The Orlando Magic completed their free-agent signings in short order, adding two eight-year veterans on affordable, two-year deals. Though the team will surely invite some additional free agents to training camp, they are exceptionally unlikely to make the team's opening-day roster.
To that end, it's fair to ask if the Magic got good value out of their free-agent dollars. The only avenues available to them were the mid-level exception, the bi-annual exception, and minimum-salary contracts. Let's take a look at the moves they made and how they compare to the rest of the market.
The Magic spent $2.5 million of their mid-level exception on Jason Maxiell, with an unguaranteed second season also worth $2.5 million. The 30-year-old addresses Orlando's need for a stout interior defender with shot-blocking skills, and he should fit nicely into Glen Davis' role on both ends of the floor. That second point is important, given that Davis might not be ready for the start of the regular season.
Here's a look at some other free-agent bigs who signed deals in Maxiell's price range. Salary data is from ShamSports.com.
- Chris Copeland: two years, $6.14 million
- Samuel Dalembert: two years, $7.6 million, second year partially guaranteed
- Tyler Hansbrough: two years, $6.5 million
- Chris Kaman: one year, $3.18 million
- Andrei Kirilenko: two years, $6.5 million, second year a player option
- Jermaine O'Neal: one year, $2 million
- Miroslav Raduljica: three years, $4.6 million
- Jeff Pendergraph: two years, $3.6 million
- Marreese Speights: three years, $10.9 million
- Greg Stiemsma: one year, $2.7 million
- Ronny Turiaf: two years, $3 million
Given these names and the salaries for which they signed, it's tough to argue that Orlando overpaid on Maxiell. Whether he's a great fit in Orlando is another question entirely. I would have preferred the Magic to pursue a power forward with three-point range, as Orlando will likely struggle to space the floor in 2013/14. From that standpoint, Copeland, Mullens, and Daye would have made sense for the Magic.
But Maxiell, as I said, helps the Magic's interior defense, particularly with his shot-blocking. It's clear that Rob Hennigan, the Magic's general manager, prioritized that skill over outside shooting, and Orlando's interior defense was indeed nightmarish in its 62-loss 2012/13 season.
Stiemsma and Turiaf signed more cheaply than Maxiell did and have skill-sets similar to his, but again, it's hard to argue that Maxiell was a reach at $2.5 million.
The Magic didn't use their bi-annual exception, keeping it available for the summer of 2014 if needed.
To illustrate what the bi-annual market looked like in 2013, here are three players who signed for that amount. Coincidentally, all are point guards.
Given that teams can only use the bi-annual exception once every two seasons--it's right there in the name--it makes sense that the Magic would want to preserve theirs. There's little sense in spending too much for a losing team. The three players above are all veterans who joined teams with playoff aspirations.
Ronnie Price joined the Magic with a two-year deal worth $2.6 million, the lowest amount the Magic can pay him under the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement. He may not play very much--or even dress, on some nights, depending on the team's overall health--but the Magic needed another point guard behind Jameer Nelson. The second season of Price's contract is not guaranteed, so there's a chance that he won't return for the 2014/15 season.
Here are some other point guards who, like Price, signed for less than the bi-annual exception in the offseason.
- D.J. Augustin: one year, $1.2 million
- Dwight Buycks: two years, $1.5 million, second year non-guaranteed
- Darren Collison: two years, $3.9 million
- Toney Douglas: one year, $1.6 million
- John Lucas III: two years, $3.2 million, second year non-guaranteed
Devin Harris, Shaun Livingston, Beno Udrih, and Earl Watson all signed minimum-salary deals, though they might not have been willing to accept such a low-dollar offer from the Magic or any other rebuilding team.
It's fair to say that a lot of Magic fans would have preferred Hennigan to sign a player younger than Price here, a player with more upside and potential. Indeed, several younger point guards--including Buycks and Douglas--signed in Price's price range. For Orlando, the choice must have come down to priorities. Experience and character trumped potential, in this case, and I'm not sure that call was wise.
If you were Hennigan, how would you have spent your free-agent money?