Orlando Magic

NBA Teams With Open Roster Spots

With just three weeks in the NBA season, most teams across the league have full rosters. Teams still fighting for playoff spots or jockeying for higher seeds may not use all 15 players on their rosters, but they want to be well-stocked in case they need the depth heading into the postseason. Meanwhile, teams out of the running for a playoff spot will often use the last few spots on their rosters to take fliers on younger players and see if they can find a hidden gem before the regular season ends.

Currently, only two teams have open spots on their rosters, as our list of roster counts shows. Those teams are as follows:

  • New Orleans Pelicans (13 guaranteed contracts, one 10-day contract): Since sending three guards to Sacramento in the DeMarcus Cousins deal last month, the Pelicans have been shuffling backcourt players on and off the roster in an effort to find good fits. As our 10-day tracker shows, New Orleans has signed six different guards to 10-day contracts since the deadline. One of those players – Jordan Crawford – earned a rest-of-season contract, while another – Quinn Cook – is still on the roster on a 10-day deal. For now, the Pelicans are leaving their final spot open, but that may not last.
  • Orlando Magic (14 guaranteed contracts): Orlando is a curious case. Outside of their Serge Ibaka trade with Toronto and a lone 10-day contract for Anthony Brown, the Magic haven’t made any roster moves since waiving Arinze Onuaku prior to the salary guarantee deadline in early January. The Magic were carrying 15 players during those 10 days that Brown was on the roster, but otherwise have left a spot open for the last two and a half months. The club has several young players on its roster that should get playing time down the stretch, so perhaps the thinking is that a 15th man on a 10-day contract would have no role and wouldn’t be worth the modest investment. But it’s still a little surprising that Orlando hasn’t made use of that roster spot.

Meanwhile, the following three teams have full 15-man rosters at the moment, but at least one of their players is on a 10-day contract that will soon expire:

  • Brooklyn Nets (14 guaranteed contracts, one 10-day contract): The Nets remain below the salary floor by about $1.235MM, so when Archie Goodwin‘s 10-day deal expires later this week, I’d expect the club to quickly fill that 15th spot. It remains to be seen whether that will mean re-signing Goodwin or adding someone new.
  • Dallas Mavericks (13 guaranteed contracts, two 10-day contracts): The Mavericks are a perfect example of a team that used 10-day contracts to find a potential keeper — they struck gold with Yogi Ferrell. Like New Orleans, Dallas has signed six different players to 10-day deals this year, with one keeper to show for it. The Mavs will have to decide next week whether either Jarrod Uthoff or Manny Harris is a keeper, or if they’ll use those two roster spots on new guys.
  • Phoenix Suns (14 guaranteed contracts, one 10-day contract): With Eric Bledsoe, Tyson Chandler, and Brandon Knight no longer in the rotation, the Suns are fully in look-at-young-players mode. Jarell Eddie is currently on a 10-day contract with Phoenix, so we’ll see if he sticks.

If one of these teams wants to take a flier on a D-League prospect before season’s end, there is no shortage of options. Pierre Jackson, Keith Benson, Jalen Jones, and Jabari Brown are among the players thriving in the NBADL and earning a shot at an NBA call-up, as Adam Johnson of D-League Digest details.

Magic GM Rob Hennigan’s Job In Jeopardy

After writing over the weekend that there has been chatter around the NBA about the possibility of Doc Rivers joining Orlando’s front office, Marc Stein of ESPN.com has another report today on Magic management. According to Stein, the Magic are giving “strong consideration” to replacing general manager Rob Hennigan, whose job is in danger.

[RELATED: Doc Rivers insists he has “no future” with Magic]

As Stein notes, Hennigan is under contract with the Magic for one more year, through the 2017/18 season. However, the GM currently “finds himself under as much pressure as any executive in the league,” per Stein.

The fact that Hennigan is on the hot seat doesn’t come as a real surprise. The GM himself acknowledged last month that criticism of him and Orlando’s front office was “warranted,” given the club’s performance this season. “Our fans, quite frankly, deserve to be upset and deserve to be frustrated,” Hennigan said at the time. “I think the proverbial hot seat comes with the territory.”

An eventful 2016 offseason saw the Magic trade for Serge Ibaka, then sign Bismack Biyombo, D.J. Augustin, and Jeff Green in free agency. The franchise had playoff aspirations to start the year, but lost its opener to the Heat, and never got back above .500. Orlando’s spot in the lottery prompted the team to flip Ibaka to the Raptors before the trade deadline, and Hennigan and the front office were widely criticized for giving up far more for Ibaka last summer than they got back for him in February.

This will be the fifth straight season that the Magic finish with a losing record, dating back to 2012/13, Hennigan’s first year at the helm. Since Hennigan was hired as Orlando’s GM, the team has a 128-270 record (.322). The club has employed four different head coaches during that time, never winning more than 35 games in a season or earning a spot in the playoffs.

