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A Look at the Orlando Magic's Last-String Power Forward/Center Options

Not so long ago, I took a look at potential free-agent point guards whom the Orlando Magic could sign to fill out their bench. Team GM Otis Smith has made it clear that point guard is his highest priority; he's also made it clear that he'd also like to add another big man to the roster. With no movement on the point guard front--except the rumor that Smith is still pursuing restricted free agent C.J. Watson via a sign-and-trade with Golden State--it's high time we look at potential power forwards and centers Orlando could probably sign on the cheap.

The operative word is "cheap." As we've noted previously, the Magic are over the salary cap and have used both the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions, meaning they can only sign players to minimum contracts. NBA experience determines the specific finances of said deals, about which you can read here.

Unfortunately for the Magic, the best minimum-salary bigs have already signed. Joe Smith spurned the Cleveland Cavaliers to latch on with the Atlanta Hawks, while Rasho Nesterovic has re-upped with the Toronto Raptors after a one-year detour with the Indiana Pacers and, in arguably the best signing of the summer, the Cavs landed the productive-but-injury-hobbled power forward Leon Powe. Thus, there are few standouts on this list. Bear in mind that whomever Orlando chooses will be last on the depth chart, behind two All-Stars (Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis), two youngsters combining to earn nearly $10 million this season (Marcin Gortat and Brandon Bass), and the second-year player whom the team views as a long-term building block (Ryan Anderson). In short, the Magic's mystery signee will hardly play, so he need not be exceptional.

After the jump, brief breakdowns of no fewer than 17 free-agent power forwards and centers who are still on the market.

And, as with the point guard piece, I've excluded D-Leaguers, because Smith has never made a D-League call-up in his tenure as Orlando's GM.

Calvin Booth | Jarron Collins | Jason Collins
Melvin Ely | Adonal Foyle | Aaron Gray
Juwan Howard | Othello Hunter | Sean Marks
Mikki Moore | Johan Petro | Malik Rose
James Singleton | Brian Skinner | Stromile Swift
Jake Voskuhl | Lorenzen Wright

Calvin Booth:

  • The Good: Booth has parlayed his exceptional shot-blocking skills into a 10-year career in which he's earned nearly $36 million. He still has the touch, averaging a block per every 13 minutes played over his last two seasons, which he's split between Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Sacramento. And he'd undoubtedly accept a minimum contract.

  • The Bad: Just about everything else. He's not much of a scorer or rebounder, and one wonders if he'll even sign in the NBA this year as teams plan to carry fewer players due to the weak economy.

  • The Verdict: In spite of everything, he's hardly the worst name on this list, which should keep him in the conversation.

Head back to the top.

Jarron Collins:

  • The Good: Regarded as a stout, heady defender--just like his twin brother, whom we'll discuss shortly--Jarron Collins has carved out a respectable 8-year career despite having no discernible offensive skills. The contributions that have kept him in the league this long must go beyond the box score, since his per-game stats (4.3 points, 3.1 boards, 0.2 blocks in 16.9 minutes) are far from exceptional.

  • The Bad: As with most of the guys on this list, Jarron Collins is a zero on offense.

  • The Verdict: Think of Jarron as a younger version of Adonal Foyle, minus the rebounding and shot-blocking. In other words, think of him as Adonal Foyle, minus the skills that have kept him in the league.

Head back to the top.

Jason Collins:

  • The Good: Jason's career has eerily mirrored that of his brother but he enjoys a higher profile due to his presence on the New Jersey Nets' Eastern Conference Championship-winning teams in 2001/2002 and 2002/2003.

  • The Bad: Statistically speaking, he's worse than Jarron, in spite of his higher profile. Despite hardly straying more than 10 feet from the immediate basket area on offense, he's a career 41% shooter (Jarron's more efficient, but still unacceptable, with a career 45.9% mark from the field) . For some perspective, two years ago, Rashard Lewis shot 40.9%...from three-point range. "Awful" really doesn't begin to describe Jason's offensive ability.

  • The Verdict: Unless his great reputation somehow precedes him, it's hard to imagine Jason Collins playing in the NBA this season. Jarron is the better option of the two.

Head back to the top.

Melvin Ely:

  • The Good: If nothing else, Ely's built like a semi truck. Listed at 6'10" and 260 pounds, but likely heavier, Ely can take up space in the paint.

  • The Bad: But in all likelihood, when he's in there offensively, he's not doing much good. Discounting dunks and tip-ins, Ely converted just 31.3% of his shots in the immediate basket area last season. You'd almost prefer him to step out and take a jumper, which he's willing to do. 82games classifies nearly one-third of Ely's shots last season, as jumpers, which he converted at a 33.3% clip.

