It might be time for the Orlando Magic to change it up
After missing the NBA playoffs for six-straight seasons (2012-18), it was a pleasant surprise when the Orlando Magic qualified for the postseason again two years ago. Fast forward one full season, the Magic are sitting in the same place as the year before after losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in five games of the first round of the playoffs.
In fact, you can make the case that the Magic actually took a step back this season. Orlando only won 33 games this season (though some of that could be attributed to the hiatus) and was on pace to finish with a worse record than last season.
The only reason why they made the playoffs for a second-straight season was due to a bad Eastern Conference.
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While the team was worse collectively as a team, so were many of their key players individually which might be a worse sign. Aaron Gordon‘s statistics took another dip (and missed the playoffs due to injury), Jonathan Isaac‘s season was plagued by injuries (for the second time in three years) and will likely not play until the 2021-22 season, and Mo Bamba was sent home for a further health evaluation after setbacks in the restart bubble.
While Markelle Fultz has shown some promise since joining Orlando, he still hasn’t developed into the star that many expected him to be. Nikola Vucevic is still as steady as can be but with him as your best player, the Magic can only go so far. As has been evidenced over the last two seasons, it seems that place in a bottom two seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Perhaps the front office is willing to take a step back and chalk the 2019-20 season as an anomaly. Because of the pandemic and the injuries to multiple key players, maybe they’re willing to run it back with roughly the same team in 2020-21. However, I find a hard time believing this is a roster that hasn’t topped out.
It might be time for the Orlando Magic to blow up this roster.
What a roster blowup would look like for the Orlando Magic
Logistically, the Magic actually have pieces on their roster that would hold value around the league. Starting with arguably their top piece, there are many teams that would jump at the opportunity to trade for Nikola Vucevic.
Vuc is still only 29 years old and is coming off the second-best statistical season of his career – averaging 20 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists per game on 48 percent shooting from the field and 34 percent shooting from 3-point range.
He’s under contract through 2022-23, but only on the books for $22 million during that final season. For what he can do on the basketball floor, he’s affordable for any team that’s looking for a frontcourt offensive force.
The same could be said about Aaron Gordon, who will be an expiring contract after the 2021-22 season. He’s only due $18 and $16 million over the next two seasons, respectively, and is just 24 years old. He would likely benefit the most from a fresh, new start and could be the player that would net the Magic the biggest return on the open market.
After the Magic’s big two, Orlando could look to move veteran Terrence Ross and/or one of their two young, promising prospects Jonathan Isaac or Mo Bamba if they wanted to push the envelope more. However, that seems unlikely, especially with Isaac’s recent injury.
When you hear about the Magic “blowing it up” it generally deals with moving Vucevic and Gordon. After that, it’s a tossup. One player we haven’t discussed thus far is Evan Fournier. He can opt-out of his final year with the Magic to hit the free agency market this summer. Should he do so, I don’t imagine Orlando re-signing him. Especially if they’re going to pivot in any way.
The Orlando Magic have been sitting in NBA purgatory for roughly the past five seasons. They’ve been bad at times, but not bad enough to warrant even a top 3 pick. I’m not saying the Magic should tank, but perhaps bottoming out and ahead of the 2021 offseason and draft (which is expected to be loaded) could help the franchise get back on track.