Members of OPP have been debating various aspects of the Magic’s offseason in a rapid-fire Q&A session to show the wide range of opinions on the moves being made by the front office. First, Mike and Zach discussed the hiring of Steve Clifford. Last week, Aaron joined in to debate what the Magic should do on Draft night. Now we move on to free agency,
Be sure to join the conversation below....
Given their salary cap situation, if the Magic could bring in one free agent, who would you realistically want it to be?
Zach Oliver: The Magic don’t exactly have the most cap space this summer, so I think this is a semi-tricky question. Obviously they have needs on the roster, mainly at point guard, but the roster still has other holes. We’ve talked about this at length on the podcast as well. I think the guy I look at is Seth Curry.
The younger Curry brother is coming off missing the entire season with a stress fracture in his leg. He’s been cleared to start practicing, and I think he fills multiple needs for the Magic. He can handle the ball some, and he’s a Curry, so of course he can shoot the ball as well, something this roster still desperately needs. I think he could be had for some portion of the Mid-Level Exception, which would still give the Magic some wiggle room to address other needs.
Aaron Goldstone: The Magic are pretty hamstrung this summer due to Aaron Gordon’s cap hold. Realistically, they won’t be in the conversation when it comes to luring any of the top free agents from around the league to Orlando. That’s nothing new, the team has never really been a major player in free agency (outside of a couple summers) during its existence.
With that being said, the Magic clearly need to add depth in the backcourt. Personally, I think Orlando is more likely to swing a trade for a point guard at some point this summer. But to answer the question, there are a few point guards that are available that I would consider to be “realistic” targets.
I think Yogi Ferrell would be interesting in Orlando. Ferrell would provide the Magic with something they desperately need: shooting/floor-spacing (Career 38% 3PT shooter, nearly half of his career attempts have come from behind the arc). However, he is a restricted free agent, so the Mavericks have the ability to match any offer for him. Still, he seems like a reasonable target; Dallas seems to be eyeing larger fish in the free-agent market, I’m not sure how desperate they are to bring Ferrell back (with Smith Jr. and Doncic on the roster). By the way, Seth Curry is another free agent formerly of the Dallas Mavericks that might fit what the Magic are looking for. He’s coming back from a leg injury that caused him to miss all of last season (and is also more of a combo-guard), but he’s another proven shooter in this league (Career: 60% TS%, 43% 3PT%).
Mike Cali: We all have the same guy in mind, so hopefully Jeff WeItman and John Hammond are reading this. I would not mind seeing Seth Curry get a second stint in Orlando. Curry had a career year in 2016-2017 for the Mavericks, shooting 42.5 percent from three, and seemed to finally find a home in the NBA. He was denied a chance to duplicate his success prior to heading into unrestricted free agency after missing the season with a stress fracture in his leg. An undersized combo guard, better suited at the two, Curry could provide the shooting and floor spacing the Magic are sorely lacking. Like his brother, Curry is a threat from behind the arc whether off the dribble or off screens, and he has the Curry heat check capabilities that run in the family. Plus, coming off a value-diminishing injury should make him a little more affordable for the cash-strapped Magic. He may even be open to a one-year deal to showcase his health and abilities in order to cash in during the 2019 free agency extravaganza when more teams have money to spend.
The Magic are in dire need of a point guard. Based on the Magic’s financial situation and the salaries players can command, let’s hear your power ranking of the top five free agent point guards the Magic should target.
Zach Oliver: The point guard class this summer is rough. Again, this is a topic we’ve talked about a lot on the podcast, and I think we’ve come to the agreement the Magic’s best option is trying to acquire someone via trade. But, for the sake of answering the question and not dancing around it...
1. Isaiah Thomas -- I don’t love this, but I think he’s the most attainable one that’s available. He’s unrestricted, and could look to bet on himself in a situation where he could shine some. Enter the Magic, and it makes sense. His defensive shortcomings could be cleaned up by the likes of Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon and Mo Bamba behind him, so I think it could work. Thomas also gives the Magic someone who can go get his own bucket, which they desperately need.
