By Ryan Brock
The off-season is upon us. Lottery night didn’t quite hit the peak that it did just one year ago, but the Magic still came out as winners, retaining the protected pick they received from Chicago in the Nikola Vucevic trade, a final asset that adds insult to injury to what was already a lopsided trade in Orlando's favor. What comes next for the Magic is an intriguing question, as the combination of their draft capital, young talent, and cap space leaves them with a plethora of options heading into the summer.
As long as the Magic play their cards correctly, few other young cores in the league will be more impressive than what Orlando is assembling. Here, we’ll take a look at the moves I believe they’ll make during the off-season to help achieve that goal. It’s some combination of what I want to happen, what I think should happen, and what I actually believe Jeff Weltman and John Hammond will do, which as we know, isn’t exactly an easy thing to predict.
We’ll break this down into three categories:
Current Roster Moves
It’s way too difficult to project realistic trades this time of year, so while Jaylen Brown would be an ideal target, there will be no major trades being finalized in our mock offseason, which I think is the most likely scenario for the Magic this summer.
By the end of this article, the Magic should boast a 15 player roster that puts the league on notice as one of the best young teams in the league. If not, well, be sure to tweet @sixthmanshow with your complaints and concerns.
Let the off-season commence…
Current Roster Moves
The Magic have some key decisions to make with the current players on their team in terms of team options and extensions. I would prioritize them in this order
1. Sign Markelle Fultz to a 4 Year/$80 Million Contract Extension
Once the Magic undoubtedly pick up Fultz's $17MM option this off-season, they have the opportunity to lock him up to a long-term extension. To me, this is a no brainer, as Fultz changes the entire complexion of your team on the basketball court. Anyone whose watched the Magic closely over the last three seasons knows the value that Markelle brings to the roster, and he’s done nothing but improve since arriving in Orlando. Fultz even flashed the desire and ability to take the pull-up three towards the end of last season, something that could add a whole new dynamic to his game moving forward. But even without the three-point shot, Fultz still brings playmaking, athleticism, IQ, scoring, and leadership to this young Magic team.
2. Sign Cole Anthony to a 4 Year/$64 Million Contract Extension
Anthony goes into the off-season becoming extension eligible, and both the Magic and Cole have decisions to make as he heads into the final year of his rookie contract. Weltman has done a nice job during his tenure of re-signing his players and getting deals at good value – Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Wendell Carter Jr. come to mind – and now Anthony is next in line. Orlando may want to try to lock up Anthony before he gets a chance to show even more improvement on the court, maximizing his value in restricted free agency and creating a bidding war that Magic may want no part of. Here we pay Cole $16MM AAV, which is in the range of players such as Kevin Porter Jr. and Derrick White. I’m honestly not sold that Cole would even accept this deal, but here we’re going to assume he takes a hometown discount and continues to thrive in his role as a sixth-man for the Magic.
3. Pick up Gary Harris’ $13 Million Option
I don’t really see any reason the Magic wouldn't pick up the option for Harris. He’s a perfect fit for this current roster, as he was far and away the Magic’s best shooter last year, hitting 43% from beyond the arc. Orlando needs to add shooting, not lose any, and with only one year remaining on his contract, there’s little risk in bringing back Harris at a fair price and seeing what the future brings.
4. Guarantee Jonathan Isaac’s Contract for Next Season at $17 Million
I understand the trepidation with JI, as everyone involved is frustrated with the situation –no one more than Isaac – but I believe the Magic are committed to Jonathan Isaac, and the upside is still far too high to give up on him entirely. The Magic aren’t throwing a max contract at anyone this off-season, so there’s still a bit of wiggle room for them to continue the Jonathan Isaac experiment. There’s not much to say anymore about the situation, and we just have to hope Isaac can find some injury luck this upcoming season. His talent remains immense and is still a potential game-changer for this team. A final decision on Isaac’s future likely comes when we see how he performs on the court this upcoming season.
5. Pick up Goga Bitadze’s team option at just over $2 Million
I was impressed at what Goga provided for the Magic at the end of the season. Rebounding, toughness, and more rebounding. He’s rewarded with another opportunity to show what he can do.
6. Decline Team Option on Bol Bol
Bol has a team option at just over $2MM, a number that certainly leaves the door open for a return. But again, this team needs roster spots. Bol Bol flashed his talent at the start of the season, but his loosey goosey defense, poor shooting, and erratic ball handling left a lot to be desired for much of the year. For my money, Goga Bitazde and Admiral Schoefield bring more value to the court than Bol and have earned their spots at the end of the Magic’s bench.
