Safe to say, people are a little uneasy about the Magic's prospects at this point with an inconsistency issue and injuries hitting the roster. You would not blame Magic fans for looking a little bit ahead -- especially with the Dwight Howard shadow looming and taking up a lot of the conversation and worries of Magic fans.
Personally, I don't believe thinking about the future is a very healthy exercise. There is a lot of season left to play and this team could turn things around. It is not out of the realm of possibility. What is a good exercise is evaluating what the Magic have on their roster and determine their value for the rest of the season and then beyond.
No player likely has as much riding on this season as Jason Richardson. Richardson is a free agent, and with Orlando well over the luxury tax threshold and Richardson's play somewhat disappointing, he needs to show he fits into Orlando's plans. And it might take a lot to do that.
Marc Stein of ESPN.com wrote his early preview of next year's free agent class and he had a comment on Richardson: "The Magic have incurred a massive payroll. Unless they win a title this season, it’s unlikely they’ll be willing to pay Richardson to stay around."
There might be other ways for him to secure a contract with the Magic (taking the veteran's minimum might be one). But he has to show a significant turnaround on the defensive end especially to earn himself another few years in Orlando.
That means the next thing Orlando has to watch and measure is JJ Redick. Otis Smith matched Chicago's offer to Redick during the summer and it appears Redick is viewed as something of an important cornerstone of this franchise. A lot of teams want him, and Orlando wants a lot for him.
But they have to figure out if he can be the team's starter at shooting guard. The tough part is he likely will not get any starting time and so the evaluations likely will all happen behind closed doors.
Working in his favor is that Stan Van Gundy trusts him. A lot. Van Gundy has not been afraid to stick with Redick at the end of games. But can he be an 82-game starter?
No doubt Redick has improved much since his rookie year to get to this level. He has not had much a drop off after signing his big deal with Orlando this summer. After Dwight Howard, you could say he is the team's most consistent player. More than that, I believe he complements the pieces in Orlando's starting lineup since he can take more of a back seat role and still be effective.
But spot starting when guys get injured is a much different story than being the everyday starter. Again, this decision on whether Redick can be the starter could shape the entire strategy for the offseason.
That strategy should also include finding a suitable backup center. Trading Marcin Gortat has had some negative effects on the second unit's defense because there just simply is not a big body to repel players from the paint. Now with Brandon Bass likely to miss some time with his sprained ankle, Orlando's already thin front line is being stretched more.
If a backup center is not found this year before the trade deadline, the Magic will have to find one in free agency.
One candidate could be our favorite Spaniard. There are grumblings that Fran Vazquez could be ready to come over this summer when his contract with Regal Barcelona expires. Don't hold your breath though. This information could very easily be released to increase the price an European team would pay. And then there is the whole lockout issue that could change all the rules as we know them.
Among the centers that could be free agents this summer are Denver's Nene, New York's Ronny Turiaf, Memphis' Marc Gasol, the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan, Portland's Greg Oden, Dallas' Tyson Chandler, Boston's Kendrick Perkins (could you imagine that?), Sacramento's Samuel Dalembert and Houston's Yao Ming. As you can see, this list leaves one wanting until you remember the guy they sign would play 10-15 minutes per game in all likelihood.
Those are also names the Magic might be targeting in a trade since they have one year left on their contracts and can easily be moved. But obviously they would have to give something up.
I feel these are just things to keep in mind for the rest of the season. Really Redick's performance is something to really pay attention to as the year progresses.