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Raptors Say They’re Studying Orlando’s Rebuild & There Are Lessons to Learn

The Toronto Raptors waited too long.

That’s really the biggest difference between where the Raptors are now compared to the Orlando Magic. It was Orlando who acted early back in 2021, opting to move their two-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic in the kind of trade that reshaped and expedited the Magic’s rebuild.

“We’ve studied it from head to toe,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said of rebuilds throughout the league. “I talked to (Magic team president) Jeff Weltman every other day. So, these are things that we all study, our front office to the core of it, because I think it’s our first time, it’s my first time.”

The takeaway from Orlando’s rebuild is timing is everything.

The Magic moved Vucevic at the height of his powers for two first-round picks from a Chicago Bulls team that ended up being less successful than expected. Those picks turned into the No. 8 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft Franz Wagner and the No. 11 pick in the 2023 draft Jett Howard. It also allowed the Magic to tank to the bottom of the draft in 2022 to land the Paolo Banchero at No. 1.

That’s how Orlando has found itself in the position it’s in today with Banchero, Wagner, Jalen Suggs, and an intriguing young core already making noise in the 2024 playoffs. The Magic acted decisively and after two 20-win seasons earlier this decade, they’re now set up as well as anyone in the league moving forward.

Toronto never got that Vucevic-like return.

Yes, the OG Anunoby trade has set the organization up with Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett, but Toronto’s two-time All-Star Pascal Siakam was dealt for pennies on the dollar. Unlike Orlando who lucked into two lottery picks from the Bulls, Toronto will have received the No. 19 pick in this year’s draft and what’ll likely be another mid to late first-round pick in 2026.

But now Orlando’s road map also calls for patience.

The Magic were content to lose if it enabled them to further build out their core with high-end young talent. They let their young core trudge through a 22-win season in 2021-22 because it set them up to draft Banchero and add one more uber-exciting prospect to a core that now consists of nine players younger than 25 years old.

If Toronto can land a top-six pick this year, the Raptors will have a chance to do the same and pair another high-upside prospect with Scottie Barnes, Quickley, Barrett, and Gradey Dick moving forward. But if the lottery doesn’t go the organization’s way, Toronto might be better off taking a page out of Orlando’s playbook and hoping more losses next year lead to another top lottery pick in the 2025 NBA Draft.

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