Confirming a rumor we first heard in March, former Magic forward Corey Maggette might be interested in re-joining the team in free-agency this summer. Tim Povtak of the Orlando Sentinel cites "a Maggette friend who is close to both the player and the Magic organization" as a source for his story in today's paper.
What Maggette's really interested in, I suspect, is making more money. SHOCKING, I know. The more cash-strapped teams he encourages to offer him money, the more leverage he has in negotiating with teams that have more cap room. The most Orlando could offer him is the mid-level exception, which has a starting salary of around $5.5 million (it changes from year to year due to the salary cap). Maggette, coming off a season in which he averaged 22.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists, is certainly worth more money than that. Hell, the Magic paid Rashard Lewis a max-level contract worth $118 million over six years after a season in which he averaged 22.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. While no team can afford to offer Maggette that kind of money this summer -- and Maggette knows as much -- Lewis' contract ups Maggette's market value.
I wonder who, exactly, Povtak's source is. Who might be in a position to know players and teams equally well? Perhaps an agent... like Rob Pelinka, who represents both Maggette and Magic free-agent guard Keyon Dooling. We suspect Pelinka floated this rumor himself to increase Maggette's paycheck, not to mention his own. Additionally, by bumping Maggette out of the Magic's price range, Pelinka ensures the team has enough money to re-sign Keyon Dooling. Everybody wins... except Orlando, which loses the prospect of ever using the absurdly talented Jameer Nelson / Maggette / Hedo Turkoglu / Lewis / Dwight Howard starting lineup.
Maggette's coming off a career-best season and, at 28, knows this summer will be his last chance to secure a lucrative, long-term deal. He won't risk losing millions of dollars just for the opportunity to play close to home. The fact is, no borderline All-Star like Maggette has taken the mid-level exception to play for a contending team. Veteran lunchpail-types in their mid-thirties have (see Boston's free-agent crop last summer after it acquired Kevin Garnett), but never players of Maggette's caliber.
Summarily, the odds of Corey Maggette signing with the Magic this summer are slimmer than Shaquille O'Neal's chances of winning the Three-Point Shootout. And I'm pretty sure the previous sentence marks the first time anyone has used "slim" with "Shaquille." Go figure.
UPDATE: Mike Bianchi, writing on his blog, makes a salient point about the Magic's chances regarding Maggette:
Secondly, don't the Magic have more pressing needs than another small forward/shooting guard? They already have zillions tied up in Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis and have spent their last two first-round draft picks on J.J. Redick and Courtney Lee. I guess the Magic conceivably could do some sort of sign-and-trade involving Turkoglu and somebody else, but then you have to ask yourself is Maggette appreciably better than Turk?
That last sentence underscores why I don't understand the logic behind trading Turkoglu for Maggette, although it didn't stop me from making it a poll option, nor did it stop at least one reader from choosing it. For all intents and purposes, Maggette plays the same offensive game Turkoglu does, only without the playmaking ability for others: 68% of Maggette's shot attempts last season were jumpers, compared to 67% for Turkoglu. However, Turkoglu shot a much higher effective field goal percentage (.495 to .418), and created more of those shots off the dribble; just 49% of his jumpers were assisted, compared to 75% for Maggette.
So, really, what advantages do Maggette have over Turkoglu? The biggest one is his ability to get to the foul line, as he averaged more than double the free throw attempts per 36 minutes than Turkoglu did (9.8 to 4.7). But, in many respects, that's Maggette's only advantage. Before you say "age!" keep in mind that Maggette is a shade less than 8 months younger than Turkoglu.
If anyone wants to explain why they'd dump Turkoglu in favor of Maggette, I'm willing to listen. Right now, I'm unconvinced.