  • The Verdict: Maybe the Magic could live with Ely's considerable offensive shortcomings if he could at least rebound, but even then he's mediocre, with a career rebound rate of 11.7%, which puts him in Brian Cook (11.2% career) territory. He's a poor all-around player who hardly cracked New Orleans' rotation last season, despite their dearth of frontcourt talent. With all that said, Smith tried to acquire Ely from Charlotte at the 2007 trading deadline, so we at least know he was on Smith's radar at one point. For Orlando's purposes, it's probably best if he isn't.

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Adonal Foyle:

  • The Good: Say what you will about his poor hands and finishing ability, but Foyle's still a tremendous defender, rebounder, and shot-blocker. I stumbled all over myself in order to praise Foyle after his first appearance last season, in which coach Stan Van Gundy called upon him to defend Yao Ming. Foyle responded with 4 points, 7 boards, and 3 blocked shots against the NBA's most offensively skilled center, in relief of the foul-maligned Howard. And, on the non-basketball side of the equation, Foyle's a great guy to have in the locker room, and as someone who eschews stories about athletes' intangibles, that's not something to take lightly

  • The Bad: Outside of the occasional put-back attempt, all Foyle can do on offense is set screens and box out.

  • The Verdict: Whichever team signs Foyle--if he's even in the league at all--will get some bang for its buck. He's worth the money for his locker-room wisdom--not a vocal leader, but more of a quiet, willing, mentor--alone. The fact that the Magic re-signed him last season solely to be a sparring partner for Howard during practices attests to his "intangible" value, and all told, he's in the upper tier of players on this list.

Head back to the top.

Aaron Gray:

  • The Good: In two seasons with Chicago--which owns his restricted free-agent rights, giving it the ability to match any offer another team makes for his services--the 24-year-old Gray has shown flashes of being a solid, rotation-caliber player. Consider, for instance, his career per-36-minute averages of 12.4 points and 10.5 boards. Not bad for a second-round draft pick, and arguably better than another second-rounder from the 2007 draft class who recently signed for $3 million annually.

  • The Bad: He's noted for his utter lack of athleticism and speed, and the Bulls would likely match a minimum-salary offer, meaning the Magic would have to obtain him in a sign-and-trade deal.

  • The Verdict: Physical limitations aside, Gray has decent low-post, back-to-the-basket scoring instincts, and would be worth a long-term investment were it not for the more than $100 million Orlando has tied up in Howard and Gortat over the next several seasons. If he can be had cheaply, he might be the best fit for Orlando of any player listed here. That possibility seems very remote, however.

Head back to the top.

Juwan Howard:

  • The Good: The opposite of Gray in many respects, as a been-there, done-that veteran. He's lasted quite awhile, hasn't he? Howard, at age 35, appeared in 42 games last season, no doubt surprising countless television viewers who assumed he'd been out of basketball for quite some time. Last season, his 15th in the league, he set a new career-high by shooting 51% from the field. And he's earned a reputation as a good locker-room presence

  • The Bad: If the Magic want rebounding from their end-of-the-bench big man--and why wouldn't they?--they aren't going to find it with Howard, whose total rebound rate of 9.9 last season puts him in (here comes that phrase again!) Brian Cook territory.

  • The Verdict: My guess is that he doesn't have much of anything else to contribute at the NBA level. He's probably not a markedly better option for Orlando than, say, either of the Collins twins.

Head back to the top.

Othello Hunter:

  • The Good: In extremely limited minutes for the Atlanta Hawks last season--92, to be precise--Hunter posted encouraging numbers. 8.6 points per 36 minutes isn't great, but the 9.4 boards and 15.3% rebounding rate? That's encouraging. And at 23, there's potential for long-term development.

  • The Bad: He's listed at just 6'08" and 225 pounds, making him a less-than-ideal size for the position. Plus, the Hawks didn't think highly enough of him to play him very often, although that might be more of an indictment of coach Mike Woodson's ability to manage players than it is of Hunter's skills.

  • The Verdict: Based on the small sample size, Hunter appears to be worth at least a training-camp invitation; I'd stay away from offering him a guaranteed deal until he shows what he's got in the preseason. He might stand to earn more money overseas, but at the same time, he might not want to give up on the NBA just yet. Put him at or around the top of the list, for now.

Head back to the top.

