The Orlando Magic will allow reserve center Daniel Orton, who has yet to play at the NBA level since they made him the 29th pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2012, as they will not exercise their option on Orton's contract for the 2012/13 season by Wednesday's deadline. This news comes via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, who quotes Orton and Ara Vartanian, his agent, as being surprised with the decision.
Though Orton says "I understand" the team's decision, the 21-year-old admits confusion about other aspects of Orlando's handling of his situation. "But I don't understand a lot of things, such as why I didn't get a chance maybe to showcase what I have."
Orton missed the entire 2010/11 season due to a knee injury, a nagging one which contributed to his struggles during the Orlando Pro Summer League. Playing against fellow rookies, castoffs, and other folks vying for training-camp invitations, Orton averaged 3.2 points and 1.8 boards in 17.2 minutes per game, shooting 14.8 percent from the field. He joined the New Mexico Thunderbirds for two games in the NBA D-League that winter, averaging 10 points and eight rebounds, but re-injured his knee in his second game.
He made one appearance in the Magic's 2011/12 preseason finale, scoring four points with a pair of long two-point jumpers in the game's waning moments.
In his lone season with the Kentucky Wildcats, Orton averaged 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game, serving as the backup to DeMarcus Cousins. He rated highly on Orlando's draft board due to his "live body, good hands, [and] good feet," Otis Smith, the Magic's President of Basketball Operations, said on Draft night.
Smith also said Orton is "a big guy you don't necessarily have to use right away." He could not have been more serious, as Orton has yet to play nearly two years after his selection.
To be clear, the Magic could still elect to re-sign Orton over the summer. However, they will not have the right to match any offer another team makes for him, as he will be an unrestricted free agent.