With the Orlando Magic firmly headed for the NBA draft lottery, it is time to start planning the future. We will come back to the specifics that each prospect can give the team closer to the time, but on a more general basis, what does this team actually need going forward? Do they need some sharpshooting wing players, a floor general or perhaps some more size? The answer could be none or all three depending on what way you look at it, but with the trade deadline approaching soon too, what identity will this blank canvas of a team form going forward?
First off, the trade deadline. Orlando are where they thought they’d be and for that reason are very unlikely to make any moves before the deadline. It makes no sense to do this as well, so any movement would want to be a part of a multi-team deal or truly extraordinary for the Magic to bite. Right now they are in a great position financially, with the flexibility to do many things this summer. There are no hideously large contracts on the book and the team already has such an abundance of youth on friendly contracts that taking anymore doesn’t make any sense. Some veteran leadership would be nice, but only at the right price, and this is where things get tricky. Orlando should absolutely not rid themselves of any young players for single veterans in return. If somebody like Gary Neal was available at the right price, or even a Kyle Lowry, maybe the Magic could be tempted. But really at this point in their growth all that they could really want is a truly great player in return for a cluster of young players and picks. With no superstar looking likely to move on at this moment, this makes no sense for the team either. So waiting until the summertime is the smart thing to do here, and seeing firstly what players the team can draft, before then looking at what free agents can come on board.
The draft itself will be interesting because although the Magic are a poor team, they are not truly terrible in any one particular area. Arron Afflalo brings the leadership and desirable two-way play to the team. Rookie Victor Oladipo is coming along very nicely and will contribute in even more ways in both guard spots as he continues to grow. Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless have both size and potential, which make both worth keeping where they are. Glen Davis and Jameer Nelson are expendable, with Davis the more likely of the two to be let go, but for now they provide depth up front and in the backcourt, respectively. Center Nikola Vucevic gets a lot of love around here and injury withstanding will be an All-Star one day, so the need for a really good center from the draft is not needed. A backup veteran center picked up somewhere down the line is a need, but that is not for worrying about right now. Forward Kyle O’Quinn has also shown he might have something he can bring to the team going forward as well. It puts the Magic in a strange position, at least right now. A lot of the players on their roster could potentially blossom into really solid, and in some cases, great individuals. Of course they all won’t, with some moving along to make way for draft picks this summer or trading some for a veteran may backfire spectacularly as they grow into much better players elsewhere. It puts the team in an odd kind of purgatory, in somewhat of an exciting place given their abundance of youth, but also a scary place given how nearly every player on their roster is not a sure thing.
Again it will become clearer closer to the draft just what the team is thinking, but as of right now, an athletic forward who knows the basics about defending would seem the way to go. Afflalo won’t be around forever, or even at the start of next year, but Oladipo can be their guard of the future in either spot, so this makes the guard position secure. Vucevic is a monster in the paint when he gets a run of games and is this team’s 5 going into the next few years. There are plenty of players in this draft who we know already have the potential to be franchise changers, so there is no point in listen them here. But if the Magic could secure the services of a forward who panned out even half as well as Paul George has in terms of growth and trajectory, this team would be onto something really special. Not just making-the-playoffs good, but making-some-noise-when-there-as-well kind of good. This is all some distance away, but if the draft was tomorrow, a forward should be the player the Magic should be looking to take, even if there are better guards on the board. It would give the team a great balance and allow Orlando to add veteran pieces around the core group of Oladipo, Vucevic and the selected forward player. Will it work out as smoothly and as simple as this? Not a chance, but that is why we love the game of basketball.