For the Orlando Magic, the feeling around the team is that improvement is not only expected next season but required.
Even potential No. 1 overall pick Jabari Smith Jr. when asked on what separates himself apart from other prospects, showed that winning is what he’s the most focused on.
And for an organization and fan base that has been itching for success, with just a single winning season over the past decade, this mindset from a potential franchise building block gives hope.
The Magic have held the first overall pick three times in franchise history, two of which eventually suiting up for the team (Chris Webber for Penny Hardaway deal in 1993 the only exception), and both times saw significant improvement in the win column the following season.
In 1991-1992, their third season as an NBA franchise, the Magic posted a 21-61 record and were awarded the first overall selection in the draft.
And with the first overall pick they selected a guy named Shaquille O’Neal out of LSU. O’Neal would only go on to win Rookie of the Year, be named an All-Star in each of his first four seasons in Orlando, and lead the franchise to their first finals appearance in 1995.
While his time suiting up for the Magic was only four seasons, the turnaround was almost immediate.
The season after drafting O’Neal the Magic’s win total improved to 41 games, just missing the playoffs. The following three seasons however, all 50 win and playoff bound campaigns for the franchise.
The trend of drafting dominant big men first overall followed in 2004. Coming off a disappointing 21-win campaign, the team won the lottery and selected high school phenom Dwight Howard.
Despite missing the playoffs the next two seasons, the Magic’s record increased to 36-46, while Howard solidified himself as one of the most dominating forces in the NBA.
The next six seasons with Howard as the face of the franchise all playoff berths, including two Eastern Conference Finals trips and a Finals appearance.
While O’Neal and Howard are big shoes to fill for whoever the Magic select first, if history repeats itself this young roster could be poised for a breakout season.
“Seeing the guys and seeing the players, this is a young team, one of the youngest in the league, so, adding me would just add another young player who was hungry,” Smith said.