After three grossly inefficient offensive seasons; one reported locker room rampage; and an embarrassing late-night, keyboard-throwing temper tantrum; it's time for the Orlando Magic and their misplaced big man Glen Davis to part ways. The Magic will reportedly make the buyout official Friday morning, solidifying Orlando's intentions to pass playing time along to its younger players and effectively ending an Otis Smith-led Magic era that left the roster bereft of talent and put the franchise in a deep financial bind.
When they complete Davis' buyout, the Magic will officially be a team of Rob Hennigan's players. One may argue that Jameer Nelson isn't Hennigan's guy, but it's important to remember that Hennigan rewarded Nelson's loyalty to the franchise with a three-year, $25.2 million contract in 2012. Nelson is very much Hennigan's guy: he signed the veteran point guard to a healthy deal to help chaperone the stable of young players he knew would eventually comprise the Magic's roster.
Now it's time to free up playing time for those players. Davis ate up a hair over 30 minutes a night and he chucked over 11 shots per game, 50 percent of those in the form of inefficient, long mid-range jumpers. That odd shot selection was never fully Davis' fault--he originally became a jump shooter with the Boston Celtics because coach Doc Rivers wanted him to--but those attempts could have gone to Orlando's early twentysomethings who happened to play the same position.
Orlando didn't originally acquire Davis as part of a rebuild. Instead, it brought him aboard as Dwight Howard buddy and he played serviceable minutes as the third big man behind Howard and Ryan Anderson. In that capacity, Davis would have been able to provide quality minutes. Alas, the team shipped Howard away and allowed Anderson to walk, enabling Davis to became the focal point of a stagnant offense for a rebuilding team. Arron Afflalo managed to adjust to a larger role; Davis did't. That isn't necessarily his fault, though many Magic fans think otherwise. It was simply bad timing for the veteran forward-center and he was catapulted into a position that he wasn't able to handle.
His pending buyout is addition by subtraction for the Magic. Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson, and Kyle O'Quinn will absorb Davis' 30 minutes a night and the thought is that the added playing time will help in each young guy's long-term development. It also gives coach Jacque Vaughn a little more freedom in his rotations: there's one less big man to worry about, and he now has four big guys to play around. The best case scenario is that he slides Harris to the power forward spot and starts Maurice Harkless at small forward.
That arrangement would give Vaughn a very manageable reserve big man rotation of Nicholson and O'Quinn, with the former playing minutes at the four-spot and O'Quinn spelling Nikola Vucevic as the backup center. There's also a chance that Vaughn decides to play smaller with Victor Oladipo starter as the team's shooting guard and Afflalo sliding to the small forward spot. Vaughn, however, has noted before that it's tougher on Afflalo to defend bigger opponents and that he's more natural at the two-spot.
Either way, Orlando is better off without Davis. Creating more minutes for the young guys, no matter how Vaughn splits them up, constitutes progress. Hennigan said that the team wasn't aggressive at Thursday's deadline, but that comment very well could have been a smokescreen. No reasonable general manager is openly going to admit that he was shopping a veteran, especially if he didn't have assurances that a buyout wouldn't ensue so quickly after the deadline passed. I imagine Orlando shopped Davis, but his current contract is tricky to work around and it likely scared off whatever franchises had interest in the veteran big man.
Davis' $6 million next season is a nagging price to pay for any team looking for a third or fourth big man. If Orlando wanted to trade Davis, it likely would have given up an asset, which is a move that doesn't make that much sense at this point in the rebuild. That the team didn't trade him at the deadline shouldn't detract from what Davis can still provide: lower his usage rate, lessen his offensive responsibilities, and sign him to a cheaper contract, and Davis is actually a nice little reserve piece for a playoff team. The Los Angeles Clippers' reported interested in him should attest to his usefulness.
Still, that doesn't mean he's useful--at this stage in his career, at least--to the Magic. He's better suited as a reserve big man on a good team and neither of those conditions apply to Orlando. Working a buyout is best for Davis and the Magic: Davis will join another team and move back to a role he's more comfortable with; the Magic will free up playing time for the young players and will not have to deal with whatever baggage comes with Davis' services. It's a win for both sides.