Orlando Pinstriped Post was asked to participate in SB Nation’s league-wide story on NBA free agency, which asks what each team can realistically do in the offseason to make fans “over the moon” happy. Sadly, for the Magic, the answer is not much.
Had the word “realistically” not been thrown in, we could have had a little more fun with this project. Chris Paul would certainly answer the Magic’s point guard concerns that have been heavily discussed since Orlando wound up with Mo Bamba in the NBA Draft.
But the Magic are strapped financially, with essentially $80 million in guaranteed contracts and a majority (if not all) of the projected $19 million or so they do have available tied up by Aaron Gordon’s cap hold. Orlando’s best bet would be to add some complementary pieces early in free agency using the veteran minimum, non-taxpayer mid-level exception (projected to be nearly $9 million) or bi-annual exception (around $3.5 million) while waiting to see what Gordon, a restricted free agent, is offered from opposing teams. Odds are the 22-year-old will land an offer sheet worth the max or close to it.
Because the Magic hold Gordon’s Bird’ Rights, they have the option to go over the cap to match any offer Gordon receives. So signing others free agents early - and cutting ties with Shelvin Mack, with only $1 million of his $6 million guaranteed - could be beneficial. But then what? Get Isaiah Thomas on the cheap if other teams are scared off by his hip? Won’t happen. Give Seth Curry another chance in Orlando? Could happen.
With restricted free agents like Fred VanVleet and Dante Exum likely out of the Magic’s price range, they could take a look at the next tier of point guards that includes Yogi Ferrell, Shabazz Napier and Andrew Harrison. Or maybe there is even a slim chance they sign Florida-native Nick Calathes, who is expected to rejoin the NBA as a free agent after playing in the EuroLeague. All depends on what other teams will be willing to offer players of this nature.
And we are yet to mention Mario Hezonja, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the Magic declined his fourth-year option. With the flashes he showed last season, some fans would like to see him return while others believe he is what he is at this stage. Seeing what Hezonja commands on the open market will be fascinating to see.
Does re-signing Gordon and possibly Hezonja, and brining in a role player or two leave Magic fans thrilled? That’s not the word I would use, but they are necessary moves in my opinion.
With the offers they’ll be able to make, there probably isn’t a signing the Magic can make that would truly anger the fan base in the way previous signings of Bismack Biyombo did for the longterm and Jeff Green did for the shorterm. But brining back their former point guard, restricted free agent Elfird Payton, may do so….even with a new haircut. Many fans, frustrated with Payton’s inability to shoot and defend, had been waiting years for the Magic to cut ties with him. They finally did so at the trade deadline. But now the Magic are strapped, they need a starting point guard, and Payton probably isn’t going to cost much. So, it can’t be completely ruled out.
Then again, given the Magic’s lack of shooting in the frontcourt, signing any free agent point guard that can’t shoot (like Rajon Rondo or Dante Exum) may not be a popular move.
But it’s more likely that, after free agency, Magic fans will mostly be indifferent. The fan base is somewhat divided on overpaying Gordon and bringing back Hezonja. And the front office doesn’t have the flexibility to make a splash this offseason. If they can work out a trade for Nikola Vucevic, maybe that allows the Magic to address a need.
But beyond that, the Magic won’t be able to sign some checks to solve their problems this offseason.