NBA Free Agents 2012: Ryan Anderson Headlines Orlando Magic Class

Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

Perhaps more than any other team in the league, the Orlando Magic face a busy summer with tough, crucial decisions to make about the roster, front office, and coaching staff. At least two and as many as eight Magic players can be free agents on July 1st, 2013. This post breaks down all eight such players, a list Ryan Anderson, the league's Most Improved Player, headlines.

Ryan Anderson

Status: Restricted
Position: Power forward
Age: 24
Key career stats: 16.9 points per 36 minutes, 8.6 rebounds per 36 minutes, 42.7 percent field-goal shooting, 38.4 percent three-point shooting (7.5 attempts per 36 minutes)
Summary: Anderson's coming off a career season in which he earned the NBA's best recognition for an up-and-coming player and proved himself as a starter. Given his age and fairly unique skill-set as a lights-out shooter with offensive rebounding ability, he's going to get a rich offer somewhere. The league still questions whether Anderson's any good on his own, as he's benefitted from playing under Stan Van Gundy and beside Dwight Howard in Orlando, but he didn't earn Pac-10 Player of the Year honors in 2008 by accident: dude can play.

Orlando would love to keep him, but the key question, as always, is at what cost. It matched offer sheets Marcin Gortat signed with the Dallas Mavericks in 2009 and J.J. Redick sign with the Chicago Bulls in 2010, but Anderson's salary in a new contract may exceed those two players' combined. With more putative luxury-tax rules taking effect for the 2013/14 season, Orlando can't spend as freely as it might have under the old collective-bargaining agreement. Then again, neither can the league's 29 other teams.

I don't think any of the league's teams will make Anderson an offer that'll scare Orlando away, save for maybe Anderson's hometown Sacramento Kings. They're flush with cap space; have a young, dominant center in DeMarcus Cousins for whom they'd like to keep the floor spread; and lack three-point shooting.

Earl Clark

Status: Player option for 2012/13 worth $1.24 million; will become unrestricted if not exercised by May 15th
Position: Power forward/small forward
Age: 24
Key career stats: 10.9 points per 36 minutes, 7.3 rebounds per 36 minutes, 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes, 39.1 percent field-goal shooting
Summary: The Phoenix Suns didn't pick up Clark's third-year team option, so he entered unrestricted free agency following the 2010/11 season, the one during which Orlando acquired him from Phoenix. He didn't receive many nibbles in free agency then--though the Denver Nuggets were intrigued--and ultimately re-signed with Orlando on a cheap, two-year contract, one which gave him the opportunity to hit free agency after one year if he saw fit.

It's tough to say if Clark feels like he did enough in 2011/12 to leave $1.24 million on the table, and he's yet to comment publicly on the matter. He continues to struggle offensively, shooting 36.7 percent from the floor in his most recent season despite shooting exclusively inside the three-point line. He'll need to develop some offensive skill in order to stick in this league, but he made significant progress as a weak-side help defender. The Louisville product blocked 2.1 shots per 36 minutes, the best such figure of his career. It's not hard to imagine an NBA team in need of size who can afford to play Clark rotation minutes in order to help him develop making an offer in the $2 million range, but there's no guaranteed he'll even want to test free agency after such a rough offensive season.

DeAndre Liggins

Status: Qualifying offer for $937,195
Position: Shooting guard/small forward
Age: 24
Key career stats: 10.3 points per 36 minutes, 4.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, 1.9 steals per 36 minutes, 48 percent field-goal shooting
Summary: Liggins made just 17 appearances in his rookie season, and showed flashes of the defensive and athletic potential which led Orlando to use the 53rd pick of the 2012 NBA Draft on him. Though turnover-prone--he committed 10 in just 115 minutes, compared to 25 shot attempts and five assists--Liggins nonetheless looks like a solid NBA prospect. He'll become a restricted free agent if the Magic extend the qualifying offer to him, after which point he can either sign it to play the 2012/13 season at that salary or negotiate a new deal with the team. If the Magic don't make him that offer, he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Jameer Nelson

Status: Player option for 2012/13 worth as much as $8.6 million including bonuses; will become unrestricted if not exercised by May 15th
Position: Point guard
Age: 30
Key career stats: 15.8 points per 36 minutes, 6.3 assists per 36 minutes, 2.8 turnovers per 36 minutes, 45.6 percent field-goal shooting, 38.8 percent three-point shooting (3.8 attempts per 36 minutes)
Summary: Nelson has said he wants to finish his career in Orlando, and I tend to take him at his word. Having said that, it would make sense for him to decline his player option and secure a long-term future in the league, albeit at a reduced annual rate.

