During every rebuild, there comes a time when the rebuilding team has to put up or shut up in their quest to build a true contending team. For the Orlando Magic, that time is now.
Coming off their third straight season of 50-plus losses, the Magic have a lot of questions to answer heading into what will undoubtedly be a long and busy offseason. Will the team reward general manager Rob Hennigan with a contract extension? Whom will it hire as head coach after firing Jacque Vaughn in February? What does it do with forward Tobias Harris, who's set to hit restricted free agency in July? Do they retain big man Kyle O`Quinn, who is also poised to hit free agency? How do they fill out their roster to complement the young pieces already here for the long haul?
The list of questions for the Magic this offseason can go on-and-on.
Looking at the roster at present, one could say there are four-to-six players who could be considered "locks" to return next season. Both Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, the speedy, hounding guard duo the Magic touted as their "backcourt of the future" throughout the season, will return. So will big man Nikola Vucevic, who signed a four-year contract extension prior to the 2014/15 season. Aaron Gordon, the team's first pick in the 2014 Draft, will be back, as will sharpshooter Evan Fournier, whom the team acquired from the Denver Nuggets in a Draft-night trade.
Outside of that group, the Magic have roughly four-to-five players who will most likely be back just due to their current contract situations. Andrew Nicholson and Maurice Harkless, who had their fourth-year options picked up on their rookie deals prior to the season, will be hard to move for much of anything, due to their low salary numbers. Dewayne Dedmon carved a niche with the team as a high-energy, defensive-minded backup to Vucevic. The last player in this group, Channing Frye, would most likely be the one who could end up on his way out, should someone view him as a buy-low candidate after his poor first year in pinstripes.
Add in their top-10 pick, and you'll have 10 of the 15 needed for their final roster. With roughly 26 million in cap space this offseason--not taking money out for the cap holds for both Harris and O`Quinn--the team could look to make a couple of additions to their bench to help fortify a unit that struggled mightily to find any sort of consistency this season.
Their coaching search could be long and, in the end, disappointing. With the report from Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher that Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau would be interested in the Magic's opening, should he and the Bulls part ways, many believe that he could be a real candidate for the job. However, with the potential of Thibodeau coming in and wanting power in personnel decisions, it's possible the Magic could choose to pass for someone who would be willing to come in and let Hennigan and co. continue to build their roster, with the coach simply giving input when needed.
Considering few teams are likely to have head coaching vacancies this offseason--the Nuggets are the only other team who currently do not have a head coach--the Magic will undoubtedly have a chance to get the guy they want.
With the fan base growing tired of losing, and the gap to turn into a playoff team getting larger with the increased talent of many teams in the Eastern Conference, the Magic need to get out there and get things done this offseason. They can't continue to bring in low-end free agents who will help the young guys grow, but make minimal-to-no impact on the floor.
With the salary cap jumping to somewhere in the $85-90 million range next season with the new TV deal, the Magic won't be the only team in a position to make a big splash in free agency. They're unlikely to land one of the marquee free agents either of the next two years, but adding glue guys this summer could be just what the doctor ordered to get them into contention for a playoff spot. They're in desperate need of more balance, so going out and spending their money this season could pay dividends in the long run.
Needless to say the list of tasks for the Magic this offseason is long, but one that can be done. If they want to make that jump to the next level in their rebuilding process, this summer is the time to do it. If they fail, it could set the franchise back even further, and cause even more discontent with the fan base.