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Taking Another Look at the Orlando Magic's Salaries and What the Team Can Do in Free Agency

You may remember this post from May, in which I tried to navigate the NBA's salary cap to see what the Magic could do this summer in free agency. Now that we're closer to the beginning of the free-agent signing period (Wednesday, July 9th), I thought I'd take another look at it. I've presented my findings in a Q-and-A format. For this post, I consulted Larry Coon's NBA Salary Cap F.A.Q., Storyteller's Contracts, ESPN's 2008 NBA Free Agent list, and the Orlando Magic's official roster page. We hope you find this guide helpful.

Question: How many players do the Magic have under contract next season, and what are they owed?

Answer: Currently, the Magic have 11 players under contract, owed a total of $60,553,339 next season. While the league has yet to release its official salary-cap data, we can say with absolute certainty that the Magic are over the salary cap. Here's how everything breaks down by player...

Guaranteed Contracts
Pos. Player Age Salary Contract Expires Notes
PF James Augustine 24 $ 972,581 2008/09 .
PF Tony Battie 32 $ 5,746,000 2009/10 .
SG Keith Bogans 28 $ 2,550,000 2008/09 .
PF Brian Cook 27 $ 3,500,000 2009/10 Player option after 2008/09
C Marcin Gortat 24 $ 711,517 2008/09 .
C Dwight Howard 22 $ 13,041,250 2012/13 Player option after 2011/12
SG Courtney Lee 23 $ 980,200 2012/13 Team option after 2010/11
SF Rashard Lewis 29 $ 16,447,871 2012/13 .
PG Jameer Nelson 26 $ 7,600,000 2012/13 Player option after 2011/12
SG J.J Redick 24 $ 2,139,720 2010/11 Team option after 2008/09
SF Hedo Turkoglu 29 $ 6,864,200 2009/10 Player option after 2008/09
TOTAL $ 60,553,339 .

Note: for this table, "Age" refers to a player's age as of October 31st, 2008, when we expect the NBA season to begin.

... and by position...

Pos. Salary2 No. Players Avg. Age Avg. Salary
PG $ 7,600,000 1 26 $7,600,000
SG $ 6,699,920 3 25 $2,233,306
SF $ 23,312,071 2 29 $11,656,036
PF $ 10,218,581 3 28 $3,406,193
C $ 13,752,767 2 23 $6,876,384
TEAM 11 26 $ 5,504,849

Make the jump to read the rest of the Q-and-A.

... and we're here. Let's continue.

Question: So the Magic have 11 players under contract, just one point guard, and are over the salary cap. How can they fill-out their roster?

Answer: The salary cap provides exceptions which allow teams over the cap the ability to sign players. Any team over the cap may use the mid-level exception, worth the league's average salary (reportedly $5.8 million this season), to add to their roster. Teams can give it all to one player (as Orlando did in 2004 when it signed Hedo Turkoglu) or divide it among several players.

Additionally, the Magic have the bi-annual exception at their disposal. It's worth $1.91 million in 2008/09 and, like the mid-level, can be divided to use on more than one player. As its name indicates, teams cannot use the bi-annual exception two years in a row. Because the Magic did not use it last summer, they are eligible to use it this summer.

Last, the salary cap allows for teams over the cap to sign as many players as they like to minimum-salary contracts.

So, to put a dollar amount on it, the Magic have $7.71 million to use between the mid-level- and bi-annual exceptions. They can use the minimum salary exception to fill their final roster spot (or spots).

Question: It appears as though the Magic's biggest priority is re-signing Keyon Dooling. How can they do that?

Answer: Their highest priority is also the most difficult one to take care of, at least in this instance. Dooling, coming off a stellar season as Orlando's sixth-man, wants a raise; he earned $3.5 million last season. Additionally, he's 28 years old, and thus may not have another chance to sign a lucrative contract.

Further complicating matters is the dearth of talented free-agent point guards this summer. With Baron Davis (5 years, $75 million, Los Angeles Clippers), Jose Calderon (5 years, $40 million, Toronto), Beno Udrih (5 years, $32 million, Sacramento), and Chris Duhon (2 years, $12 million, New York) now off the market, Dooling is arguably the best point guard who has yet to sign a deal anywhere. While his ability to distribute leaves much to be desired, he still has value because he can create his own shot, and play the two-guard slot as well. But his best asset is his defense, and there will always be a market for A+ perimeter defenders.

Orlando has a choice to make here, albeit a fairly easy one: it can offer Dooling a portion of its mid-level exception, or it can retain him by using his Larry Bird rights. Because Dooling has played for the Magic for three consecutive years without changing teams via free-agency, Orlando is entitled to go over the salary cap to re-sign him. If they choose this route, they can retain Dooling while keeping their mid-level exception to use on another player (or players). The catch -- you had to know one was coming -- is that the dollar amount for which they sign Dooling still counts against the salary cap for luxury-tax purposes. Re-signing Dooling using his Bird rights to a deal with a starting salary of $5 million brings the Magic's total salary for next season to $65,553,339. If they were to use the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions, they'd go over the luxury-tax threshold. Although Magic ownership has been willing to pay tax before, we at 3QC suspect it won't again in the near future.

So the Magic's best bet to keep Dooling is to offer him most of its mid-level exception in a contract spanning three seasons, possibly four. Teams desperate for point guard help -- Miami, Golden State, and Denver come immediately to mind -- may offer him the full mid-level, an offer Dooling would certainly accept provided the contract secured him a job for at least three seasons.

Question: If Dooling leaves, whom might the Magic sign to replace him as their backup point guard?

I assume you're a bad-news-first sort of person, so here it is: the best available point guards, after Dooling, include Jason Williams, Anthony Carter, Anthony Johnson, Sebastian Telfair, Tyronn Lue, Smush Parker, Blake Ahearn, Darrell Armstrong, Jannero Pargo, Kevin Ollie, Damon Stoudamire, and Roger Mason Junior. Lots of names, not a lot of talent.

The good news is that very few of those players would command more than the bi-annual exception. Were the Magic to sign one of them, they could still use the mid-level exception on a higher-quality player, albeit at a different position. On my wishlist are guards J.R. Smith, (doubtful), Josh Childress (doubtful), and Mickael Pietrus (possible); forward Eduardo Najera (possible) and center Kurt Thomas (possible). A few other guys, like centers Chris Andersen and Patrick O'Bryant, also warrant consideration.

There's also a small chance the Magic can re-sign Carlos Arroyo, who fell out of favor with Stan Van Gundy toward the end of last season, if Dooling leaves.