Offseason Outlook: Orlando Magic

Guaranteed Contracts

Non-Guaranteed Contracts


  • None

Restricted Free Agents/Cap Holds

Unrestricted Free Agents/Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (5th overall)
  • 2nd Round (51st overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $38,875,806
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $9,042,335
  • Options: $0
  • Cap Holds: $14,110,085
  • Total: $62,028,226

The biggest addition for the Orlando Magic this offseason was made before the summer. They hired a demanding, defensive-minded head coach in Scott Skiles, who has reputation for improving teams and eventually wearing out his welcome. Skiles, who has also coached Phoenix, Chicago and Milwaukee, seems like a good fit at least in the short term to guide the Magic’s core group of young players.

Dec 30, 2012; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Scott  Skiles during the third quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace. Pistons won 96-94. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Courtesy USA TODAY Sports Images

Lottery picks Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon should all benefit from Skiles’ tutelage, particularly the 21-year-old Payton, who averaged 8.4 assists over the last two months of the season and reached double figures in points in 16 of the last 21 games. The former Magic point guard should be an ideal mentor for the current point guard to help Payton reach his potential. What promises to be an interesting dynamic is how much freedom Skiles will give Payton to run the offense. If Skiles tries to micromanage too much, it could curtail the skills of a roster that’s built to run all day and make athletic plays.

Skiles’ biggest overall challenge is to get the team to buy into his defensive philosophy. It’s no secret the Magic had one of the softest defenses in the league under former coach Jacque Vaughn and interim coach James Borrego. Orlando ranked 28th in defensive field-goal percentage at 46.3, above only the rebuilding Lakers and Timberwolves.

Skiles said when he was hired in late May that his goal was to turn the Magic into a top five defensive team, which will require a large measure of toughness that has yet to be exhibited by a majority of team’s current players. What the Magic do have is enough length and quickness at several positions to eventually become a solid defensive unit. With a top five lottery pick at its disposal, Orlando can add another versatile piece.

From a personnel standpoint, the team’s offseason will be shaped by which player it chooses with the No. 5 overall pick and the restricted free agency of starting small forward Tobias Harris. Those two factors will be intertwined. If the Magic decide to select a small forward, it would give them a ready-made replacement for Harris along with additional leverage in negotiations with him. The top half of the draft has plenty of small forward prospects, including Justise Winslow, Mario Hezonja and Stanley Johnson, if the Magic opt to go in that direction.

It’s more likely that the Magic will take another route. ESPN Insider Chad Ford’s latest mock draft has Orlando selecting power forward Kristaps Porzingis to pair up with center Nikola Vucevic. The Magic are enamored with the star potential of Porzingis, according to Ford, even though they selected a power forward at No. 4 (Gordon) a year ago.

DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony also projects Orlando to pick a big man — power forward/center Willie Cauley-Stein. That would certainly play into the renewed commitment to defense, since Cauley-Stein is widely considered the top defensive player in the draft with the ability to guard all five positions. It would also give the Magic a desperately-needed shotblocker — they finished 29th in total blocks last season.

The Magic are projected to have anywhere from $8.9MM-$23.5MM in salary cap space, according to Basketball Insiders, depending on how they handle Harris’ situation and the non-guaranteed contracts of two veteran guards. It seems a foregone conclusion Orlando will protect itself by extending the qualifying offer of approximately $4.4MM to Harris, who averaged a career-high 17.1 points and 6.3 rebounds last season. GM Rob Hennigan has said the team intends to keep Harris, who is certain to get a large jump in pay. But if Harris receives a healthy offer sheet it might not be an easy decision to retain him, given that he’s considered a defensive liability at his position. Harris has a negative career Defensive Box Plus Minus rating, according to Basketball-Reference, and was rated No. 76 among small forwards last season in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus Minus rankings.

The Magic can free up over $7MM by trimming Ben Gordon and Luke Ridnour from the roster. Gordon has a good history with Skiles from his days with the Bulls but his career has been in steady decline since he signed with the Pistons in 2009. With a younger option to back up Oladipo in Evan Fournier already in place, it’s unlikely the team will want to pay Gordon $4.5MM to ride the end of the bench. Ridnour has a non-guaranteed $2.75MM salary but appears to have a better chance of sticking, considering there is no other obvious backup to Payton.

Orlando has two huge salary commitments to frontcourt players. Vucevic’s big extension kicks in this coming season, with a starting salary of $11.25MM and $500,000 increases over the next three seasons. At least he’s a starter. The contract they gave last summer to power forward Channing Frye could an albatross for another three seasons. Frye is slated to make nearly $8.2MM in 2015/16, a hefty price for a stretch four who averaged just 7.3 points last season and may not even be in the rotation, especially if the Magic select another power forward in the draft.

A decent portion of the cap room will be eaten up if Harris signs a new contract or the Magic match an offer sheet. They should still have the flexibility to pursue a quality free agent and/or absorb salary in a trade. Once again, the positions they will seek to upgrade will be predicated on who Orlando selects in the draft and its success in retaining Harris. A vocal veteran leader that Skills trusts could be brought in to help spread the new coach’s message in the locker room. The Magic are on the rise and with Skiles running the show, much more will be expected of this young, talented roster next season.

Cap Footnotes

1 — Gordon’s salary becomes fully guaranteed if he remains under contract through July 1st.
2 — Ridnour’s salary becomes fully guaranteed if he remains under contract through July 10th.
3 — Dedmon’s salary becomes fully guaranteed if he remains under contract through August 1st.
4 — Marble’s salary becomes fully guaranteed if he remains under contract through his team’s opening day.
5 — The cap hold for O’Quinn would be $947,276 if the Magic elect not to tender a qualifying offer.
6 — The Magic drafted Vazquez 11th overall in 2005 but have yet to sign him. Orlando can keep his draft rights but remove his cap hold from its books if he and the team produce a written agreement that he won’t sign during the 2015/16 season.
7 — See our glossary entry on cap holds for an explanation of why Richardson, who last played in the NBA in 2008/09, technically remains on the books.

The Basketball Insiders Salary Pages were used in the creation of this post.

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