in the playoff race and stay competitive in a world of constant change is always a pressure that is difficult to resist.
The Orlando Magic have done their best to slow that spinning wheel. They have invested in their young roster and allowed them the space to grow. They saw their best way to move forward through internal development and continuity.
That plan has worked so far. The Orlando Magic are 19-12 entering the final game of 2023 against the Phoenix Suns. They are sitting in fourth in the Eastern Conference and seem to have a clear path not only to the playoffs this year -- not to mention at least one All-Star likely in Paolo Banchero -- but playoffs for years to come.
That itch though does not go away.
The Magic can look at their roster today and be proud of what they have accomplished and the start they have gotten off to. But they also know there is a lot more work to do. And the team being in playoff position means the team should be focused on what it needs to win.
The turn of the calendar to the new year means the trade deadline is quickly approaching. The pressure to improve teams for that final playoff push is coming.
It might already be here. One of the Magic's chief rivals made an aggressive move Saturday.
But the Magic are not a team that is likely to go out and respond in kind. This is not a team that is going to make aggressive moves to maintain their spot in this year's playoffs.
That is ultimately not their goal.
Like they did in the offseason, the Magic are likely to value continuity at the trade deadline. They are likely thinking about their long-term future as opposed to any short-term gains for this season.
Even with all the chaos that is already swirling as the trade deadline nears, the Magic's strategy should focus on building a team that lasts beyond this season. It is still about building the team the Magic will be more than about trying to squeeze every inch out of the team this season.
Regardless, the Magic are going to have to start building their team to win in the long term. The time for solely relying on continuity is ending. The team has to make progress up the standings and they have to look for ways to improve their roster.
And Orlando is going to have to do something externally to improve their team and keep up with the Joneses around the Eastern Conference. The Magic still have to fight and claim their spot in the pecking order.
Teams may very well be taking their targets for this offseason. The Magic are going to have to be proactive at some point. And that time is getting closer and closer.
Just a day after the Orlando Magic defeated the New York Knicks at Kia Center, the Knicks sent Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett to the Toronto Raptors for OG Anunoby. The deal for the Knicks gives them a more established two-way wing to help their lagging defense a bit more.
The effect for the Magic might be twofold.
Orlando saw a team that is 2.5 games behind them in the standings make an aggressive move to try to make up that ground. The playoff race between teams in the 4-8 spots in the standings is going to be exceptionally tight. And every little bit could inch a team ahead or behind the pace.
The team that ends up getting homecourt advantage in the Playoffs or avoids the Play-In Tournament might well come down to a move like the one the Knicks pull off this weekend.
The Magic also might have been one of the teams that was interested in pursuing Immanuel Quickley either at the trade deadline or as a restricted free agent this offseason. The Raptors acquiring him at the deadline certainly suggests they are interested in matching any offer -- not that the Knicks would not.
That is all to say, even trades around the Magic might put pressure on their plans for the future. The Orlando Magic have been connected to several plays -- including already Washington Wizards guard Tyus Jones and fans have coveted Portland Trail Blazers guard Malcolm Brogdon or Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield. If the Magic do have a target, they will need to be proactive to secure them.
But a move like the one the Knicks and Raptors made Saturday is not likely to push the Magic to move. They need to keep pace, but not in any immediate way. This is a team that still needs to evaluate and study its roster. And most importantly, understand its weaknesses.
The Magic do not quite know what they need until they get to the playoffs.
The Magic have extolled the team's continuity and chemistry as a big reason for this team's success -- Jamahl Mosley repeated that before Sunday's game against the Suns. That seems a big part of the team's organizational philosophy.
That further suggests the team will stay quiet at the trade deadline to let this group play things out and see how far they can go -- and again truly discover what its weaknesses in a playoff series might be. It also suggests the Magic are not likely to make a major move this offseason but rather layer on small moves upon this developing core.
After all, this is still a young team learning and growing. The Magic have been apt to let that team continue to progress naturally and organically. There is no reason to believe that will not continue to be the team's guiding philosophy as they try to build.
Especially if the team continues this run of success that it is experiencing.
The Magic are not panicking then with its lack of shooting, even though that is a clear need for the team. They are not looking to make fixes for this year.
Rather any move they make -- whether that is at the deadline or in the offseason -- will be about boosting the team's long-term needs. They want to add players who will be part of the team's overall picture for years to come.
This year is not the team's ultimate goal. The Magic want to experience success and make the playoffs this season. But Orlando is not playing for this season. The team is playing for the years to come.
That is certainly not the most exciting or intriguing thing to say. But the Magic are going to be patient still as the deadline approaches. They are not concerned with what other teams are doing.
They will focus on their own development and process as they continue to improve and prepare for the playoff chase ahead.