For the Orlando Magic, or any other NBA team, to improve their roster between now and the start of the playoffs, they'll have to troll the growing free-agent pool as teams buy unneeded veterans out of their contracts. Indeed, the NBA trade deadline passed Thursday without Orlando making a deal, as expected for some time. A source told Orlando Pinstriped Post the Magic never had serious trade discussions with anyone at the deadline.
Orlando's most obvious need, from a personnel standpoint, is another big man. MVP candidate Dwight Howard stands as the team's only true center, as power forwards Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson have masqueraded at the five-spot with Howard on the bench. Howard, however, has averaged 38.1 minutes per game since the trade which jettisoned his backup, Marcin Gortat. Thus, on most nights, the Magic will only need a backup center capable of playing 10 minutes without being a total liability.
With that in mind, here are a few buyout candidates the Magic might consider when it comes time to address their deficit in the middle. Remember, players are only eligible to appear for a team other than their current one if they are waived or bought out by March 1st. They need not have signed with their new team by that date, however.
It's also worth noting that Orlando may not sign anyone at all; it certainly won't spend any money on a new player simply to have one.
Dan Gadzuric, C, New Jersey Nets
6-foot-11, 240 pounds
2010/11 Stats: 2.8 points, 3.1 rebounds; 42 percent from the field
You laugh, but Gadzuric could help a number of contending teams come playoff time should the Nets, who just acquired him and Brandan Wright in a trade with the Golden State Warriors, decide to grant him his release. Though limited strictly to putbacks on offense--though he uncorks the occasional, and enervating, 18-footer--he's among the league's better defensive centers due to his athleticism, which has stuck with him even past his 33rd birthday.
Gadzuric can move his feet, help, and recover defensively, making him a solid pick-and-roll defender. He also has great shot-blocking instincts, averaging 2.1 per 36 minutes in his career. His defensive skill-set in conjunction with his competent rebounding--he's snared 16.5 percent of available boards this season, which tops the marks of Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Zaza Pachulia, among other more heralded names--make him a great fit for Orlando.
We're not sure whether the ninth-year man figures into New Jersey's plans or not. My belief is coach Avery Johnson would prefer to play Wright, Kris Humphries, and even Johan Petro ahead of Gadzuric.
Troy Murphy, PF/C, Golden State Warriors
6-foot-11, 245 pounds
2010/11 Stats: 3.6 points, 4.2 rebounds; 34.2 percent from the field
Arguably the most desired buyout candidate this season, Murphy's proven to be among the league's most productive all-around big men when healthy thanks to his three-point range and rebounding skill. Guys who can space the floor but also grab rebounds are rare in this league, and Orlando's already lucky enough to have one in Ryan Anderson.
The Warriors acquired Murphy from the Nets in the Gadzuric/Wright trade and may or may not buy him out. Matt Steinmetz maintains Murphy won't suit up for Golden State, but Marc J. Spears says the Warriors may ask him to due to their own lack of size.
When it comes to the Magic, though, there are questions. Though he rebounds like a center, and has typical center size, Murphy's a pretty horrible defender. He can't move on the perimeter and doesn't hold his ground well in the post. As for shot-blocking? Forget it, as he sends one back once every 68 minutes or so. My stance on Murphy, with regard to Orlando, is that it'd rather have him than not have him, simply because he's so talented.
Murphy has played as much playoff basketball as I have, but that's not really a concern for any team looking to sign him. If he regains his form from the last few seasons--a back injury, along with Johnson's perplexing unwillingness to play him ahead of Humprhies or Derrick Favors, has really held him back this season--he's going to make an excellent addition to some team come playoff time.
Leon Powe, PF, Cleveland Cavaliers
6-foot-8, 240 pounds
2010/11 Stats: 5 points, 2.7 rebounds; 49.2 percent from the field
Powe made a name for himself as a key contributor to the Boston Celtics' 2008 championship team, averaging 7.7 points and 4.9 rebounds in the regular season, and he bulldozed his way into L.A. Lakers fans' nightmares when he scored 21 points in 15 minutes in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Knee injuries have limited him since then, and though he's still reasonably productive for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he isn't nearly the same player. His offensive rebound rate is down roughly one-third since the Celtics' title year, meaning he simply can't get garbage buckets--or draw fouls in so doing--quite like he used to.
At this stage, then, Powe is a more limited version of what Bass already offers Orlando, minus the solid mid-range jumper. He doesn't have the explosiveness to compensate for his lack of size, so he's unlikely to make an impact defensively. I can see the appeal for a lot of teams--Powe is as energetic and hard-working as any NBAer--but I'm not sure he can make a real difference for Orlando.
Nonetheless, the Magic, New York Knicks, and Celtics will take a look at him, according to David Aldridge. I'd be shocked if he wound up anywhere besides Boston, which cleared two roster spots on the day of the trade deadline and needs frontcourt bodies of any size.
Darius Songaila, PF/C, Philadelphia 76ers
6-foot-8, 248 pounds
2010/11 Stats: 1.6 points, 1 rebound; 46.7 percent from the field
Songaila probably doesn't offer much more than incumbent emergency big man Malik Allen does. Since arriving in an offseason trade, the 33-year-old has played in just 10 games for the Sixers, as coach Doug Collins has leaned on former Magic power forward Tony Battie as his go-to veteran in the pivot. As a rotation player on last season's New Orleans Hornets, Songaila averaged 7.2 points and 3.1 rebounds in 18.8 minutes. Offensively, he's strictly a pick-and-pop player, which made him an excellent fit with All-Star point guard Chris Paul.
Songaila's relative lack of size and poor rebounding skills make him a poor fit for Orlando. However, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports the Magic, Miami Heat, and Warriors may inquire about his availability if Philadelphia buys him out.