Magic Rumors

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/16/19

Here are Saturday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA G League:

  • The Hornets sent rookie Caleb Martin to their Greensboro affiliate, the team announced in a press release. He is averaging 23 points, six rebounds and four assists in two G League contests and has seen limited time in three games for Charlotte.
  • The Thunder assigned Deonte Burton and Justin Patton to Oklahoma City Blue, according to a release from the team. Burton is averaging 7.7 minutes in five games with the Thunder, while Patton has gotten into just one NBA game this season.
  • The Magic assigned Melvin Frazier Jr. and Amile Jefferson to Lakeland for tonight’s game, the team tweeted.
  • The Jazz assigned Nigel Williams-Goss to the Salt Lake City Stars, according to a tweet from the team.
  • The Bucks recalled Dragan Bender from their Wisconsin affiliate after assigning him yesterday, the team announced in a press release. He is averaging 21.5 points and 9.8 rebounds in four G League games, but hasn’t played for the Bucks yet.
  • The Spurs recalled Keldon Johnson from their Austin affiliate, tweets Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Southeast Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Southeast Division:

Devonte’ Graham, Hornets, 24, PG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $4MM deal in 2018
The Hornets have until July 7th to decide whether to guarantee Graham’s $1,663,861 for next season. Safe to say, that decision has already been made. In terms of salary vs. production, Graham might be the biggest bargain in the league this season. Making just over $1.4MM, Graham leads the team in scoring at 18.0 PPG and 7.3 APG while coming off the bench in all but one game. The Kansas product appeared in 46 games last season, averaging 4.7 PPG in 14.7 MPG. With Kemba Walker bolting to Boston, Graham has blossomed in an expanded role.

Goran Dragic, Heat, 33, PG (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $85MM deal in 2015
Dragic played in just 36 games last season due to right knee surgery. Dragic, now 33, has been a starter most of his career and had to adjust to a second-unit role this season. Thus far, he’s been healthy and productive. He’s averaging 16.1 PPG and 5.1 APG in 28.4 MPG while making just 1.8 TPG. Dragic’s $19.2MM expiring contract is a tradeable asset if the Heat decide to shed salary. For now, Dragic is a valuable part of an improved team that should make the playoffs out of arguably the weakest division in the NBA.

Evan Fournier, Magic, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $85MM deal in 2016
Following a couple of sluggish outings against Oklahoma City and Dallas in which he shot 3-for-12 from the field, Fournier has put together a nice three-game stretch. He’s averaged 18.0 PPG and 5.0 APG during that span while knocking down nine 3-pointers and committing just four turnovers. Orlando won two of those games. The team’s second-leading scorer has a $17.15MM option on his contract for next season. In a very weak free agent market, Fournier has plenty of incentive to decline that option in order to secure another long-term deal.

Evan Turner, Hawks, 31, SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $70MM deal in 2016
A rotation piece for a playoff team in recent seasons, Turner was swapped by the Trail Blazers for Kent Bazemore during the offseason. Turner was expected to provide veteran stability to a mostly inexperienced unit in Atlanta. But he only averaged 11.3 MPG during the Hawks’ first three games before being sidelined by Achilles soreness. It’s uncertain how much time Turner will require to recover from the injury. In the meantime, Atlanta has plenty of other options at the wing positions and the return of Allen Crabbe further clouds Turner’s role whenever he’s healthy enough to play.

Isaiah Thomas, Wizards, 30, PG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.32MM deal in 2019
Thomas’ latest attempt to revive his career seems to be working out. Since returning from a training camp injury, Thomas has jumped into the rotation and seen his playing time steadily increase. He’s averaging 13.9 PPG and 6.3 APG while shooting 38.5 percent from long range in 24.1 MPG. Following a lost season in Denver, Thomas has at least reestablished himself as a rotation player. That’s a heartwarming development for a popular player who was an MVP candidate just a few seasons ago in Boston.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Magic Rumors: Gordon, DeRozan, Russell, Isaac

The Magic have been at the center of a pair of intriguing early-season reports this week, with a Wednesday report suggesting Orlando has expressed interest in DeMar DeRozan, while a Friday story indicated that teams are monitoring Aaron Gordon with potential interest in a trade.

That report on Gordon, from Shams Charania of The Athletic, made it clear that the Magic have expressed no interest in moving the young forward. However, Sean Deveney of Forbes.com hears that there are some concerns that Gordon might not fit be an ideal long-term fit alongside Jonathan Isaac.