Meeks To Return; Players Support Vogel

Magic guard Jodie Meeks is ready to return after being sidelined since January 18th with a dislocated right thumb, Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated posts on ESPN Now. Meeks has received medical clearance and should be available for Monday’s contest with the Sixers. Injuries have limited Meeks to 24 games this season, after he played just three in Detroit a year ago. A part-time starter, Meeks is averaging 8.9 points per night and shooting better than 40% from 3-point range. He is headed toward free agency this summer.

  • Frank Vogel has overseen a disappointing season in his first year as Magic coach, but he is winning over his players with the way he handles adversity, writes John Denton of NBA.com“He still fights for us and that makes me want to fight for him,’’ said Aaron Gordon. “I’ve got total respect for Frank because even after a tough loss like that one [against Golden State on Thursday], he can still smile and we can have a conversation. That’s big. As good a coach as he is, he’s an even better person.’’

Could Doc Rivers Be Headed To Orlando?

6:03pm: Rivers is trying to quell rumors that he might go to Orlando, tweets Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Speaking with reporters before tonight’s game, Rivers insisted that he has “no future” with the Magic.

5:15pm: League insiders are discussing the possibility that Clippers coach/executive Doc Rivers could take a similar role in Orlando, writes Marc Stein of ESPN.com.

The theory, according to Stein, starts with the likelihood that Rob Hennigan will be fired as Magic GM at the end of the season. Add in the upcoming free agency for Clippers stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and there’s a possibility that changes are coming in L.A.

Stein hints that the Clippers could be broken up if they fail to reach the conference finals, something the team hasn’t done in the six years Paul and Griffin have been together. If those changes include a coaching move, then Rivers, whose contract as coach and president of basketball operations runs through 2018/19, would become available for Orlando.

If that scenario happens, it would mark a homecoming for Rivers, who started his coaching career with the Magic in 1999.

It’s not clear if Orlando is ready to dismiss current coach Frank Vogel, who was given a four-year contract last summer. Stein says Hennigan’s trade of Serge Ibaka to Toronto last month was an admission that the roster was overstocked with big men, and it appeared to absolve Vogel of blame for a disappointing season.

If Vogel remains, the Magic will consider former Orlando player Pat Garrity to replace Hennigan. Garrity currently serves as associate GM with the Pistons.

Another possibility for the Clippers, Stein notes, is to request that Rivers give up his front office duties and concentrate on coaching. If that happens, the team may reach out to Bob Whitsitt, a former executive with the SuperSonics and Trail Blazers who has close ties to Clippers owner Steve Ballmer.

Stein also says to watch for the possible departure of L.A. shooting guard J.J. Redick in free agency this summer. Redick complained publicly about the organization this week and may become too expensive for the Clippers to re-sign.

Dwight Howard Discusses Failed Magic/Nets Trade, Wants To Play 20 Seasons

Dwight Howard signed a three-year, $70MM deal with the Hawks last summer that represented a homecoming for the Atlanta native. As Howard explains to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, the possibility of playing for his hometown Hawks was an idea that long intrigued him. However, even though Atlanta “has always been special” for the 31-year-old, he feels as if he wasn’t ready earlier in his career and the timing was never right until 2016.

As his first season with the Hawks nears its end, Howard also opened up about several stops in his past, explaining how things went wrong during his time in Orlando and Houston. Spears’ conversation with D12 is worth checking out in full, but here are a few highlights from the interview:

On the chaos and drama that followed him from Orlando to L.A. to Houston:

“After the situation in Orlando, I never really came out and said my side of the story about what was going on there while I was there and the reasons for me wanting to leave. After that, people just decided that, ‘He’s not going to talk about it, so we might as well come up with a narrative and what we think went on in L.A. and what went on with Kobe [Bryant] and what we think happened with James [Harden].’

“I never had a personal vendetta with either one of those guys. People took it as me having a problem with them being on a team with another superstar. … I’ve never been the one to say, ‘OK, I want to talk about this because it was an issue with me.’ But everyone else kind of made it a storyline. And here in Atlanta, there is no storyline.”

On what happened during his final year in Orlando:

“There were a lot of different things that happened in Orlando that people never talked about. Before the season even started during the lockout, I asked them privately, I even talked to [teammate] Jameer [Nelson] and [then-GM] Otis [Smith] and I said, ‘Hey, I just want a change in my life. It has nothing to do with [then-coach] Stan Van Gundy. This has nothing to do with the players here in Orlando. It has nothing to do with Orlando itself.’ I just felt I was too comfortable and I wanted more for myself and more for basketball.

