Marc Daniels: Should The Magic Tank After Fultz Injury


Brooklyn Nets v Orlando Magic

Markelle Fultz season-ending ACL injury is a blow to the organization. With Fultz and Isaac sidelines for the year, some wonder if the Magic should bail on the season. Is it time to tank? After all, can the Magic really do anything this season with two key players not playing? Probably not, but tanking is not the answer.

First, if the Magic thought for sure that Fultz was such a franchise impact player for the coming season and years to come, why did the draft Cole Anthony....a point guard? For a team needing help when it comes to shooting, someone other than Anthony would have made more sense but they chose Anthony. 

Maybe the draft pick was about replacing DJ Augustine but maybe it was also an insurance policy if Fultz's progress was not as great as many have predicted.

Fultz is likely in the 12-18 range if you are ranking point guards in the NBA and while that is not horrible, if you want to tank because Markell Fultz is out then you are thinking a bit high of someone has shown some flash but not yet established himself as one of the better point guards in the league. You tank because Markelle Fultz is out for the season.

Look, I thought the selection of Cole Anthony was fine. I have no idea if he will become an all-star let alone a consistent starter in the NBA. But I do think Anthony and a healthy Michael Carter-Williams will be more than adequate. No, neither player will be one of the top point guards in the league. But there is some "moneyball" going on here. The key is how do you replace what Fultz was giving you and your two point guards combine to give the Magic what Fultz and Anthony were going to give.

I give Steve Clifford the benefit of the doubt that he will find the right system to bring Anthony along but also get the most out of the rookie and Carter-Williams. The Magic find a bargain player to sign to add to the depth. But the Magic will need other players to elevate their game. Evan Fournier must consistently shoot better. Aaron Gordon needs more nights where you feel like he is an all-star and Vuc, well, Vuc just needs to keep doing what he's done.

Despite the 6-2 start, most sensible Magic fans still feel you are talking about a team whose ceiling was likely the 7th seed in the east. Even without Jonathan Isaac, most still saw the Magic as a playoff team. Without Isaac and Fultz, I still think Orlando can make the post-season. If not as the 7th season, they will be in play for the 8th, 9th or 10th spot in the NBA's new expanded play-in round.

Before the year, I thought the Magic would go 34-38 and be in the 8th to 10th seed range. Why? Because I didn't think they improved the team other than drafting Anthony. What reason was there to think they'd be better? Without Fultz, I still think the Magic can get to that record.

As for tanking, who are you tanking for? And will someone please explain to me how you tank?

Gonazaga's Jalen Suggs might be the number one pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Do you know what position he plays? Point Guard. 

Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham might be a top choice. He is a point guard shooting guard combo.

Either player would make the Magic better but neither is LeBron James or Zion Williamson. 

I have said for years, somehow and somewhere, the Magic must find a superstar. That star can either be a player you have drafted or someone you bring in. The problem is that it's really hard to do. The Magic draft picks have not given any indication someone is ready to be the face of the franchise either by performance of injury.

But the tanking part, how do you do it? Players and coaches don't tank. Organizations make a decision to put a team on the floor that has little chance to win over the course of a long season. Players play for the team but they also play for themselves. Everyone thinks about their next contract and wants the stats to back up the next contract. They don't care about draft picks.

Are the Magic going to decide to make Vuc, AG or Terrance Rosse healthy inactives? No.

Is Steve Clifford about to design a play he knows won't work late in a game to make sure his team loses? No.

Will the Magic trade its best players and get expiring contracts and draft picks back? Ok, I can't throw this one out if you wanted to tank.

But the Magic front office has given no indication they want to move away from their current model of sticking this core of players. Maybe the Fultz injury has given them reason to pause and think. But dumping Vuc and/or Gordon for expiring contracts to clear cap space has no guarantee the team will land an impact player in free agency. Could you trade either for someone who you think can score and become a go-to player? Maybe.

Fournier is an ideal player to trade before the deadline because of his contract and whether the Magic can make the playoffs or not, the team will need to strongly consider moving him before the trade deadline so you can get something back.

Look, it sucks to be a Magic fan because of all the years you have watched this team struggle and here comes another season you think is lost with the latest injury to sideline a starter for the season. But unfortunately there is no simple, quick fix. The Magic's cap is already high. Free agents are not coming here because there is no one worthy to pair up with. I have called it the NBA Abyss for years. You are stuck and don't know where to go and can't get out of the world of mediocrity. It's the worst place to be.

But tanking is not the answer. If making the playoffs has given you some hope and excitement, that's what you can still root and hope for this season. Fultz loss is a big one, but his injury is not worth 10 fewer wins. And maybe, just maybe, Cole Anthony will emerge and become a player with star potential. We can only hope...

Final thought: The arrow on your gas gauge tells you what side of the car the gas tank sits.

Photo Credit: Getty Images


Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content