Hoops Rumors is looking ahead to offseason moves for all 30 teams. We’ll examine free agency, the draft, trades and other key storylines for each franchise heading into the summer.
State Of The Franchise
The Magic find themselves in a familiar spot this summer. They’re stuck in the lottery after coming off another last-place finish, searching to find ways to turn things around and hoping a new coach will make a difference.
Orlando did win 10 more games this past season than in 2014/15 but that still left it 12 games under .500. The frequent trips to the lottery haven’t produced an All-Star talent, a clearcut No. 1 scoring option or an unquestioned leader.
The front office thought it could accelerate the rebuilding process by hiring a no-nonsense, defensive-minded coach last summer in Scott Skiles. But the Magic’s defense improved only marginally, finishing 20th in defensive field-goal percentage and 18th in points allowed. Skiles didn’t connect with his young players, clashed with GM Rob Hennigan and ultimately resigned after the season.
By hiring ex-Pacers coach Frank Vogel as his replacement, Orlando’s front office mitigated the damage caused by Skiles’ sudden departure. The task at hand now is to acquire some impact players to get the Magic back into the postseason after a four-year drought.
Money Is No Object
The Magic have made their objective clear — they want to land top-flight free agents. They have enough salary-cap space to make that happen.
Orlando has the ability to free up as much as $46MM to spend on free agents and make trades, thanks to a couple of deadline deals that more than doubled its potential salary-cap space.
It quickly soured on forward Tobias Harris, who re-signed with the club as a restricted free agent last summer, and acquired two veterans from the Pistons (Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova) that it can clear off its books prior to free agency. Sending reserve forward Channing Frye to the Cavaliers for a future draft choice freed up more money.
“We’ve been very open about what we’ve been going through and the fact that we’ve been building through the draft,” CEO Alex Martins told the Orlando Sentinel. “I think we’re being very open about the fact that in order to take that next step we have to inject veteran leadership.”
The tricky part is to sell free agents on a franchise that has been spinning its wheels since the end of the Dwight Howard–Stan Van Gundy era.
Free Agent Targets
Orlando’s biggest need is to fill the vacancy created by the Harris trade, preferably with a top-notch veteran. That could be either a power or small forward, since Aaron Gordon can play either spot. Gordon showed he could do more than just dunk after the All-Star break, averaging 12.0 points and 7.3 rebounds.
Forget about Kevin Durant, who’s not going to consider a rebuilding team. The Magic might have a shot at another All-Star level forward, or at least a proven veteran.
They made a strong push to sign Paul Millsap last summer and came up empty. They will undoubtedly make a big run this summer at Millsap’s frontcourt partner in Atlanta, Al Horford. He would instantly turn them into a playoff contender with his all-around skills and leadership.
If that fails, they could chase prolific outside shooter such as Ryan Anderson, Chandler Parsons or Marvin Williams, though it’s highly questionable whether Anderson would consider a second stint with Orlando after the team dealt him to New Orleans four years ago in a sign-and-trade.
Another intriguing possibility is Horford’s ex-University of Florida teammate, Bulls power forward/center Joakim Noah. He’d provide the defensive presence the team has sorely lacked in recent years.
Even if the team plans on a Victor Oladipo–Elfrid Payton pairing for the long-term, they need to fortify their backcourt with a veteran shooter and/or ballhandler. The pool of backcourt free agents isn’t as deep as the frontcourt options and they may have to fill those needs via the trade route.
Free Agent Decisions
The team will likely decline its option on Ilyasova’s $8.4MM contract for next season. Jennings and reserve forward Jason Smith will become unrestricted free agents and they’re nothing more than fallback options.
Orlando has to decide whether to extend qualifying offers to three players. They plan to make those offers to swingman Evan Fournier and center Dewayne Dedmon, which would make them restricted free agents. It’s unclear whether they have a similar interest in retaining Andrew Nicholson. Hennigan has stated that re-signing Fournier is a top priority. The caveat is they may have to pay a hefty price, since it’s quite conceivable he could receive a eye-popping offer sheet designed to pry him away.
The Magic’s desire to make trades will depend upon how successful they are in the free agent market. They’d probably have to trade away a starter or last year’s lottery pick, Mario Hezonja, to make something big happen.
- First-round pick: No. 11
- Second-round pick: No. 41
- Second-round pick: No. 47
The Magic will lean toward adding a frontcourt piece if they don’t deal away their lottery pick. Current mock drafts by ESPN.com’s Chad Ford and Draft Express’ Jonathan Givony have the Magic selecting Kentucky freshman power forward Skal Labissiere, who would at least provide some much-needed shot blocking.
Vogel received a four-year, $22MM contract and seems like a better fit to nurture the team’s young talent than the abrasive Skiles. Vogel wants to make better use of the team’s versatility and athleticism by employing more small-ball lineups.
The Magic have failed repeatedly in the lottery to find a superstar but they have accumulated enough talent to get back in the playoff hunt. It’s all predicated on convincing at least one high-level free agent to sign on the dotted line. If they strike out and have to fill out the roster with veteran role players, there’s a good chance they’ll be right back in the lottery next summer.
- Nikola Vucevic ($11,750,000)
- Victor Oladipo ($6,552,960)
- C.J. Watson ($5,000,000)
- Aaron Gordon ($4,351,320)
- Mario Hezonja ($3,909,840)
- Elfrid Payton ($2,613,600)
- Shabazz Napier ($1,350,120)
- Ersan Ilyasova ($400,000) — Partial guarantee; non-guaranteed portion listed below1
- Total: $35,927,840
- Ersan Ilyasova ($8,000,000) — Partial guarantee; guaranteed portion listed above1
- Devyn Marble ($980,431)
- Total: $8,980,431
- Evan Fournier ($4,433,683/$5,720,513)
- Andrew Nicholson ($3,394,726/$5,951,483)
- Dewayne Dedmon ($1,215,696/$1,215,696)
- Totals: $9,044,105/$12,887,692
Unrestricted Free Agents (Cap Holds)
Other Cap Holds
- No. 11 pick ($2,033,500)
- Fran Vazquez ($2,033,500)
- Total: $4,067,000
Projected Salary Cap: $92,000,000
- Ilyasova’s full $8,400,000 salary will become guaranteed if he’s still on the roster on July 1st.
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.