Sean Marks

  • The Good: Based on what I've seen, there aren't many scrappier players in the NBA. Marks is a decent rebounder (13% rebound rate) and an average shot-blocker (1.4 blocks/36 career) who plays hard. 110% and all that.

  • The Bad: Utterly anemic offensively, with a career 44.9% mark from the field, although he's a combined 49.5% in his last two seasons. All the hustle in the world can't put the ball in the basket.

  • The Verdict: He's one of the main reasons the Hornets traded for Emeka Okafor and signed Ike Diogu this summer, as Marks just doesn't belong in a contender's rotation. But in Orlando, as the 6th big man, he wouldn't be in the rotation. Not a great option, but certainly not the worst, either.

Head back to the top.

Mikki Moore:

  • The Good: He's only 2 years removed from averaging 8.5 points and 6 rebounds per game with Sacramento, with a respectable Player Efficiency Rating of 11.5.

  • The Bad: Last year, the Boston Celtics signed Moore after the Kings bought him out, hoping he'd approximate the contributions P.J. Brown made to their championship team in 2008. Predictably, it didn't work out. Moore plays hard and means well, but was so utterly lost defensively in Boston that coach Doc Rivers couldn't count on him when the games mattered more. Indeed, Moore played only 66 minutes in the postseason, while Brian Scalabrine--Brian Scalabrine!--played 246. If that's not a strike against Moore, I'm not sure what is.

  • The Verdict: As a sixth big man--as opposed to the third in injury-riddled Boston--Moore isn't such a bad option. And he'd actually have a fair amount of time to learn Van Gundy's defensive rotations, as opposed to last year, when he had to take a crash-course in Boston's plans. He wouldn't be a bad pickup, but certainly wouldn't be a great one, either.

Head back to the top.

Johan Petro:

  • The Good: His rebounding and blocked-shots statistics compare favorably to Marks', and he's 10 years younger to boot.

  • The Bad: His offense, though, is also similar to Marks. Worse, it's on the decline. In his first two seasons, he shot a combined 51.4% from the field. In his last two? 41.8%, a staggering drop-off due to his over-reliance on an iffy jumper. Yikes. Now the Magic wouldn't ask him--or anyone on this list, really--to create any offense for himself. But you'd nonetheless like whomever they sign to be able to bang an open jumper every now and again, as Tony Battie did last year, and as Brandon Bass will do (much more effectively) this year.

  • The Verdict: I'm lukewarm on Petro, which makes him better than almost everyone on this list. Of the young players, he seems the most likely to be available for the minimum.

Head back to the top.

Malik Rose:

  • The Good: Rose would bring championship experience to Orlando, as he won titles with the San Antonio Spurs in both 1999 and 2003. These weren't cheap rings for Rose, as he averaged 12.9 minutes per game in '99 and 24.5 in '03.

  • The Bad: Did the absence of any skills analysis in the last paragraph tip my hand? Rose doesn't have anything in the tank anymore, it appears. His Player Efficiency Ratings in the last three years are in the single-digits, and his rebounding rates have dipped into the 11-and-12 range. He never was an offensive stalwart, having never shot better than 47.7% from the field in any of his 13 professional seasons, and he hasn't so much as cracked 40% in any of his last 4 seasons.

  • The Verdict: Rose has enjoyed a decent career by most metrics, but his skills have diminished too sharply to justify granting him a roster spot.

Head back to the top.

James Singleton:

  • The Good: The 28-year-old James is coming off a career season with the Dallas Mavericks, averaging 5.1 points per game, in just 14.9 minutes, while shooting 52.9% from the floor. His ability to finish inside boosted his field-goal percentage, as he converted a stellar 71.4% of his shots in the immediate basket area in 2008/2009. For comparison's sake, consider that Dwight Howard shot 62.2% and Marcin Gortat shot 63.4% in the same situations.

  • The Bad: First, there's the question of how much Hall-of-Fame point guard Jason Kidd inflated Singleton's stats; they'd almost certainly return to Earth in Orlando, even potentially playing alongside All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson. Second, there's probably no way Dallas wouldn't match a minimum contract offer for his services, as he is a restricted free agent, and owner Mark Cuban is a freakin' billionaire (the Magic's decision to match his offer to Gortat doesn't figure into this analysis, because Cuban would match a minimum offer to Singleton regardless of the team that extended it). Finally, he's more of a combo forward than a true big man, although he still played roughly 80% of his minutes at power forward last season.

