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The Orlando Magic made headlines after coming back from 17-point deficits to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers in back-to-back games — teams with the two best records in the NBA. Is Orlando starting to figure things out? Our 3-on-3 team weighs in on this and more topics related to the Magic’s future.
1. What is the best way for the Magic to build a contender?
Jacob Frankel: I’m really not sure there is a best way. The Magic have committed to finding talent through the draft, but that doesn’t foreclose the option of trading that talent and picks for a proven star or using upcoming cap space to sign good players.
Spencer Lund: Without spilling over into tank mode. No fans should have to sit through awful basketball, but the law of averages necessitates some awful teams, regardless. With the current CBA, the draft and the max rookie salaries combine to form the best way to improve without becoming cap-strung and hitting a dead-end.
Andrew Lynch: On a macro-level, making good decisions and being adaptable. Planning one route is a recipe for failure. That said, champions are generally reliant on superstars, and the best way to get a superstar is the draft. Yet it’s far from a sure thing. A well-timed tank can do wonders, but perpetual losing creates an environment that sets a team back for years.
2. Can the current roster eventually become a contender?
Frankel: Absolutely. The Magic have tons of tradable young pieces, Victor Oladipo, Arron Afflalo, and a high pick in the upcoming draft. If the young guys can continue to develop, the Magic hit on their upcoming picks, and solid veterans can be signed, this could be a title contending team in a few years.
Lund: No. Not even close, but there are pieces that should stick around. Even though it’s not definitive, Vucci Mane could be a starting center on a title team. I’d like to think Tobias Harris can clean up his defense enough to start on a title contender, but that’ll take time. Same with ‘Dipo.
Lynch: To me, this question boils down to whether the young core can grow into a championship contender. I like Vucevic, Oladipo, and Harris, as well as the other “Young Guns” and I’m excited for their development. But nothing about that group screams “title.” Orlando might see their future as as Pacers-esque, with a young core that can become elite together, but their likelier path is akin to Houston, stockpiling assets to trade for a bigger name.
3. Can Arron Afflalo be part of a core that competes for a title?
Frankel: Yes, but I also think his greatest value is as a trade asset. He could work as the centerpiece of a deal along with, say, some young assets like Maurice Harkless and Kyle O’Quinn, to bring in a star — similar to what the Rockets did with Kevin Martin to get James Harden.
Lund: Afflalo is 28, and he was on the cusp of the All-Star team this year. Many felt he deserved a nod, and he’s playing some great offensive basketball in what we would consider the beginning of his prime. So yes, he can be part of a core to compete for a title down the road, but he’ll return the most if dangled in a trade before February 20.
Lynch: Afflalo can be a substantial part of a team vying for a title, but that’s different than being part of a core. At this point, Afflalo’s more of an auxiliary piece — important in everything that he provides, but not essential to the success of the squad.