Rumor: Could Corey Maggette Come Back to Orlando?

Corey Maggette of the Orlando Magic dunks the basketball in an NBA game against the San Antonio Spurs
Corey Maggette spent his rookie season in Magic blue, but could return to Orlando as a free-agent this summer.
File photo by Eric Gay, the Associated Press

In his NBA Confidential piece in today's Orlando Sentinel, Tim Povtak mentions two possible free-agent acquisitions for the Magic this summer: Jason Williams and Corey Maggette:

Point guard Jason Williams of the Miami Heat isn't the only one who will go into free agency this summer hoping the Orlando Magic will give him a call. With the Magic having so many guards in the final year of their contracts -- and with center Dwight Howard locked in for many years -- there are players all over the league hoping for a ride to Orlando.

Shooting guard Corey Maggette of the Los Angeles Clippers will be another one looking to see what the Magic will do, which is why he smiled last week when he was asked about opting out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent this summer [....]

"We'll sit down this summer and see where it goes," Maggette said before the Clippers were pounded by the Magic last week [....]

I have no interest in Jason Williams at all -- seriously, if we want to have a pass-first point guard around to back-up Jameer Nelson, we'd be better off re-signing Carlos Arroyo -- but Maggette is an interesting proposition. So interesting, in fact, that discussing his potential signing merits its own discussion.

Consider these positives: Maggette is averaging career-highs in scoring (22.4 points per game), field goal percentage (.470), and three-point percentage (.413). Additionally, he's fourth in the league this season in free throw attempts per game, and he converts on a solid 84% of them. Adding him to a starting lineup that already features Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Rashard Lewis along the perimeter -- not to mention Dwight Howard down low -- would make the Magic formidable indeed. Furthermore, Nelson, Maggette, and Turkoglu can all handle the ball well, meaning they aren't just going to stand around on the perimeter and launch threes. This year's Magic team is fourth in the league in offensive efficiency, and it's not a stretch to think that standing would surge to first with Maggette in the starting lineup.

There are a few downsides to Maggette, however. For one, he likes to dominate the ball: when he's on the floor, he uses 27% of the Clippers' possessions. Of course, if he's willing to sacrifice " million in guaranteed money next season to play for us, as Povtak suspects he might, I'm sure he'd be willing to share the ball. Second, he's a poor defender. He allows opposing small forwards to post a PER of 18.4 against him. For comparison's sake, note that Dallas forward Josh Howard's PER this season is 18.2. Understandably, I'm a bit leery of signing a guy who lets his man post borderline All-Star numbers. Finally, he's far from a beast on the offensive boards. The player he'd replace in the starting lineup, Maurice Evans, grabs 7.2% of the Magic's missed shots when he's on the floor. Maggette grabs just 3.6% of the Clippers' misses. Don't be fooled by Maggette's higher overall rebound rate: the Magic are 26th in the league in offensive rebound rate and third in defensive rebounding, and Evans is the better offensive rebounder. We could also retain Evans more cheaply than we could obtain Maggette. Even if Evans wants a raise this summer -- and he's earned it, by all accounts -- he'd still only command $2.5 million or so. Maggette would cost us the whole $5.5 million mid-level exception, and he'd be on our books for five seasons.

So, should the Magic make a run at Maggette to improve their already elite-level offense? Or should they look elsewhere, hoping to shore-up their 11th-ranked defense and save money? I'm still undecided. On the one hand, I like the idea of having yet another offensive threat, especially one whose presence could -- gulp! -- allow us to trade Hedo Turkoglu, whose value has never been higher, for help at the power positions. On the other hand, there's no reason to tinker with what's already a fantastic offense, especially not when the defense needs attending to.

Corey Maggette and Maurice Evans statistics from www.basketball-reference.com.

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