The Magic finished 21-51, their worst record in six years. But president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman is staying positive.
“It’s going to be a different path,” Weltman told reporters. “It’s exciting. I’ve never felt more excited about the team since I’ve been here than I do right now.”
Weltman isn’t just blowing smoke. The Magic traded away All-Star center Nikola Vucevic (to Chicago), valued forward Aaron Gordon (to Denver) and Evan Fournier (to Boston) in a series of moves at the March deadline to make a deal.
But the returns and some holdovers showed promise. The list included rookies Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton, as well as Mo Bamba, Gary Harris, Wendell Carter Jr. and even Moritz Wagner. All that and Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac are expected to return from injury next season.
Along with the players already on the roster, the Magic own five first-round picks in the next three years. That includes two likely lottery picks this year.
Now all they need to do is keep the injury bug from biting again.
“I go back and think about the excitement around our team, that we could be the surprise team because of continuity,” coach Steve Clifford said. “We had played well at the end of the year before, we had a lot of guys coming back, other teams did not, and as it played out the East isn’t as good as it was. … But we were never able to sustain anything.”