Could the Magic and Spurs explore a trade centered around DeRozan and Gordon then? Probably not, according to Deveney, who writes that the Magic would be reluctant to give up a significant package for the Spurs’ guard, who could reach the free agent market next summer if he turns down his 2020/21 player option. Even if Orlando did become open to moving Gordon, it wouldn’t be for a rental.

Here’s more on the Magic, via Deveney:

  • While the Magic have starting looking into possible trades to address their offense, no deals are around the corner, a source with knowledge of the club’s thinking tells Deveney. “You’ve got a lot of players dealing with some shooting slumps and that is going to turn around, those players are going to get back to their usual percentages,” that source said. “So everyone does due diligence on the market but it doesn’t seem like anything is about to come down. If you make a move now with the offense at a low point, it’s like you’re selling low. See who comes back, who bounces back. Then go from there. It’s far away and a lot can change.”
  • Deveney identifies D’Angelo Russell as one player who could pique the Magic’s interest once he becomes trade-eligible, since Orlando considered him in free agency this past summer.
  • For now, Orlando is banking on offensive improvements from within. As Deveney outlines, the team is willing to be patient with young players like Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac, since there are indications that Fultz’s shot could come around and that Isaac is “just scratching the surface of his offensive potential.”

Teams Monitoring Aaron Gordon; Magic Have No Interest In Trade

Multiple teams are monitoring Magic forward Aaron Gordon and would have interest if he becomes available, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic. However, according to Charania, Orlando has shown no interest in trading Gordon.

The fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft, Gordon has flashed tantalizing potential as a two-way impact player and is still just 24 years old. He’s also on a team-friendly contract, which is worth $19.86MM this season and declines all the way to $16.41MM in 2021/22. As such, it makes sense that he’d generate interest around the league and that the Magic wouldn’t want to move on from him, despite the fact that he hasn’t necessarily put it all together yet.

Few Roster Spots Still Open Around NBA

Once the Trail Blazers make their deal with Carmelo Anthony official, only seven teams around the NBA will have open spots on their rosters. Six of those clubs have openings on their standard 15-man squads, while the seventh has an available two-way slot.

Typically, in the first half of an NBA season, some teams keep a roster spot open to retain flexibility and to avoid paying a player who hardly ever actually sees the court. However, whether it’s a result of an increased focus on player development or a steady stream of injuries league-wide, most clubs this season have taken advantage of all 17 roster spots (15 standard, two two-way) available to them.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN observes (via Twitter), the six teams that haven’t signed a 15th man are all somewhat limited by their cap situations. Here are those six teams:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Denver Nuggets
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Miami Heat
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Orlando Magic

The Heat and Warriors literally can’t sign a 15th man unless they cut salary costs elsewhere, since they’re right up against the hard cap. The Thunder are already in the tax and – as Marks notes – the Cavaliers and Nuggets would go into the tax by signing one more player. The Magic wouldn’t technically become a projected taxpayer by adding a 15th man, but they’re close enough to that threshold that it makes sense for them to hold off until they really need to fill that spot.

There’s just one team that hasn’t used both of its two-way contract openings:

  • Phoenix Suns

The Suns have their own G League affiliate, so it’s not clear why they haven’t yet taken advantage of that second two-way contract slot. The deadline for teams to sign players to two-way contracts is January 15 — it’s a pretty safe bet that Phoenix will sign a second two-way player by that point.

In total, 450 standard roster spots and 60 two-way slots are typically available during the NBA season, for a total of 510 players on 30 teams. Currently, 504 players are on standard contracts or two-way deals (the Nets are carrying an 18th man while Wilson Chandler serves his 25-game suspension), leaving few NBA job opportunities up for grabs unless teams start making cuts.

Al-Farouq Aminu Discusses FA Decision, Magic’s Goals

After finishing last season with a top-10 defense and a bottom-10 offense, the Magic made the decision to double down on their strengths in the offseason. Rather than using their mid-level exception to add a play-maker or shot creator, Orlando used the full MLE to bring aboard Al-Farouq Aminu, a veteran forward best known for his perimeter defense.

As Aminu recently explained to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, improving that defense and making it one of the NBA’s very best units is a priority for the Magic.

