Offseason Outlook: Orlando Magic

June 1 at 10:09pm CDT By Zach Links

Guaranteed Contracts

Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents / Cap Holds

  • No. 4 pick ($3,326,700)
  • Fran Vazquez ($1,898,300)*********
  • No. 12 pick ($1,803,400)
  • E’Twaun Moore ($1,148,163 – QO)***********
  • (Jeremy Richardson $915,243)

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (4th overall)
  • 1st Round (12th overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $33,448,634
  • Options: $0
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $12,463,777
  • Cap Holds: $9,091,806
  • Total: $55,004,217

While a lot of the teams that struggled last season are dreaming of a playoff berth, the Magic have a different timetable than most.  Orlando, coming off of a 23-59 season, isn’t expecting a major transformation in 2014/15 and while they’d surely like to make the postseason, they know that the road back to contention may have to be a bumpy one for the next couple of years.

That’s not to say that Magic fans don’t have reason for optimism.  Orlando has a promising young core featuring rookie Victor OladipoNikola Vucevic, and Tobias Harris, and their continued development alone should mean an improvement over last year’s dismal mark.  However, Orlando’s offseason moves will mean the difference between a five game bump and significant steps forward.

The Magic’s main problem in 2013/14 was a matador defense (Ole!) that allowed 104.6 points per 100 possessions.  Their defensive lapses can’t be pinpointed to one player or one unit, but we can start the finger pointing with the front court.  Orlando has just one real shot blocking threat in Kyle O’Quinn and that’s not enough to keep anyone at bay.  The easy solution, after looking at O’Quinn’s stat sheet, would be to play him more than ~17 minutes a night.  However, his offensive shortcomings mean that starters minutes would be a bad idea.  Arron Afflalo and Oladipo were solid defenders on the outside last season, but they’ll need some big bodies behind them to keep opponents honest.

Speaking of O’Quinn’s offense, or lack thereof, it’d be great for Orlando if they could get a big man that can make an impact on both ends of the floor.  If the ping pong balls went the Magic’s way, rather that the Cavs’, they could have an easy fix in Kansas big man Joel Embiid.  Unfortunately for the Magic, they’ll be picking fourth.  It’s not a bad consolation prize, especially in this year’s draft, but it seems like the KU big man won’t be on the board for them, unless his medicals leak out and appear questionable.

So, if Embiid is out, who is in play for the Magic at No. 4?  Australian guard Dante Exum seems to be getting rave reviews from everyone and if he gets past the Sixers at No. 3, he could give Orlando their one-guard of the future.  Exum is a dynamic athlete who can score but isn’t purely a chucker.  The 19-year-old has great court vision and the ability to dish on offense and his 6’6″ frame should allow him to be a pesky defender at the NBA level.

Exum’s arrival, or the acquisition of any promising young point guard, could spell the end for Jameer Nelson‘s time in pinstripes.  The veteran guard is set to make $8MM in 2014/15, but he’s guaranteed only $2MM, so the Magic could let him go elsewhere without much penalty.  Orlando has until July 15th to decide his fate: that’s when his deal goes from $2MM guaranteed to fully guaranteed at $8MM.

If the Magic tab Exum at No. 4, they can get another talented international prospect at No. 12 in Jusef Nurkic.  Nurkic, also 19, would give the Magic a big presence, serious strength, and a 7’2″ wingspan: just the type of enforcer that they can use on defense.  The very fair knock on him is that he’s something of an unknown.  Due to conditioning issues, the Bosnian saw limited minutes last season, averaging 15.4 minutes in Eurocup action and 16.6 minutes per night in the Adriatic league.  Even with his question marks, teams have been drooling over Nurkic’s upside as his stock has shot up from a mid-to-late second round prospect to a very real lottery possibility.  If the Magic intend to be patient with their timetable, they can afford to take the time to help the center realize his full potential.

Another major area of need for Orlando is outside shooting.  The aforementioned Exum would give them a scorer, but not a three-point shooter.  At No. 12, the Magic could be in line for Michigan standout Nik Stauskas or sharpshooting Duke small forward Rodney Hood.  Stauskas is currently pegged to go No. 13 in DraftExpress’ mock.  Hood is slotted at No. 15, but he told me in May that he could go as high as No. 6.  That guarantees very little, but the possibility exists that he won’t be an option for Orlando with their second first-rounder.

Of course, with just ~$33.4MM in guaranteed salary for next season, the Magic aren’t just confined to the draft.  They can turn to the free agent market to get impact veterans at their need positions and this summer is ripe with quality options.  No, LeBron won’t be taking his talents to Epcot, but one has to think that the Magic could come away with a Luol Deng, Kyle Lowry, or Lance Stephenson, even if a recent report indicated that such a move would be a “shock“.

Dwight Howard is long gone and Orlando’s title contention hopes are as well – at least for now.  With the right moves and responsible spending, the Magic can position themselves for a small step forward in 2014/15 and a big leap the following year.

Cap footnotes

* — The Magic waived Davis in February despite guaranteed salary remaining on his contract through 2014/15.
** — The Magic waived Harrington in August 2013 despite partially guaranteed salary remaining on his contract through 2014/15.
*** — Nelson’s salary becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived on or before July 15th.
**** — Maxiell’s salary becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived on or before July 10th.
***** — Price’s salary becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived on or before July 10th.
****** — Lamb’s salary becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived on or before July 1st.
******* — O’Quinn’s salary becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived on or before July 15th.
******** — Dedmon’s salary becomes guaranteed for $250,000 if he’s not waived on or before opening night.
********* — The Magic hold the draft rights to Vazquez, who’s yet to sign an NBA contract. He was the 11th overall pick in 2005, and his cap hold is equal to 100% of the rookie scale for the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft. The Magic can erase it from their books and still retain the draft rights to Vazquez if he and the team agree in writing that he won’t sign during the 2014/15 season.
*********** — Moore’s cap hold would be $915,243 if the team declined to tender his qualifying offer.

ShamSports and Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ were used in the creation of this post.

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