The Orlando Magic are headed nowhere fast. Would tanking this season actually make sense for them going forward?
Right now the Orlando Magic are out of the playoff picture and have been maddeningly inconsistent.
For every notable win against the San Antonio Spurs, there has been back-to-back losses against the Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards.
They’ve lost three straight and for every mini-run they go on, the losses are not too far behind.
Even if they go on to make the playoffs, they are almost certain to bow out in the first round to a far superior team.
While even getting back to the postseason would be an achievement given how far this franchise has fallen, is that really where this team wants to be?
Making it to the first round of the playoffs year after year, but failing to get any further than that?
This is why we may be approaching the time when the question should be asked: Is it time for this team to think about tanking this season?
On the surface the answer is a resounding no and it’s completely understandable why fans would think this way.
This franchise has endured a miserable time since Dwight Howard left and it looks like things are finally starting to get better.
Only it’s happened at a time when parity in the league is as high as ever and the distribution of star power is as even as it’s ever been.
Being good is nice, but it’s harder to get excited about it when you see how many other good teams there are in the league and how their futures look brighter than Orlando’s.
It’s almost ironic because being in the middle of the pack was the dreaded place where no teams ever wanted to be.
Now there’s more people occupying that space than ever before, thanks to the money in the league and the distribution of talent.
So on one hand, joining the teams jostling to be great is appealing.
But when those teams feature the likes of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks, all better teams with brighter futures, that prospect becomes more daunting.
The upcoming draft class has been spoken about extensively as one of the better crops of youngsters in recent years.
The Magic have plenty of young talent, but reaching down to add another player may not be such a bad thing.
This is especially true when you take into account the uncertain future of Elfrid Payton, where the team should play Aaron Gordon and the how the team should use Nikola Vucevic.
One reason the team may not look to go back to the draft, however, is the fact that they’ve been pretty poor at selecting young guys since bottoming out.
Victor Oladipo, the second pick in the 2013 draft, has already been moved. Payton’s future is uncertain.
The team gave away the rights to Dario Saric and Domantas Sabonis, two young guys themselves, but both of whom already look like future key players for their teams.
In no particular order, the Magic whiffed on C.J. McCollum, Steven Adams, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert in 2013.
2014 saw them pass on Julius Randle, Jusuf Nurkic, Clint Capela and Marcus Smart. In 2015 it was Justise Winslow, Emmanuel Mudiay, Myles Turner, Devin Booker and Larry Nance Jr.
As you can see, the Magic have left a lot on the draft night table and instead cobbled together a mismatched group of young guys.
So perhaps it makes more sense to go down the free agency route and see what the team can come up with there.
Only they tried this last summer and what they managed to do was trade for Serge Ibaka on what might ultimately be a one-year rental (losing Oladipo and Sabonis in the process).
They also added Bismack Biyombo to a four-year, $72 million contract during the offseason, which is great, until you consider their best player of the last two plus years (Vucevic) is also a starting-caliber center.
The move to add Jeff Green for one year and $15 million was just puzzling and so far his contributions have reflected that.
It’s hard to see any potential free agents wanting to come and play here anytime soon. While winning is also important to keep Ibaka interested in staying, would losing him be the end of the world?
He’s the Magic’s best, most complete player, but that says more about the state of the franchise than anything else.
Despite striking out three years in a row, a return to the draft to find a star seems a more likely option than signing one.
There is of course the possibility of trading for one, and while that should be explored, it should only be attempted if Orlando is getting a legitimate star in return.
In case you hadn’t noticed, superstars aren’t given away by teams very often.
Maybe this is all too negative. Perhaps the best approach is to try and win as many games as possible this season, still ultimately go to the draft anyway and get a pick that way.
It adds a young player, it shows Ibaka the intent to win is there and it keeps the fans as happy as they can possibly be in that situation.
But if the Orlando Magic are content with floating through mediocrity like that, they’re going to remain irrelevant long after all the players currently on their roster have skipped town.
It’s almost ironic given that we’ve wanted to see this team try and be competitive for years now. We’ve arrived at that moment and it’s overrated.
With the team 11th in the Eastern Conference, tanking has to seem like a viable option at this point.