2. Dante Exum -- The old Magic regime passed on Exum once, and I think this one would jump at the opportunity to get him. He’s restricted, which will make it more complicated, but they could put an offer sheet out there that could make it tough for the Jazz to match. He’s still really young, and has potential to be tapped into. He’d fit right into the core and give the Magic, potentially, their point for the future.
3. Fred VanVleet -- I like VanVleet a lot. He really found a niche with the Raptors last season, and was an important part of their bench. I think it will be harder to get VanVleet from the Raptors than Exum from the Jazz, but that would be a big win for the Magic to get him. I don’t think he’s a long-term starter, but he would bring a lot of needed stability to the Magic backcourt.
4. Devin Harris -- I said this point guard class wasn’t great. Harris, much like D.J. Augustin, is much more fit for a backup roll right now, but could still be a decent option at a relatively low price. He can score some, and would be able to split time with Augustin. It’d be a very low risk signing overall.
5. Tim Frazier -- Frazier was disappointing for the Wizards last season. I think with a little more consistent playing time could turn things around again. He’d be a relatively cheap option, and is still young. Again, not likely a long-term solution, but would give them depth and could fit in nicely.
1) Fred VanVleet – I think VanVleet fits exactly what the Magic should be looking for. But again, he’s a restricted free agent. I’m putting him here on the list, but I realize he’s probably a little out of Orlando’s price range.
2) Yogi Ferrell, 3) Seth Curry – See above
4) Shabazz Napier – I guess he fits this list, I don’t know? I realize Napier already had one stint in Orlando that ended rather abruptly, and the likelihood that he would come back to the Magic is slim to none. He deserves to be mentioned here nonetheless; Napier seemed to figure things out a bit in Portland the last couple of seasons.
5) Shane Larkin – Larkin played high school basketball in Central Florida and would (sort of) make sense for the Magic. He had a couple positive moments for the Celtics last year filling in for Kyrie Irving. Obviously he’s not any kind of long term solution, but the Magic could get away with Larkin for a season as a back-up (splitting time with Augustin).
I get that my list isn’t overly inspiring as far as “power rankings” go. I intentionally left a lot of free agent point guard options off the table for various reasons (cost, fit, likely lack of desire to come to Orlando, etc.). Guys such as Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Rajon Rondo, Elfrid Payton, and Dante Exum just aren’t very likely to sign with the Magic (or be pursued by the organization).
Let me begin by saying I don’t see the Magic making any significant financial commitments for a back-up point guard at this stage of the rebuild. I think it will be a veteran in the range of $2 million to $3 million per. Had they wanted to shell out more for D.J. Augustin’s back-up, they would have been better off keeping Shelvin Mack, rather then paying him $1 million to go away. Plus, I don’t really understand the urgency for a marquee point guard in Orlando right now, unless its a player that has potential to be a part of their future. The way some Magic fans are clamoring for a point guard you’d think it was 2009 when Jameer Nelson went down. Sure, VanVleet would be a good get, but he will likely be out of the Magic’s price range so I won’t include him here. Same with Exum, whom I’m not sure is the right fit for an Orlando team in need of a backcourt that can stretch the floor. Curry I see more as a shooting guard so I’ll leave him off the list, as well.
1. Shabazz Napier - Officially an unrestricted free agent after the Blazers opted not extend a qualifying offer despite having a career-year last season
2. Yogi Ferrell - His score-first mentality could be what the Magic need off the bench
3. Andrew Harrison - Showed flashes of his scoring ability in Mike Conley’s absence
4. Tim Frazier - Disappointed last season with the Wizards but only a year removed from a productive season with the Pelicans
5. Jameer Nelson - Because I’m a sentimental guy. Maybe the Magic draft a PG next season and Nelson stays on as a mentor, beginning on a path that leads to becoming an assistant coach or front office exec in Orlando
Should the Magic match any offer that Aaron Gordon receives?
Zach Oliver: I’ve been very bullish on this topic. I’ve said that I would let Gordon walk in certain scenarios. I don’t think he’s a max level player, and I think putting that money into him is betting on him really becoming a next level player. I don’t know if he can get there. I think there’s still some questions that need to be answered about Gordon, especially with the roster construction now.
That all being said.. I think they should match any offer. He’s still a talented young player. He’s coming off a nice season, and I think it was a good learning season for him. He needed to try and learn to be “the guy” and I think he might’ve learned a little bit. His shot selection still needs work, and I think his decision making could use to improve as well.