“It had nothing to do with the team. They said they were going to try to move me. I thought it was going to happen. They came in and said, ‘We’re going to trade you.’ They shook my hand and said, ‘God bless you. You were here for eight years and you did a great job.’ They asked me to go shake my teammates’ hands. I went and shook their hands and told them that the team was going to trade me. I woke up the next day and they said, ‘We’re not going to trade you.’

“This was right after the [2011] lockout. I was supposed to get traded right before training camp. I had asked them to trade me to Brooklyn and I thought that was going to happen. They decided they weren’t going to trade me and that was when all hell broke loose.”

On his time in Houston:

“I don’t think it ended the way it should have. I thought in my time in Houston we did some really good things. For us to go to the Western Conference finals after not being there for 20 years, that’s a great accomplishment because nobody expected us to do that. The issues they say happened between me and James were small communication issues. Instead of us coming together and talking about it, we allowed other people to do talking. The lines of communication were twisted.”

On how long he wants to play in the NBA, and whether he wants to finish his career with the Hawks:

“I want to get to 20 years. Now I’m at 13. … I would love to [play all those years in Atlanta]. I just got a nice place out in the country. I don’t want to leave it for eight months out of the year and just see it for three. I would love to.”

Pacific Notes: Iguodala, Kerr, Joerger, Rob Pelinka

Andre Iguodala has been assessed a $10K fine for making “inappropriate comments” during a postgame interview, the league announced on its official website (link). Iguodala’s comments came after a 103-102 loss to Minnesota on Friday, when the 33-year-old was venting about not participating in a match-up with the Spurs. Steve Kerr had Iguodala’s back, claiming the 13-year vet likes to mess with the media.

“You guys just got Andre’d,” Kerr said to a group of reporters, including Chris Haynes of ESPN. Andre is one of those guys who likes to stir the pot and has a lot of cryptic messaging at times. [He] jokes around. I didn’t take anything from it. It’s just Andre being Andre.”

Iguodala spoke with the press Monday, expressing regret for the impact of his comments.

“I feel like it’s the wrong time because it puts my team in that situation and coaching staff in that situation,” he told Ethan Strauss of ESPN. “I have a great relationship with Steve Kerr, and he knows that. Steve spoke to you guys about it, you know what I mean. Steve in his words, someone still may not believe him, but he and I are in a great place. We don’t even have to speak about it because he knew that in no way shape or form that I’m talking about him.”

More from around the Pacific…

  • The Kings will be sticking with their veterans despite a losing record, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes. Coach Dave Joerger isn’t going to “throw away” the team’s remaining games in 2016/17, Jones writes, and will play veterans (Garrett Temple, Arron Afflalo, Anthony Tolliver) alongside young players. “I’m very happy with coach,” Afflalo said. “Throughout all of this, he’s remained very positive and encouraged us to win games. He’s playing to win, he’s doing the best that he can with our roster. I commend him for that. So, from a veteran perspective, you’ve always got to keep hope alive and to to go out there and take it one game at a time.”
  • New Lakers GM Rob Pelinka plans to conduct individual meetings with his players, Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times writes. “For Earvin [Magic Johnson], Luke and I, we see our fundamental purpose, not just one that’s all about leadership in terms of the front office, but that’s also one about service,” Pelinka said. “When I say that, we want to make sure that we establish a platform of excellence for the players in that locker room. That’s the heartbeat of the team. I think the message to the guys is we want to serve your needs to help you be great.”

Checking In On NBA’s 2017 Draft Lottery Trades

As our 2016/17 NBA Reverse Standings show, the Celtics – by way of the Nets – have all but clinched the No. 1 spot in the 2017 draft lottery. With a record of 12-53, Brooklyn has a 7.5-game “lead” over the second-place Lakers, who are 20-46. Barring a hot streak that sees the Nets practically double their win total, their last-place finish will ensure that the Celtics have a 25% chance of landing the first overall pick this spring.

However, once we move past the Nets, there are many interesting lottery situations that are far from decided, which could have significant ramifications for the future of several franchises. Here’s a closer look at a few of them:

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are currently in second place in our reverse standings, with a 1.5-game lead on the Suns. If Los Angeles can hold that position the rest of the way, it would give the team a great chance to keep its 2017 first-round pick, which is top-three protected. If they lose the pick, it’ll be sent to the Sixers.

If the Lakers finish as the NBA’s second-worst team, they’d have a 55.8% chance of landing in the top three and keeping their pick. If they were to slip just one spot in the lottery standings and finish with the league’s third-worst record, those odds would shift below 50/50, to just 46.9%.

This year’s lottery outcome is particularly crucial for the Lakers, since losing this year’s pick would also mean they’d have to send their 2019 first-rounder (unprotected) to Orlando. If the Lakers keep this year’s first-rounder, their commitment to the Magic would become a pair of second-round picks in 2017 and 2018.

