The Orlando Magic head into free agency with a lot of questions to be answered.
Holding limited cap space — the most the team could have is just under $15 million — and a new front office staff in place, there’s a relative unknown to what the Magic might do.
Will they shy away from spending big long-term dollars to keep flexibility for next summer? Will they try to move one of the albatross deals they are stuck with after Rob Hennigan and Co.’s exit following an abysmal 2016/17 season? Can they entice a free agent who could make a sizable impact to come to the sunshine state and play for them?
These are just a few of the questions the team will answer in the coming weeks. One even more important question may be answered as well: the direction Jeff Weltman and John Hammond are taking the team.
After pressure from ownership to make the playoffs last season, will the new group be given the same pressure, or will there be some slack given to try and build their own team?
Should the DeVos family be open to the team taking another step back this season — which is likely the teams best available option — how can they do that? Would that spell the end of time in Orlando for the likes Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier? Who would they decided to hold on to and build around?
If that’s the direction they do go, they could have a tough time.
With many teams already having their center position locked down, and Vucevic’s clear limitations on the defensive end of the floor, teams might shy away from acquiring the seven-footer. The same could be said about Bismack Biyombo, whose monster of a contract signed last summer is going to hurt the Magic for years to come.
Fournier could be slightly easier to move, but could still be difficult. With a high cap hit — he’s slated to make $17 million this season — and a jump shot that eludes him at times, teams could be wary of acquiring Fournier.
Fournier and Vucevic are still both young — 24 and 26, respectively — and could prove to be targets teams would want. That being said, the sting of losing is hard to get rid of, and can lead to players developing bad habits, which is one of the biggest things to hold the Magic back the last two seasons.
Aside from the two longest tenured Magic men, the team has to decide what to do with point guard Elfrid Payton. Payton has shown flashes of ability, but his inconsistency shooting the ball, and sometimes lack of effort, continue to be a big issue for a team that’s already strapped for shooting.
What Weltman and Hammond decide to do with this trio will likely dictate what the Magic do in free agency, and how they view the short-term and long-term of the team.
Moving on from them now would show they’re ready to rebuild once again and do it around Aaron Gordon and recently drafted Jonathan Isaac. Holding onto them, and adding more potentially complimentary pieces via free agency could signal the Magic once again pushing for that elusive playoff spot.
Either way, the Magic have a lot of questions to be answered in a short period of time.