“We discuss it every day. We want to be a top-five defensive team, if not No. 1,” Aminu said. “I think it’s definitely something that this team has the ability to do and we just have to continue to click together and understand where we need to be in order to do it. I think the more and more we play together and get that cohesiveness, the better we’ll become on defense. And out of the gate, we’re already talented on defense. Now, it’s just getting that continuity and that will take us over the top.”

Although the Magic currently rank third in defensive rating, the team has the NBA’s second-worst offensive rating, which has contributed to a slow start (4-7) this season. Those struggles have prompted head coach Steve Clifford to experiment a little with his rotation, and that experimentation hasn’t benefited Aminu, who only played two minutes in Orlando’s win over the Sixers on Wednesday. After averaging 24.1 minutes in the team’s first seven games, Aminu has played just 11.9 MPG in the last four.

Aminu is in the first year of a three-year contract worth over $29MM, so it’d be a surprise if he’s removed from the rotation altogether. However, it may be a while before we see him match the 29 minutes he logged on opening night.

Still, when the 29-year-old spoke recently to Kennedy, he was happy with his decision to join the Magic in the summer and optimistic about what he could bring the team. Here are a few highlights from that conversation, which is worth checking out in full:

On why Aminu chose the Magic in free agency:

“I like that they’re a young team and I thought that I could bring some veteran leadership to them. Also, they went to the playoffs last year, so I knew they had a good team. I like their style of play and different things like that. I’m glad I made that decision.”

On whether he’s excited about the Magic’s young core:

“Yeah, for sure. I really wanted to play a part in molding them. In a couple of years, when these guys are in their prime and doing their thing, it’ll be cool to be able to say that I put my touch on that. That’ll be cool. I was talking to them the other day and I told them, ‘Y’all are going to make a lot of money! Y’all play the right way, y’all are young and the league is just changing. Guys are getting paid.'”

On leaving Portland after spending four seasons with the Trail Blazers:

“It was [tough] because I’m leaving the guys I was playing with, but a lot of the guys ended up leaving anyway, so it was kind of like, ‘Well, nobody is there.’ Not ‘nobody,’ but you know what I mean. The gang’s not even there anymore anyway, so it wouldn’t have been the same even if I had stayed.

“It’s not the organization, it’s the people that you get to work with every day that you end up [getting close with]. … Sometimes, it’s just one person; like, I remember the first time it was Ed [Davis]. Me and him came into Portland together and we became really cool. Then, after three years, he was gone and that was tough. Then, I started becoming really cool with Moe [Harkless] and Evan [Turner] and now they’re gone, so it’s like, man… It’s kind of already tough to make friends in this industry anyway and then guys move on. And you still get to talk to them and stay close, but it’s different. But I think that’s why it isn’t as traumatic because those guys are in different places anyway, so the gang is gone.”

Magic Have Expressed Interest In DeMar DeRozan

In an excellent piece covering the state of the Spurs, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reports the Magic have expressed interest in Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan.

O’Connor notes that the Magic are “scouring the trade market for scoring help,” meaning the team has likely kicked the tires on players besides DeRozan. KOC goes on to indicate that front office executives around the NBA wouldn’t be shocked if San Antonio dealt the 30-year-old four-time All-Star, who sports a famously archaic shot profile.

DeRozan has a $27.7MM player option on the final year of his contract, for the 2020/21 season. Were he to decline it, he could top-line a fairly lackluster free agent class. According to The Athletic’s Sam Amick, DeRozan and San Antonio struggled to find common ground while negotiating a possible extension prior to this season. The maximum potential value of an extension for DeRozan would be approximately $150MM over four years. Given that DeRozan would be 35 by the end of that deal, San Antonio’s probable reticence feels sensible.

The Magic’s anemic offense could use the help. The 3-7 Magic’s 98.1 points scored per game currently ranks them dead-last in the NBA. And the Knicks play in the NBA! Orlando also ranks 29th in offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions).

HoopsHype’s Bryan Kalbrosky took a detailed look at the midrange-happy DeRozan’s potential offensive fit on Orlando. Kalbrosky notes that DeRozan’s proclivity for mid-range jumpers would fit in well with Orlando, as the team currently ranks third in the NBA in mid-range frequency, according to Cleaning The Glass.