At the end of the day, they can’t let someone who could be a second or third option on a really good team walk. Plus, he’d be a very big trade chip for them for the next few years as he enters into his prime.
Aaron Goldstone: Yes they should. How about that for a concise answer? There’s really nothing complicated here, the Magic need to bring Gordon back. I’m actually confident that the Magic will work something out with Gordon and his camp before he even has a chance to receive an offer sheet from another organization.
The goal for the Magic should be to offer a deal to the versatile forward that comes in close to the max, but not at it. Obviously, if the Magic come in early in the process with a low offer, Gordon will seek offer sheets from other clubs. At that point, Orlando would leave themselves open to having to possibly match a maximum offer from another team (keep in mind, the Magic have the ability to offer Gordon more than anyone else can).
Gordon’s ultimate total contract figure may scare some people, but it’s something that needs to be done. With Bismack Biyombo not coming off Orlando’s books until 2020, the Magic will have little flexibility to improve the quality of their roster for the next couple years (with or without Gordon). Teams are allowed to go over the salary cap to retain their own free agents, and that’s the direction the Magic are heading.
Gordon is still young enough where the team could easily trade him in the third or fourth year of his next contract if they wanted to. Gordon has his faults. His jumper is still far from consistent, his shot selection was often puzzling last season, and his defensive contributions have been waning as of late.
At this point, Gordon is the closest thing this organization has to a potential superstar. You can hope Jonathan Isaac turns into that kind of player; you can feel confident that Mohamed Bamba will develop into that kind of player as well. But right now, it’s time to bet on Gordon. Pay him, support him, and provide him the opportunity to continue to grow into the kind of player we hope he can be in Orlando.
Mike Cali: There should not be a second of hesitation on the Magic’s part. I mean, if they were to let Gordon walk, who exactly are they spending the money on? I think we’d all agree that Gordon’s current skill set and production doesn’t warrant a max deal. But an organization like Orlando, that won’t attract any marquee free agents right now, has no choice but to pay for potential and gamble on one of their own. I wrote more extensively about this subject at the end of the season when I said that Victor Oladipo showed why the Magic must keep Aaron Gordon.
Do you see Mario Hezonja being re-signed? What is he worth?
Zach Oliver: No. Hezonja won’t be back with the Magic. If they wanted him back, they would’ve picked up his fourth year option. He never really made the progress that they needed him to. He’s probably a $5-6 million a year player. Maybe someone will give him the mid-level, but he’s going to end up being a career backup who, from time-to-time, could have big games.
Aaron Goldstone: I don’t see Mario Hezonja back with the Magic. By declining his fourth-year option last October, the organization really cornered themselves as far as what they can now offer Hezonja.
According to salary cap rules created by the most recent CBA, the most the Magic can offer Hezonja next season is the equivalent of what his contract would have been in the fourth year of his rookie contract ($5.2M). From there (if the Magic wanted to offer Hezonja more than one year), the team is limited to offering Hezonja 8% raises for each additional year of a potential deal.
Hezonja will probably be able to get better offers from other teams around the league. I know some people in Sacramento’s front office, namely Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic, have been fond of Hezonja for some time.
I think Hezonja will also have to consider his potential role on the Magic moving forward, or lack thereof, when deciding where to sign in the next couple weeks. Yes, Hezonja showed improvement in his play when given an opportunity and role on the team last season. But to be completely honest, I’m not sure Hezonja gets that opportunity if Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross, and Jonathon Simmons don’t miss the significant amount of games that they did.
With all of those guys back on the team and healthy, what kind of permanent role can the Magic honestly provide Hezonja with.
If Jeff Weltman and John Hammond wanted Hezonja back, they would have picked up his fourth-year option last October. They chose not to, which is pretty unheard of, and now it seems likely (at least to me) that the Magic and Hezonja will part ways.
Mike Cali: I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate and say that, somehow, Hezonja ends up staying in Orlando, even if only on a one-year deal for the $5.2 million (assuming the Magic front office will even offer the exact salary they declined on Hezonja’s fourth-year option). I know how silly it sounds considering the Magic essentially packed his bags for him by declining his option. But we all saw shades of potential when Hezonja got extended minutes during the Magic’s injury ravaged season, and maybe Weltman and Hammond saw enough to realize that declining the option was a mistake.