  • The Verdict: If the Magic can somehow find a way to grab him, their fans wouldn't have much reason to complain. He'd be worth it, even when one accounts for the statistical decline in his play without Kidd. Let me put it this way: the Magic's chances of signing him are so infinitesimally remote that he's hardly worth considering, but I included him in this post anyway because he was, frankly, just that impressive last season.

Head back to the top.

Brian Skinner:

  • The Good: One can take or leave Skinner's rebounding--15.1% career rate, 13.9% last year with the Clippers--but that block rate (3.6% career, 4.6% last year and 6.0% the year before) deserves some attention. Skinner is perhaps the quintessential, defensive-minded, end-of-the-bench big man. His overall statistics last year suggest that, even at 33, he's an NBA-caliber player.

  • The Bad: In the tradition of many mediocre NBA bigs, he tends to shoot a lot of jumpers at a low percentage.

    Also, this goatee.

  • The Verdict: Skinner, it seems to me, is the sort of emergency big man who's not going to greatly aid his team's cause when he's on the floor... but he's not going to hurt it, either. That's about all you can ask from a sixth big man, which is why I endorse Skinner more strongly than I do any of the other veterans on this list, save for Foyle.

Head back to the top.

Stromile Swift:

  • The Good: He has a bad reputation for never living up to his potential--he was the second overall pick of the 1999 draft--but he's actually carved out a decent career. In 2003/04, under the tutelage of Hubie Brown, he posted a Player Efficiency Rating of 19.7, for instance, and his career PER is an above-average 16.7. So he's not as bad a player as some people might expect due to the negativity surrounding him, which stems from his high draft position.

  • The Bad: Sadly, Swift's mother passed away in February, which (obviously) upset him very much. He was "inconsolable," according to his agent, and a week later, the Nets waived him after his agent talked things over with GM Kiki Vandeweghe. He signed with Phoenix--where he played with Magic free-agent signee Matt Barnes, who also lost his mother recently--but did not contribute much. In short, it's been a tough year for Swift, and concerns remain about his readiness to play basketball to the best of his (underrated) ability.

  • The Verdict: Orlando might be the ideal landing place for Swift, as he'd re-join former teammates Anderson, Barnes, and Vince Carter. He'd also play with Nelson, a team captain and leader, who dealt with the sudden and unexpected death of his father in 2007. In short, he'd be among friends. Of this we can be certain.

    Whether Orlando has much use for him, though, is less sure. He's still a great athlete (this dunk is less than two years old!) and, as I mentioned, a somewhat underrated player. If Smith feels as though he can bank on Swift's readiness to contribute in an end-of-the-bench role, then he'd be a solid pickup. But if Swift isn't mentally "there" yet, the Magic shouldn't commit to him when there are other, better options who are ready.

Head back to the top.

Jake Voskuhl:

  • The Good: At 6'11" and 245 pounds, Voskuhl's a big boy. Yup, that's all I've got.

  • The Bad: Last year, in Toronto, he posted a PER of 0.4, shot 26.7% from the field, and committed a turnover on almost exactly one-quarter of his possessions used. He also committed one foul for every four minutes he played. He was so cosmically dreadful that Basketbawful coined the term "Voskuhl" for big men whose "combined fouls and turnovers exceed his combined points and rebounds over the course of a game."

    And he was no great shakes prior to last season, either.

  • The Verdict: There's quite simply no compelling reason to believe Voskuhl merits an NBA roster spot at this point in his career.

Head back to the top.

Lorenzen Wright:

  • The Good: Pardon the echo chamber here, but at 6'11" and 225 pounds, Wright's a big boy..

  • The Bad: He's probably worse than Voskuhl, if you can believe it. Injuries have limited Wright to 36 games over the last two seasons, in which he's combined to shoot 16-of-48, or 33.3%. No NBA team is ever going to ask Wright to do anything on offense, but his other stats don't indicate he's worth having on the floor. He'll turn 34 in the first week of the season.

  • The Verdict: Yeah, his NBA days are probably finished. Orlando need not seriously consider Wright, but if there isn't anyone else on the board, they might have to settle for him.

Head back to the top.

A quick survey of the above players shows that only four (Foyle, Gray, Singleton, and Skinner) are near-locks to make an NBA roster this season, which sort of illustrates the talent pool with which we're dealing. Fortunately, the Magic won't require much of their last big man, which makes these choices sightly more attractive. Foyle and Skinner are the best realistic options, at least to me, and the only way Smith can go wrong here is by signing someone on the level of Voskuhl and Wright. In other words, don't get too down on the Magic if, say, Moore is the best they can get for the minimum salary.