John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com says Nelson may be seeking deals similar to those Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook signed, which pay those young point guards in the $10 million range annually. A much more realistic figure for the aging-but-still-starter-quality Nelson might be $6.5 million, for which Mike Conley signed with the Memphis Grizzlies. Orlando owns Nelson's Bird rights so it may exceed the cap and luxury-tax thresholds in order to re-sign him, and it may not have much of a choice. The only other Magic point guard under contract is the woeful Chris Duhon. I foresee him re-signing for four seasons in the $7 million range.

Daniel Orton

Status: Unrestricted
Position: Center/power forward
Age: 21
Key career stats: 8.7 points per 36 minutes, 7.5 rebounds per 36 minutes, 1.7 steals per 36 minutes, 56.7 percent field-goal shooting
Summary: The Magic used the 29th overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft on Orton, but lingering knee issues kept him out of the 2010/11 season entirely. As a rookie, he played sparingly, only when injuries to Dwight Howard, Glen Davis, and Anderson pressed him into action. He's not a stiff, but rather a reasonably quick, sure-footed big man who can defend the paint and set screens. He sees himself as more of a face-up offensive player than a post-up one.

Orlando declined the third-year option on his contract, so he's set to become an unrestricted free agent; the Magic won't have the right to match any offer he receives. His size, youth, and skill-set will earn him a job in the NBA or even overseas for the 2012/13 season. We doubt he returns to Orlando.

J.J. Redick

Status: 2012/13 contract, worth $6.19 million, is fully unguaranteed if waived on or before July 8th, 2012
Position: Shooting guard
Age: 27; 28 on June 24th
Key career stats: 14.7 points per 36 minutes, 2.8 assists per 36 minutes, 42.7 percent field-goal shooting, 40 percent three-point shooting (5.5 attempts per 36 minutes)
Summary: Unless they're truly desperate to clear salary-cap space, the Magic are unlikely to let Redick, a productive rotation player coming off the finest season of his six-year career on a reasonable salary, go. We include him here for thoroughness' sake, and the only way we believe he won't be on Orlando's roster to start the 2012 season is if it trades him.

Ish Smith

Status: Unrestricted
Position: Point guard
Age: 23; 24 on July 5th
Key career stats: 9.2 points per 36 minutes, 6.8 assists per 36 minutes, 1.8 steals per 36 minutes, 37.8 percent field-goal shooting
Summary: Signed as an emergency point guard out of the NBA D-League, Smith didn't get many opportunities to prove himself with Orlando as Van Gundy insisted on sticking with Duhon as Nelson's backup for all but a few games.

Smith can't shoot a lick--just 37.8 percent for his career, and more than 90 percent of his shots are two-pointers--but his strength is distributing the ball off dribble penetration. It's a skill Orlando sorely lacks, but one gets the impression it'd just as quickly look elsewhere for it. I can't imagine the Magic are terribly interested in keeping him around, given how infrequently they used him after his D-League call-up.

Von Wafer

Status: 2012/13 contract, worth the league minimum of $1.14 million, is fully unguaranteed
Position: Shooting guard
Age: 26; 27 on July 21st
Key career stats: 15.3 points per 36 minutes, 3.4 rebounds per 36 minutes, 42 percent field-goal shooting, 32.5 percent three-point shooting (4.6 attempts per 36 minutes)
Summary: Wafer's the closest thing Orlando has to a chucker, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The former Florida State Seminole is the only Magic player who's shown he can consistently get to the basket and create his own shot, and Van Gundy used him as a wildcard of sorts when his team's offense stagnated.

But as the season wore on, Van Gundy settled on a wing rotation of Jason Richardson, Redick, Hedo Turkoglu, and Quentin Richardson, leaving Wafer the odd man out; Van Gundy even left Wafer inactive in Liggins' favor in some February and March contests.

Wafer's too talented a scorer to fall out of the NBA, though he could and should receive lucrative offers from teams abroad. Van Gundy used him only sparingly, but he could have a future with the Magic if a new coach--Van Gundy is rumored to be on his way out--shakes up the rotation.

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