Another year, another bottom tier playoff seed, and another gentleman’s sweep for the NBA’s most average team in the Orlando Magic. Although making the playoffs is an accomplishment every team should be proud of, are we sure we can say the same of the Magic? They seem to have the same exact roster year after year, and they always hover around that 40 win mark; nothing more, nothing less.
However, after a Game 1 win against Milwaukee where they looked like they could potentially make this series a little bit interesting, they failed to restore the magic (no pun intended) that they’ve had in Game 1’s the past two years.
Making the playoffs is always a good thing for two reasons. 1. You’re either young and promising and this is a good field trip for you or 2. You’ve got a legitimate shot at making something happen in the playoffs.
The Magic do not check off either of those boxes and they’ve got to realize that you cannot continue to settle for the 7th or 8th seed every year. With this average roster, the Magic have to realize that it’s time to establish a clear direction within the franchise and fully commit to rebuilding their roster. Here’s how they can do that.
Trade Nikola Vucevic
Remember when Nikola Vucevic was an All-Star in the 2018-19 season? You probably don’t, and that makes sense because history is likely to forget it too. Vucevic was great that year, but this season proved that it was nothing more than a fluke. It also helped that he was in a contract year.
Nevertheless, Vucevic is not a bad player. He’s got an advanced feel for the game that you usually don’t see with centers. He’s got great touch around the basket, solid court vision, and a great three-point jumpshot. In my eyes, he’s a top 10 center in the league. The problem is that he’s the best player on this team. He could be a great complimentary piece for a contender, but you’re likely going to struggle if you rely on Vucevic to be your number one offensive threat. Hence why the Magic had the 23rd ranked offensive rating.
I understand they just signed him to a massive extension, but it would be smart to search the market for him. They’ve got a young and talented backup center in Mo Bamba that has shown potential to be a great piece but has never gotten the opportunity.
If you’re committing to a full rebuild, you’ve got to let your younger pieces have an opportunity to shine. Getting rid of Vuc allows you to fully commit to a rebuild, play your younger pieces, and get rid of a hefty cap killer.
Get Rid of as Many Veterans as Possible
Alongside Vucevic, the Magic have a plethora of veteran players that need to go. Evan Fournier will be an expiring contract and while he’s had a solid year averaging just south of 20 points per game, don’t be fooled. Fournier is the poster child for inconsistency, and his numbers don’t really provide anything to the success of the team. Not a bad player but again, the fact that he is one of the leading scorers of this team is telling.
Aaron Gordon is the classic example of a player that fans don’t give up on. They say “this is his year”, but he never breaks out. Gordon is just a terrible fit with the Magic, and he hasn’t shown any real improvement in a while. I always think that with most players there is potential to tap into but if a team is going to tap in to Gordon’s, it’s not going to be the Magic.
They also have veterans like DJ Augustin, Terrence Ross, James Ennis, and Al-Farouq Aminu. All those guys are average if not below average NBA players and don’t really help contribute to success. Aminu was banged up all year, Augustin and Ross are both one-game wonders, and James Ennis is James Ennis. It’s time to shop all of these guys and see what kind of assets you can bring in, whether that be picks or younger prospects.
Give Markelle Fultz the Keys to the Offense
I am not a believer in Markelle Fultz as a player. I don’t think he has the mindset nor the work ethic necessary to become a star and quite frankly, I’m not a huge fan of his skill set. However, I am a huge believer in giving young talent the opportunity they need to succeed, and I still think Fultz has talent.
He doesn’t have the silky smooth jumper that he had coming out of college, but he’s shown that he’s a good finisher at the rim (65% at the rim) and that he’s starting to build up confidence in his range again. He didn’t have a particularly high usage rate at just 21.4%, but I think it’s time to give Fultz the keys to the Magic’s offense.
Steve Clifford put it best by saying that last year was really Fultz’s rookie year. He should be a full time starter, and it’s time to see what this young man can do with the ball in his hands. He’ll have to truly work hard in the offseason which is one of my biggest question marks for him, but I think it’s time for Fultz to be put to the test in Orlando.
Establish a Youth Movement in Orlando
Giving Fultz the keys to the offense, trading Vucevic to start Bamba, getting rid of all the veterans players. Do you see a theme? Orlando should be all about getting younger and trying to build up a championship roster from here.
I’m a giant fan of Jonathan Isaac, and I think he’s got the chance to be a special player if he can stay healthy. Again, I’m not Fultz’s biggest fan, but I understand that he has talent and the great opportunity in Orlando. I also think Bamba can be a great starting caliber center. You’ve also got first round pick Chuma Okeke coming back.
It’s time for Orlando to find out which guys are core pieces and which guys aren’t. Eventually, when they become better and more experienced, you can add some veterans into the mix, but the Magic need to establish that mentality to get young and find a bunch of great pieces that can help them be a contender.
Their current roster isn’t going to be anything more than a first round exit as it currently stands. If they can scrap all their veterans, unload some of their contracts and get a younger roster, they’ll have far more potential and maybe they can escape the infamous NBA purgatory.
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