The Orlando Magic face many difficult choices in the offseason ahead, beginning with their selections in Thursday's NBA Draft. And while Magic fans at large and OPP in particular has been focused on the Draft, it's not too early to look ahead to free agency, and the decisions Rob Hennigan and his staff will have to make there.
Among their bigger concerns: what to do with veteran stretch forward Ersan Ilyasova word. Acquired from the Detroit Pistons at the trade deadline in the Tobias Harris deal, Ilyasova performed solidly, if not spectacularly, in Orlando pinstripes. In 22 appearances, including four starts, the Turk Nowitzki sank 40.9 percent of his three-pointers on his way to averaging 8.1 points and 5.5 boards in 20.3 minutes. According to NBA.com/stats, Ilyasova's 41.7-percent three-point shooting in catch-and-shoot chances led the team after the All-Star Break. Indeed, in ordinary circumstances, a team like Orlando, with its eye on the playoffs after four years of rebuilding, would consider retaining Ilyasova at $8.4 million for the 2016/17 season a no-brainer.
But Orlando doesn't face ordinary circumstances. Its one of dozens of teams poised to have at least one maximum-level salary slot open for the 2016 free agent period, and according to Basketball Insiders, Ilyasova's contract for the coming season will only count $400,000 against the cap if the team waives him.
So Hennigan has to consider whether Ilyasova's ranged shooting and above-average rebounding is worth compromising some cap space. I tend to think it is. At 29, Ilyasova's productivity seems unlikely to crater in 2016/17, and rolling over the cap space to the summer of 2017 may pay off.
Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make. Creating cap space for the sake of it, especially in a market which will heavily favor the players--there are far more max salary slots available in 2016 than there are players who truly merit such a hefty portion of the cap--would seem to run counter to Hennigan's patient, measured approach.
I fully acknowledge that Ilyasova is a role-player at best, and that waiving him to save a few million won't break the Magic's playoff prospects in 2017. But I do think there's something to be said for retaining productive veterans on fair deals, especially when their strengths align with the team's bigger weaknesses. At the very least, Orlando ought to put some serious thought into retaining their go-to backup four-man.