The future of the Orlando Magic isn’t as bleak as it may seem to be

Orlando Magic v Phoenix Suns

Heading into Sunday, the Orlando Magic are 13-32, tied with the Sacramento Kings for the NBA’s worst record.

They lead the league in road losses (5-20) and have been abysmal in just about every category.

Injuries have derailed any hopes that the Magic previously had to make a playoff push this season. After getting off to a 4-1 start to the year, they’ve gone 9-31 and have been hurt drastically by injuries to starters Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton in addition to Terrence Ross and rookie Jonathan Isaac.

Further, head coach Frank Vogel may be on the hot seat. Despite the key injuries and recent absence of Vucevic, Isaac and Ross (who is out for the rest of the year), Vogel has been at the helm of a sinking ship and has stuck with essentially the same rotations all season long.

Despite the team’s current struggles, the future of the Magic doesn’t have to be bleak, though. Instead, it can actually be very exciting under a few conditions.

Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers

Anoint the face of the franchise

When thinking of the Magic, who do you consider to be the face of the team?

Vucevic? Payton? Gordon?

If Orlando is smart, they’ll begin to brand their franchise around Gordon.

Not only is Gordon arguably the best dunker in the sport, but he’s simply Orlando's best player and has incredible potential if he can put everything together. At just 22 years old, Gordon is in his fourth NBA season and is having a career-best campaign, averaging 18.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 33.7 minutes per contest.

All of those are career-highs.

Under team control through the end of next season, Gordon will most likely command a max contract in the summer of 2019, but would most likely strongly consider remaining the face of the rebuilding club after that point, especially since he could make more money signing an extension in Orlando rather than testing the open market.

In addition to his play above the rim, Gordon has added a three-point shot to his repertoire and is becoming more and more consistent on the offensive end. Some have called him “Blake Griffin 2.0”, but if he continues to develop as an offensive threat with shooting range, he could easily surpass Griffin in terms of an overall skill set and would become one of the NBA’s toughest players to match up against.

On top of his on-court skills, he's extremely charismatic and makes it very clear that he loves every second of being on the court. That makes for a marketable player, even in a smaller market setting.

2017 NBA Draft

Initiate a rebuild

A perfect recipe for a rebuild involves tradable assets and financial flexibility.

The Magic have both of those characteristics.

Although Bismack Biyombo is on the books for $17 million this year and next and will likely accept his player option worth the same amount for the 2019-2020 season, Orlando doesn’t have any other catastrophic contracts on their books.

Orlando Magic v Phoenix Suns

Evan Fournier is guaranteed to make $17 million through the end of the 2020-2021 season, Vucevic is making $12.25 million this year and will make $12.75 million next year while Jonathon Simmons is making $6.3 million this year, $6 million next year and $5.7 in 2019-2020. Payton is under team control through the end of next season, just like Gordon.

It’s safe to say that Fournier’s price tag might be a bit high for some clubs, but he’d likely garner interest due to his elite scoring ability. Vucevic would likely bring back a valuable draft pick or young player while Simmons and Payton would also be appealing for clubs in need of depth.

Trading away one, two or all of those players would not only allow the Magic to tank (and take advantage of the NBA’s current draft lottery rules before they change) and give their younger players a lot of run, but it’d also allow them to free up future cap space, which leads to the next point.

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Sell Orlando as a free agent destination

When LeBron James took his talents to Miami, the city became even more of a hot spot. With beautiful, warm weather year-round, gorgeous beaches and an active nightlife scene, Miami is still recognized as one of the top free agent destinations, even though no big-named players have signed there since LeBron bolted.

Orlando is just a bit north of Miami. Although there are no natural beaches, there are manmade ones, along with a number of exhilarating theme parks like Disney World and Universal Studios. In many ways, central Florida weather can even be considered better than South Florida’s.

However, Orlando is often-times ignored when free agency arises. To get a glimpse of how pleasant Orlando can be, take a look at how the University of Central Florida football team celebrated their season in Orlando a couple weeks ago:

Not only would Orlando be a wonderful place to call home for any NBA player, but the allure of playing for a franchise who has never won a championship might also appeal to certain types of hungry players. Being a part of history can be appealing to competitive individuals, but the vision has to be there. Signing a big-named free agent this summer could change the course of history for the franchise.

Further, joining a rebuilding club could be a nice change of scenery for a star who wants to refresh and renew their career, similar to how Kyrie Irving wanted to break free of LeBron in Cleveland. If the Golden State Warriors win another title this season, would Kevin Durant opt out of his deal and try to prove that he can win on his own? Would DeMarcus Cousins want to essentially run his own franchise away from Anthony Davis if the New Orleans Pelicans fade and miss the playoffs? The possibilities are endless.

Although Gordon is a legitimate building block, the NBA’s top teams are now built on the concept of featuring a “big three”. Since there are a number of high-profile free agents coming on the market this summer (like KD and Boogie), the Magic could not only rebuild through the upcoming drafts, but also in free agency if they play their cards right.

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