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.
- Jason Maxiell: Two years, $5MM. Signed via mid-level exception. Second year is non-guaranteed.
- Ronnie Price: Two years, $2.58MM. Signed via minimum salary exception. Second year is non-guaranteed.
- Solomon Jones: One year, $1.19MM. Signed via minimum salary exception. Non-guaranteed.
- Victor Oladipo (Round 1, 2nd overall). Signed via rookie exception.
- Romero Osby (Round 2, 51st overall). Signed via mid-level exception for three years, $2.45MM. He was subsequently waived, earning a partial guarantee of $100K.
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
- Maurice Harkless (3rd year, $1.89MM): Exercised
- Tobias Harris (4th year, $2.38MM): Exercised
- Andrew Nicholson (3rd year, $1.55MM): Exercised
- Nikola Vucevic (4th year, $2.75MM): Exercised
As this summer’s Dwight Howard sweepstakes played out, the Magic left the drama for other teams to worry about. No longer does Howard’s indecisiveness grip the franchise in the stasis of a daily soap opera. GM Rob Hennigan has instead focused on making forward progress on a rebuilding project that began the moment he shipped D12 away in the four-team blockbuster that the other three franchises involved have little to show for 15 months later. The Magic came away from the deal with a pair of building blocks who took major strides last season in Nikola Vucevic and Maurice Harkless. The first of the three first-round picks that Hennigan arranged for in the deal will arrive next summer. Orlando is well-positioned for a rise back into the Eastern Conference elite, even if last season’s league-worst 20-62 record shows there’s still a long climb ahead.
Probably the most important decision Hennigan had this summer involved what to do with the No. 2 overall selection in June’s draft. The choice was a little harder than usual, since the Cavs left everyone guessing about their pick at No. 1 until the moment David Stern called Anthony Bennett’s name. Hennigan admitted that he fielded some “tempting” trade offers for the pick, but ultimately hung on to it. A trade rumor involving a swap of Arron Afflalo to the Clippers for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler persisted for a month leading up to the draft, and its proliferation seemed to signal that the team was interested in drafting a shooting guard. The Magic’s $22.5MM commitment to Afflalo over the next three years represents the team’s largest commitment, so there might have been plenty of reason to either draft a player at another position or move Afflalo’s contract elsewhere. Again, Hennigan decided against a trade, and though Orlando was reportedly interested in Nerlens Noel, the Magic instead picked Victor Oladipo, who had won out over fellow two-guard Ben McLemore in the team’s eyes.
The Magic have curiously tried Oladipo at point guard, and while that figures to steepen the rookie’s learning curve, he’s still receiving plenty of Rookie of the Year buzz in what should be a wide-open race. Oladipo wasn’t even a starter on his high school team as a junior in 2008/09, when the Magic’s last wave of talent peaked with a berth in the NBA Finals, but his rise has been just as precipitous as the team’s fall. He, clearly, is a building block along with center Vucevic, forwards Harkless and Tobias Harris, and, to a lesser degree, power forward Andrew Nicholson.
That group is an unbalanced one, with too many frontcourt pieces and not enough guards. The Magic may envision more players learning new positions, as they’re attempting to have Oladipo do, but their complete lack of trades this summer suggests the team still has some evaluations to make. Oladipo, Vucevic, Harkless, Harris and Nicholson will all remain on their rookie scale contracts through at least 2014/15. None are close to reaching their potential, as last season’s record indicates. That makes this year a crucial one, particularly for the three forwards, as Hennigan decides which players he keeps as he pivots toward a run at the playoffs.
For now, the sharpest focus is on growth, not wins. Hennigan initially suggested he wouldn’t use the team’s mid-level exception, but he wound up spending part of it on Jason Maxiell, a veteran who’s been on plenty of both winning teams and losing teams in his eight years with the Pistons. Maxiell’s contract is guaranteed only for this season, one in which the Magic don’t have legitimate playoff hopes, and he plays at the already crowded power forward position. It seems the Magic intend for the 30-year-old to act as a mentor for the club’s young guys, making his signing more about what he can bring off the court than on it.
By contrast, the Magic clearly don’t want the player with the most experience on the roster hanging around the locker room. They told Hedo Turkoglu to stay home before training camp, and he hasn’t been with the team since as Hennigan tries to find a taker for his contract. The Magic already have nearly $6.4MM on this season’s payroll committed to players who aren’t on the roster anymore, including more than $3.8MM for Al Harrington, whom the team waived in August. Hennigan would surely like to avoid adding to that dead money, even though Turkoglu’s $12MM contract is, like Harrington’s, only 50% guaranteed. It will be a challenge to come up with a team willing to trade for Turkoglu, and the team’s decision to keep him at home only makes it tougher.
Hennigan probably spent a lot of time this summer trying to find trade partners for a few of his other veterans. He’s seeking a first-round pick for Jameer Nelson, though it seems unlikely he’ll get one for Nelson alone, given the commoditization of first-rounders these days. The Magic’s best-case scenario might involve finding a team that would take Nelson and either Turkoglu or Glen Davis for some combination of young players and picks, but Davis, due $13MM in guaranteed cash over this season and next, will also be difficult to deal. He represents the team’s second-largest commitment behind Afflalo, who’ll no doubt continue to be a trade candidate, too.
It was a quiet offseason after draft night for the Magic, a welcome relief for a franchise still reeling from Dwight’s departure. Still, the front office remains at work trying to accelerate the shedding of the veterans left over from the last iteration of the team while keeping an eye on which among a growing store of talented young players emerge as keepers. The Magic have only about $33.5MM in guaranteed money for next season, not counting cap holds and two first-round draft picks. Hennigan and company probably have enough room to make a max offer to a marquee free agent this coming summer, with Orlando’s warm climate and lack of state income tax as carrots on a stick. The summer of 2014 figures to be more exciting for the Magic than the one that preceded it.
Luke Adams contributed to this post.