Philadelphia 76ers / Sacramento Kings

The Kings‘ 2017 first-round pick is top-10 protected — if it lands outside the top 10, Sacramento will have to send the pick to Chicago. However, a lengthy losing streak has put the Kings in a great position to keep that selection — they’re now 25-41, No. 6 in our reverse standings and four full games ahead of the 29-37 Hornets (No. 11).

With the Kings’ pick looking pretty safe, it’s now worth watching to see where it lands in relation to the Sixers‘ pick. Philadelphia has the opportunity to swap picks with the Kings, so Sacramento won’t necessarily be rooting for lottery luck unless both the Kings and Sixers can jump into the top three. Currently, the 24-42 Sixers are just one game ahead of Sacramento in our reverse standings.

If the Kings and Sixers finish as the league’s fifth- and sixth-worst teams, Philadelphia would have a 15.1% chance of landing the first-round pick, rather than just 8.8%.

New Orleans Pelicans

When the Pelicans acquired DeMarcus Cousins last month, most observers called the trade a coup for New Orleans. However, that early assessment of the deal hinged on the assumption that the Pelicans would improve with Cousins in the lineup, reducing the value of the first-round pick they sent to Sacramento in the swap. That hasn’t happened so far, as the 26-40 Pelicans place eighth in our reverse standings.

If the Pelicans were to finish as the NBA’s eighth-worst team, they’d have a 10% chance to jump into the top three and hang onto their pick. Otherwise, the Kings would be in position to acquire the pick and hold two top-10 selections.

The rest

No other lottery picks for 2017 appear to be in flux — the Mavericks traded their first-rounder to the Sixers, but it’s top-18 protected, and Dallas has essentially no chance of landing outside of the top 18.

Further down in our reverse standings, outside of the lottery, every traded first-round pick should change hands. Of those late-round selections, the most valuable traded pick looks to be the Grizzlies‘ selection, which they’ll send to the Trail Blazers. It currently projects to be No. 19 overall.

RealGM’s list of traded draft picks was used in the creation of this post.

Lakers Notes: Pelinka, West, Kobe, Walton

New Lakers GM Rob Pelinka vows to be aggressive in his attempts to get the franchise back on the winning path, as Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News relays. “We have to get better talent for [Luke Walton] to coach. We have to develop our young players. Our timeline is to be aggressive and to grow with quality players,” Pelinka said. “All of these things are like a chess game. You’ve got to start moving pieces around the board before you can win the game.”

The former agent wouldn’t commit to a timeline regarding a turnaround, adding that “it’s impossible to predict.” He said the front office will put in the necessary hard work and it will be “committed to excellence every day.” Team president Magic Johnson didn’t commit to a timeline either, but he also took accountability for the team’s future.

“If we can’t do our job, then I’m going to hand the keys back to Jeanie and step aside,” Johnson said. “If I see I can’t do it, I’ll gladly step aside.”

Here’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Jerry West was interested in returning to the Lakers, but he didn’t match owner Jeanie Buss“vision for the future,” sources tell Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report. West’s son, Ryan, currently works for the Lakers and is expected to remain with the team.
  • Ding adds (same piece) that while Kobe Bryant remains “loyal” to Pelinka, though the future Hall of Famer is sticking to his plan of pursuing business ventures rather than chasing a front office role.
  • Despite the down season, both Pelinka and Johnson support Walton as the team’s coach, Medina adds in the aforementioned piece. Johnson recently referred to Walton as “the right man for the job.”
  • Pelinka believes in the Lakers‘ young talent, though he admits to being unsure about the team’s title chances with its existing core, Medina passes along in that same piece. “I don’t know,” Pelinka said in response to a question about the team’s ability to win a title with its core players. “But I do know this. We have a championship coach and Earvin and I are going to put in a championship accountability system to make sure any player that has the honor to put that jersey on is striving for greatness, is working hard and is a person of integrity.”

Magic Depth Tested With Vucevic Injury

Gordon Readjusting To Power Forward Position

The trade that sent Serge Ibaka from the Magic to the Raptors opened an opportunity for 21-year-old forward Aaron Gordon to slide from the three to his natural position at the four, writes John Denton of the team’s official website. The third-year man is readjusting to the defensive responsibilities of the power forward position.

I need to become a better shot-blocker because I missed plenty of opportunities where I could have at least altered shots,” the Magic big man said of his first game back at power forward on Thursday night. “I was unsure of the timing, when to go and my positioning on the court.

Previously the Magic had been using Gordon as a perimeter defender charged with the task of checking the opposing team’s best scorer. “I’m used to not over-helping and over-committing because I’m usually guarding the best player on the floor,” Gordon said. “Now, that’s not the case and I have the leniency to go help and block shots.

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