Offseason In Review: Orlando Magic

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings

Extensions

Trades

  • Acquired 2014 pick No. 10 from the Sixers in exchange for 2014 pick No. 12, Orlando’s 2015 second-round pick, and Philadelphia’s 2017 first-round pick that the Sixers had given up in a previous trade.
  • Acquired Evan Fournier and 2014 pick No. 56 from the Nuggets in exchange for Arron Afflalo.
  • Acquired Anthony Randolph, the more favorable of Chicago’s and Portland’s 2015 second-round picks, the more favorable of Chicago’s and Portland’s 2016 second-round picks, and cash from the Bulls in exchange for the rights to Milovan Rakovic. Randolph was subsequently waived.

Waiver Claims

Draft Picks

  • Aaron Gordon (Round 1, 4th overall). Signed via rookie exception to rookie scale contract.
  • Elfrid Payton (Round 1, 10th overall). Signed via rookie exception to rookie scale contract.
  • Devyn Marble (2013, Round 2, 50th overall). Signed via cap room for three years, $2.71MM. Second and third years are non-guaranteed.

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

The Magic entered the offseason looking to continue onward with their plan of rebuilding through young, athletic talent. Orlando isn’t a realistic playoff contender for the 2014/15 campaign, despite playing in the Eastern Conference, nor do the Magic necessarily expect themselves to be in the postseason mix this season. Success this year will be measured more in player development rather than in the standings. With that mission in mind, the team’s offseason should be considered mostly a success.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Chicago BullsOrlando began the summer by agreeing to a trade with the Nuggets that sent Arron Afflalo back to Denver for the younger, cheaper Evan Fournier and a second-rounder. I must admit at first blush that I wasn’t a fan of the deal. Afflalo had two solid seasons in Orlando in which he averaged 16.5 and 18.2 points per game, respectively. His salary was extremely reasonable at $7.5MM with a player option for the same amount in 2015/16. So, there was no real need to get him off of the books, despite Orlando having a league leading $14,705,259 in dead money against the salary cap for this season.

But at second pass the deal makes complete sense given the team’s youth movement. The 29-year-old Afflalo has probably peaked as a player, and with the Magic a year or two away from the playoffs, he wasn’t likely to be a major contributor by the time the team made it to the postseason anyway. Fournier is only 22 years old, and his skill set is similar enough to Afflalo’s that he’ll slot in nicely to Orlando’s system. So far the move has worked out rather well, with Fournier averaging 16.0 PPG compared to Afflalo’s 10.8 PPG on 38.7% shooting.

When rebuilding around younger players, one of the most important aspects of the process after development is the retention of that talent and not letting another franchise reap the rewards of your coaching staff’s hard work. To this end, the team met with mixed results.

Orlando and Nikola Vucevic reached an agreement on a four-year, $53MM contract extension that will keep the seven-footer in the Magic Kingdom through the 2018/19 season. Vucevic had a solid 2013/14 campaign but didn’t quite show the improvement from the previous season that the franchise and its fans had hoped for, though injuries certainly played a part in that result. He’s still only 24 years old and hasn’t hit his prime, and the early returns this year are very encouraging with averages of 18.6 PPG and 12.3 RPG.

On the negative side of the equation, the Magic failed to come to terms with their young forward Tobias Harris. Though the 22-year-old has said that he wants to remain in Orlando, at least one report indicated that his eye is wandering. Also not helping Orlando’s cause is that Harris is playing like he’s in a contract year, putting up 16.7 points and 8.1 rebounds through the first seven contests. Harris will become a restricted free agent this summer, so the Magic will have an opportunity to match any offer sheet Harris signs, though if another team jumps in and is willing to overpay similar to the Mavericks’ deal with Chandler Parsons, I would speculate that Orlando would let Harris walk.

This year’s NBA Draft was a boon for the franchise, and landing both Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton laid the groundwork for some exciting basketball in the seasons to come. Gordon was a bit of a surprise at the fourth overall pick since a number of mock drafts, including DraftExpress, had Gordon going somewhere between the seventh and tenth picks. But his upside was too good to ignore, and he’s shown flashes of the player he can become even though he doesn’t have a well-defined position yet.

While I like the selection of Gordon, I absolutely love the team nabbing point guard Elfrid Payton as the fruit of a draft-night swap with the Sixers. Payton is far from a finished product, and his jump shot mechanics are a major work in progress. But as a ballhandler and distributor, he’s already NBA-caliber, though his 3.0 turnovers a game will need to be improved upon. The true value of Payton though is that he will allow the team’s star player, Victor Oladipo, to return to his natural shooting guard position. While Oladipo was serviceable at the point, he and the team will be much better served long-term if Oladipo doesn’t have to wear himself out being the primary ballhandler and having to play defense against the likes of Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook on a nightly basis.

This summer wasn’t all about youth for the Magic, and that’s where the team’s strategy showed some cracks. Signing Luke Ridnour to replace the departed Jameer Nelson as backup point guard was a decent signing, though Nelson’s leadership in the locker room will be missed. The second year of Ridnour’s deal is non-guaranteed, so the team limited its risk and allowed itself some flexibility moving forward.

The other two free agents the team added are a bit more puzzling to me. While Orlando didn’t guarantee the second year of its deal with Ben Gordon, a two-year, $9MM arrangement for an oft-injured aging veteran for whom there wasn’t stiff competition is a head-scratcher. But the four-year, $32MM fully guaranteed deal they gave to Channing Frye was downright confounding.

Stretch fours are all the rage in the league nowadays, but for a young rebuilding team like Orlando, Frye is an unneeded luxury, especially with the team having drafted Aaron Gordon, and also given the ability of Harris to fill that same role. Paying that stiff a price for a relatively one-dimensional player like Frye has all the earmarks of a contract that the team will regret in a year or two. This deal looks even worse to me when compared to the two-year, $14MM contract the Hornets inked with Marvin Williams.

Things will be brighter in Orlando in the coming seasons, and the franchise did well to extend Vucevic while making the most of draft night. Top free agents don’t see Orlando as a desirable free agent destination just yet, which may help explain the gross overpay for Frye. But with Oladipo, Vucevic, Payton, and Aaron Gordon, the franchise does have an exciting young core to build around.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post. Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

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