Note: In this series, Orlando Pinstriped Post examines some free agents who may be options for the Orlando Magic as they continue their rebuild. - Ed.
Orlando reportedly won't bring Beno Udrih back, which works out nicely for both sides. Udrih can be a solid rotation player on a playoff caliber team -- which he fully deserves -- and the Magic won't have to commit long-term money to a guy who doesn't fit the long-term play. But it's tough to imagine that Orlando will go into the 2013-14 with just one point guard, in Jameer Nelson, on the depth chart. The best option for Rob Hennigan and company is to sign a cheap, young point guard with a lot to prove and a chip on his shoulder. Is Darius Morris that guy?
NBA career so far:
The Los Angeles Lakers selected Morris 41st overall in 2011 after improving enough from his freshman to sophomore seasons at Michigan to warrant consideration as an NBA prospect. He set the Wolverines single-season assist record in 2011 with 235 dimes. Trey Burke, who Magic fans may be familiar with, would break that record two years later.
After earning playing time in just 19 games in his rookie season, Morris played in 48 games in 2012-13, starting 17 times for an often injured Lakers backcourt. Morris spent most of his time backing up Steve Blake, Steve Nash, and Chris Duhon. But Lakers coach Mike D`Antoni also experimented with his lineup by playing Morris at the shooting guard, sliding Kobe Bryant to the small forward and allowing Morris to guard the opposing team's best perimeter player.
Morris' best game as a pro came in Game 3 of the 2013 NBA playoffs on April 26 against the Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs. If you look hard enough, through the cobwebs and dust-mites, deep in the archived Internet filing cabinets, you'll find a Lakers contingency that is convinced that playing Morris more was the answer to Los Angeles' woes. I don't agree. At all. But, hey, they're out there.
On June 28, the Lakers decided not to extend a qualifying offer to Morris, effectively making him an unrestricted free agent. At the time of this writing, he is not on a 2013 summer league team, though that can change any day now as teams are finalizing their rosters before the Las Vegas Summer League tips off.
Why he might fit in with the Magic:
Like Josh Selby, whom we profiled earlier this week, there really isn't a downside to signing Morris to a cheap, one year deal. Morris is a big guard with decent court vision who's comfortable running pick-and-rolls and he's only 22 years old. He's a gritty, long defender though he's susceptible to the drive because he's not terribly quick horizontally. His jumper has improved since his freshman season at Michigan, but he's very selective -- and almost hesitant -- to take 3-pointers. He shot just 1.4 threes per game last season.
But, again, what's the downside in signing the former Laker point guard? Morris isn't the point guard of the future, but neither is anyone else available in the free agent pool. For the 2013-14 season, he could, at least, spell Nelson and even slide to the shooting guard spot if Victor Oladipo were to take the point guard reins in Nelson's absence.
Why he might not fit in with the Magic:
Well, he can't really shoot. And that would crush the Magic's already limited spacing. If he slides to the two-guard in Nelson's absence, then he might be cramping the development of Doron Lamb.
Or you could look at it this way: the Magic would be signing a guy who backed up Chris Duhon. So there's that.
I think the possibility of signing Morris is better than signing Selby in the sense that we already know about Morris, whereas Selby's somewhat of an NBA enigma. Hennigan has shown over the past year that he loves scrappy hustlers and that's what you're bound to get out of Morris, despite his shortcomings. He might command slightly more on the market than Selby because he's a bit more established, but it shouldn't be enough to scare the Magic off.