The only difference between where Minnesota is, likely the next Western Conference juggernaut, and where Orlando is comes down the bounce of a few ping-pong balls.
The Magic have been mired in a difficult rebuilding mode since Dwight Howard left town. The fans’, and ownership’s, patience is evaporating quickly, if not already gone. They are exhibit A in how hard it is to build a competitive team in the modern NBA. Their biggest moves, acquiring Nikola Vucevic in the Howard trade and drafting Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon and Mario Hezonja, are difficult to criticize, they just simply have yet to lead to wins.
It may be frustrating, but the Magic are still so young. Vucevic is the oldest of that quintet at 25. Throw in 23-year-old Evan Fournier who just had his best season as a pro and the Magic seemingly have a ton of young talent.
The trick will be getting that talent to translate into wins. Orlando made a great move towards that hiring Frank Vogel just two weeks after the Pacers declined to bring him back. Vogel is an objectively great defensive coach and will undoubtedly help the young Magic in a key area. If Vogel can craft a top-10 defense that gave heavy minutes to Monta Ellis, it should be even easier with Payton and Oladipo at the point of attack.
Vogel’s Indiana teams, however, were rather unimaginative on offense, and he now finds himself with a bit less to work with. Neither Oladipo nor Payton are great shooters and defenses feel free to pack the paint against them. Vogel faces a creative challenge there.
The Magic front office will almost surely be aggressive in free agency to get their new coach even more weapons. After trading Tobias Harris and Channing Frye midseason, the Magic will have close to $50 million in cap space this summer. The Magic definitely need a rim protector and are a good bet to go after Al Horford, who has ties to Florida. They could also go the younger, less polished route and make a big play for Bismack Biyombo, who would fit their timeline better.
The Magic also have three selections in this year’s draft (11, 41 and 47) and control of all their own future picks. With a trove of young players under team control for the next few seasons, the Magic can easily take a home run swing on draft. A player with lots of unrealized potential, like Skal Labissiere, would make a lot of sense.
That mindset would be incredibly beneficial for the Magic. Yes, their last few seasons have lacked the ideal amount of growth, but patience now is more important than ever. The Magic can’t afford to clog their future cap space with a bunch of win-now deals this summer. Allow young players to improve under their new coach and the future will be develop just fine.