This was supposed to be Orlando's big year to change things around. To prove everyone wrong. To stop the rebuilding motions, and move towards a playoff chase.
Well, at 22-39, and 14th in the Eastern Conference, the playoffs are a laughable dream instead of a possibility. However, they still have half of season left of basketball games to go. So, what's in store in for Orlando?
First of all, let's address the elephant in the room. The Magic recently traded Serge Ibaka to the Toronto Raptors for Terrence Ross and a late 2017 first round pick. At first, it seems like a complete waste to trade everything and the kitchen sink for Ibaka, only to trade him the same season for Ross and a late pick. However, thinking about it a little harder, the Magic had no choice. There was little chance Ibaka would stay with Orlando as he is an unrestricted free agent. So getting him for something is better than nothing. Especially when those pieces are a pick in a highly anticipated draft class and a solid, and still growing player in Ross.
This season, Ross is averaging 10.6 points and a steal per game. Not a lot, but considering he was buried under DeMar DeRozan's minutes, he finally gets a chance to show his talent with Orlando. Who knows? Maybe he's a star that just needed leeway on his leash. If any team is going to find out, it's Orlando. So they made a good move by getting this trade done.
Also, now that Ibaka is gone, that puts Aaron Gordon in his more natural power forward position. Playing small forward is something he can do, but it's obvious he's more comfortable at the four. He's got the rest of the season to show his abilities, as he's still young, but time is ticking.
Mario Hezonja is one prospect Orlando completely threw dirt on the whole season. Barely getting any minutes whatsoever, his confidence and production dropped dramatically. Understandably so. Now, however, his minutes are finally starting to see a consistent increase. Don't forget; he was drafted in the first round as the 5th pick. You can't be a "bust" if you never get a chance to show yourself. Now is his chance to do some proving.
Last but not least, everyone with the Magic knows this season has been a huge disappointment. No one is going to sugar coat things anymore because the proof is in the pudding. Still, with these last regular season games ahead of us, it's important the Magic finish strong. No, that doesn't mean a last minute playoff chase is necessary (or possible, for the matter). The Magic just need to play hard with energy and spirit every single night. That means close games, hard-nosed basketball and frankly, just entertain those fans.
Next season is something to look forward to because it's the start of something fresh. As long as the Magic draft incredibly wise this summer with their two first round picks, and keep their important players, things can turn out for the better. Like with everything, time will tell.