Welcome to the Next Step. Your favorite team was eliminated in the first round and now you’re sitting on your palms. What’s next for them though? Can they improve in the offseason? This series is taking a look at all eight of the teams eliminated in the first round and looking forward past the playoffs to the offseason. Specifically, the following paragraphs will be looking at free agency, draft, and other possibilities for the team to improve.
In this article, we will be discussing the Orlando Magic. They were eliminated five games. The Magic had an all-around good season, for them. They had their first All-Star selection since Dwight Howard in 2011-12 with Nikola Vucevic. Fun Fact: did you know that the Orlando Magic have only ever had nine different All-Stars, and three of them have been centers? I think that’s interesting. The Magic also made the playoffs for the first time since, you guessed it, also 2011-12.
While those were improvements, the Magic still have a long way to go to be actual contenders. They have a slew of young pieces but have to make a decision on their aging All-Star and FIND A POINT GUARD, PLEASE. All respect to D.J. Augustin, he had a real good season, but they need to find a franchise point guard. Let’s look at their draft possibilities.
The Magic own the 16th pick in the first round of the draft and the 46th pick in the second round. Since this is the first time in nearly a decade that the team hasn’t picked in the lottery, we can’t really project their success in the 16th pick. However, we can’t expect much from their 46th pick, as their second rounders in recent years have been uninspiring.
The Magic likely won’t find a bonafide starter at 16 (current Team President did take Giannis with the 15th pick, but let’s pump our brakes here folks), so they may be better off trading the picks in a sign and trade with one of the RFA point guards or to get some of their ugly contracts off the books. Speaking of ugly contracts, let’s take a look at their cap space situation.
The Orlando Magic are right under the salary cap so they can’t really make any moves in free agency. If they choose not to resign Nikola Vucevic, the first All-Star since 2011-12 that led them to their first playoff berth since 2011-12 (I know it is probably the right move but something should be said about rewarding players for this kind of accomplishment), they can open up a little over $16 million in cap space. That may be enough to make a run at some lower-tier free agents.
They could also open up some more space by trading Timofey Mozgov (would take both of their picks and maybe more) or Evan Fournier (more plausible). That would be necessary if they are hell-bent on going after Terry Rozier or D’Angelo Russel. Beyond that, trades may be the way to go.
The Magic have had a good season. I don’t think they should go gangbusters and fork over cash to flawed free agents because they feel the need to improve again right away. Improvement isn’t linear in the NBA. The good news is that they have more of a direction than the team has had in recent memory/
John Hammond is a more than capable President of Basketball Operations and Steve Clifford has proven to be the coach that this team needs. On the roster specifically, Aaron Gordon seems to be developing into a very nice two-way wing, Jonothan Isaac is already a defensive menace and is developing a corner three, and the team genuinely looks like they enjoy playing together.
What’s wrong in taking another year to develop? Mozgov’s contract will be off the books then and Fournier has an ETO. They could be rolling in cap space. What’s wrong in taking a year to see if Markelle Fultz isn’t completely broken? The answer to their lead guard problems could already be on the roster, maybe check that out before dropping cash on another one? The Magic don’t have to stand pat, though. They should look into some trades to maybe get wing help and another guard on the roster for now. Packaging the picks they have and their bad contracts could be worth kicking the tires on Taurean Prince or others.
A sneaky good option might be Jerian Grant, who the Grizzlies might be less interested in paying this offseason since they are reportedly locking on Ja Morant with the second pick.
Regardless of what they decide to do, the Magic have a good structure and shouldn’t overreact to this surprisingly good year.