In ten games, DeRozan has attempted just four three-pointers. He has missed them all. Despite this, his excellent handle and size make him a great drive-and-kick cog in any offense. He is currently averaging 19.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game, while shooting 49.3% from the floor and 77.2% from the charity stripe.

If the Magic were to make an offer for DeRozan, they’d almost certainly want to hang onto Jonathan Isaac and would likely aim to keep Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon as well. That might mean starting with Evan Fournier ($17.15MM) for salary-matching purposes. The team has a couple intriguing young prospects in Markelle Fultz and Mo Bamba, and has all its future first- and second-round draft picks available.

Poll: Will The Magic Make The Playoffs?

The Magic were one of the NBA’s best teams during the last two months of the 2018/19 regular season, finishing the year on a 23-9 run and earning the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. However, that second-half success hasn’t carried over to the 2019/20 season so far.

Through eight games, the Magic are just 2-6, with their only two wins coming at home against Eastern lottery teams Cleveland and New York.

The defense that keyed the Magic’s late-season run in the spring is still the team’s strength. Orlando’s 101.0 defensive rating ranks fifth in the NBA, and Jonathan Isaac is emerging as one of the league’s most impactful players on that side of the ball — in the early going, he’s averaging 1.6 steals per game to go along with a league-high 3.0 blocks per game.

However, the Magic’s offense has been dismal this season, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes. Orlando’s 96.6 offensive rating is easily the worst in the NBA, well behind the 100.1 mark posted by the 29th-ranked Knicks.

While Lowe acknowledges that the team’s 27% conversion rate on three-point shots figures to improve, he points to several other red flags, such as a lack of corner threes and free throw attempts. As Lowe notes, the Magic have too many power forwards and not enough shooters or play-makers, especially with D.J. Augustin regressing after a career year and Markelle Fultz still not a reliable shot-maker.

The Magic could experiment with some different lineups and hope that their excellent defense helps create a few more fast-break opportunities and easy baskets. But barring a trade, there doesn’t appear to be a quick fix for their offense. And if that’s the case, the club’s ceiling will be limited.

Still, being dominant on one side of the ball could be enough to earn a playoff spot in the East, where average teams like the Hornets (4-4) and Pistons (4-5) currently rank in the top eight. The Magic and the 3-4 Nets are among last year’s playoff teams looking to make their way back into that postseason mix.

What do you think? Will the Magic make the postseason again in 2019/20, or will they be unable to repeat even last year’s modest success?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

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Hollinger On Next Steps For Magic

  • A strong second-half run buoyed the Magic into a playoff spot last season, but they haven’t been able to carry that momentum over to the start of the 2019/20 campaign so far. John Hollinger of The Athletic digs into what’s next for Orlando as the team tries to increase its ceiling.

Eastern Notes: Drummond, Wagner, Fultz

Andre Drummond is averaging 21.3 points and 19.4 rebounds this season and Pistons head coach Dwane Casey believes the center can do more, as I relayed on Twitter.

“Andre is still a growing player. A lot of his game is evolving. He’s going to be able to other things. Every year, he’s going to bring something new to the table,” Casey said. “…he’s not even in the middle of his prime yet.”

Drummond will be one of the top players in a weak 2020 free agent class. He clearly has the talent to be an impact player, as he showcased while grabbing 24 rebounds against the Wizards. However, questions still remain about how much Drummond can contribute to a winning team.

His outstanding statistical game in Washington resulted in a 16-point loss. It’s the same story that has been recycled throughout his career. Entering year eight, he has been to the playoffs just two times (Detroit has been swept on both occasions) and it’s fair to wonder whether a team will view him as a max player or anywhere near it if he can’t elevate the Pistons in the win column.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Moritz Wagner, who came to the Wizards in the Anthony Davis three-team trade this summer, had an impressive defensive game against Drummond on Monday. According to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link), during the 14 possessions Wagner guarded Drummond, Detroit’s big man went 1-for-8 and was blocked three times.
  • Magic coach Steve Clifford called Markelle Fultz‘s feel for the game unique, complimenting the point guard on his abilities, as Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel relays (Twitter link). “In many ways, I just think he’s a good all-around player because he has a feel for the game. He’s a terrific passer and his ability to get into the paint and have a feel for where everybody is very unique,” Clifford said.
  • Bruce Brown‘s ability to handle point guard duties is solving a problem for the Pistons, Rod Beard of The Detroit News writes. The team has been without Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose because of injuries.