7. Decline Team Option on Michael Carter-Williams
MCW, we love you, but we need roster spots. Can we make you a coach?
Current Roster Recap: The Magic re-sign two of their best young players, bring back their best shooter, continue to hope and pray with Jonathan Isaac, secure their third string center and create two open roster spots.
Orlando will select at spots 6 and 11 in the upcoming draft. They won’t have a chance at Victor Wembanyama, but they do have an opportunity to fill holes on this team and potentially add another high-upside player to grow with this core. There is also a chance the Magic could package their picks to move up in the draft, but I don’t expect that move to happen. While Scoot Henderson would be a fantastic piece for this team, It’s hard for me to envision Charlotte – who picks at two– giving up that pick, and Portland at three trading for anyone on the Magic that they would be interested in pairing with Damian Lillard. It’s far more likely the Magic trade down from six or up from 11, but for now, I’m going to assume the most likely scenario, that the Magic just select players at their current spots. Here we go…
With the 6th pick in the NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic select Gradey Dick
Is this too high for Gradey Dick? Probably. But this guy just makes too much sense for the Magic as a fit with the core pieces of this roster, specifically Paolo, Franz, and Fultz, and I’m skeptical that he’ll be there when the Magic select at 11. Dick can become an instant impact guy as an elite shooter who would unlock the rest of the roster and make everything a little easier for our stars. The Magic have been dreadful from beyond the arc for years now, and Dick can provide shooting in spades. He also provides some juice off the dribble and has a good feel for the game. He’s an absolute perfect fit for this roster moving forward.
With the 11th pick in the NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic select Dereck Lively II
At 7 '1 with a 7' 7 wingspan, the Magic can find an athletic high-upside back-up big who can block shots, rebound the ball, and finishes well at the rim. Lively was a top recruit coming out of high school, and while he started slow in his freshman year at Duke, he came on strong near the end of the season and reportedly had an impressive pro day workout that has his stock rising as we inch closer to the draft. Orlando needs someone to back-up Wendell Carter Jr, and Lively brings a lot of tools to the table that the Magic are currently missing.
The Magic trade their second round pick for a future second round pick
Draft Recap: We stay put at 6 and 11 and add two contributors who fill needs for the team.
While free agency is a ton of fun, we’re going to pretty much sit this one out, which Magic fans are pretty accustomed to doing anyway. The roster is fairly set and there isn’t anyone out there who’s a game-changer for the future of this team. The plan is to have this team grow organically and make decisions when we absolutely have to or when the time is right. As much as people want to rush this process, that time doesn't have to be now. We have one roster spot to fill and we’re staying in-house for this one.
Re-sign Moe Wagner to a 2 year/$8 Million Contract
I’m not sure how you wouldn’t like Moe Wagner on this team. He’s our number one antagonist, plays with an enormous amount of passion, and has found a home here in Orlando alongside his brother Franz. This deal could include a team option to keep some cap flexibility for 2024, but Wagner has earned a spot on this team after what he provided the Magic the last couple of seasons. While he’ll likely see his playing time dwindle, he’s always ready to contribute when an opportunity knocks.
Recap: The Brothers Wagner live to fight another day.
The 2023-2024 Orlando Magic
PG: Markelle Fultz
SG: Jalen Suggs
SF: Franz Wagner
PF: Paolo Banchero
C: Wendell Carter Jr.
G: Cole Anthony
G: Gary Harris
G/F: Gradey Dick
G/F: Caleb Houston
F: Jonathan Isaac
F: Chuma Okeke
F: Moe Wagner
F: Admiral Schoefield
C: Dereck Lively
C: Goga Bitazde
Two Way Contracts
G: Kevon Harris
G: Jay Scrubb
You may be disappointed by the amount of moves made, or lack thereof for that matter, but this is what I believe the most likely outcome is for the Magic this off-season. Orlando still has so much time to grow this team and see what their young players can actually grow into. Let Paolo and Franz continue to assert their dominance. Allow Jalen Suggs the opportunity to develop as a starter. See if Markelle can implement his pull-up three consistently. Allow Cole Anthony a full year in a defined role and see if he can take another step forward. Assess how the two young draft picks fit with this roster. This team has a ton of talent and a myriad of assets to make a significant deal down the line.
But for now, there is no rush. The Magic aren’t competing for a championship in 2024. The goal should absolutely be to make the playoffs in 2024, and once you arrive there, the weaknesses on your team are magnified and you can adjust accordingly. For now, the Magic roll out an exciting young roster with the foundation for sustained success.
Follow Ryan Brock on Twitter