With teams gearing up for the free agent classes of 2019 and 2020, I don’t see Hezonja getting offered more than say a two-year deal for $12 million or so. Maybe, from a financial standpoint, that’s not enough to convince Hezonja to leave. After all, he has publicly declared his love for Orlando, even saying the Magic are his “number-one option.”
“I want to play with one team [in his career],” Hezonja said. “That’s my goal since I came here. I really want to make it work [in Orlando] 100 percent. So that’s why I say it’s my number-one option. But we’ll see in July what’s going to happen.”
Of course, the healthy returns of Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross add to the Magic’s logjam on the wing, making playing time harder to come by for Hezonja. So a short-term deal with a team that can offer more minutes could be what leads to Hezonja leaving Orlando, not money. And there are already Hezonja rumors floating around out there...
As free agency opens, there is mutual interest between Mario Hezonja and the Knicks, sources say. Hezonja has multiple suitors and the Knicks are looking to offer short-term contracts to maintain cap space for 2019. Sacramento also has interest in Hezonja.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) July 1, 2018
The Magic are pretty strapped financially, give us one trade proposal (approved on the ESPN Trade Machine) that the Magic should make to address their needs.
Zach Oliver: This is a fun one. I think there’s some moves out there the Magic could make that wouldn’t cost them too much. The one I look at is pretty simple, though.
Orlando gets - Thomas Satoransky
Washington gets - OKC 2020 first
Simply put, the Magic get a point guard, and can take Satoransky’s money into their cap space. He had a nice season with the Wizards last year, but with the recent acquisition of Austin Rivers likely pushes him out. The OKC pick will likely be a very late first round pick, and is very low risk to move. It’s a mediocre asset, and lets the Magic keep their options open with their other trade assets (Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross) for another potential move.
Aaron Goldstone: My idea, which involves the Magic acquiring Tyus Jones from the Minnesota Timberwolves, is just something random that I’ve wanted the team to do for some time. I think Jones would be perfect for the Magic. At 22, he fits in with the age range of the rest of Orlando’s core (Gordon, Isaac, Bamba). Jones has improved his shooting efficiency every season he’s played in the NBA (36%, 41%, 46%). He’s not a flashy player, and I realize that his ceiling is not that high. But he would be able to run the offense for 25 minutes a game without hurting the team (career 3.8 A/TO), and he would provide a perfect stopgap until the organization can figure out a more permanent solution to the position. Heading into his fourth season in the NBA, Jones has never really gotten an opportunity in Minnesota. He spent most of his rookie season (’15-’16) on the bench or in the D-League, and played sparingly off the bench for the Wolves in ’16-’17.
Jones was the team’s primary back-up point guard last year, even starting 11 games for Minnesota when Jeff Teague missed some time due to injury. But he played sparingly down the stretch, even being passed over at times on the depth chart in favor of veteran lead guard Aaron Brooks.
Jones, a Minnesota native, would probably welcome a new opportunity with a franchise that could offer him a larger role. But it was kind of hard for me to come up with a deal that made sense. The Wolves are going to be up against the hard cap this year as the Andrew Wiggins deal kicks in. They would have no interest in bringing in any of Orlando’s veterans (and their salaries) such as Biyombo, Vucevic, Ross, Fournier, etc.
So I kind of went skimpy with this deal, and drafted up a Trade Machine approved deal that would send Jones (who only has one more year left on his rookie contract) to Orlando for Wes Iwundu and the OKC First Round pick in 2020 (Top-20 protected).
Iwundu makes close to the minimum, and his contract expires at the end of next season. He would provide the Wolves with a body in the deal, without taking on any kind of long-term money. The Wolves would be paid off for trading away their former first round pick with a future pick that’s relatively protected.
The Magic, who have a gluttony of wings, can afford to balance out their roster by trading a wing for a point guard. The Magic get a one year look at Jones, and it costs them a late heavily protected pick. The Magic could probably get away with including multiple second round picks in this deal rather than the OKC ’20 protected pick if they wanted to, I’m not sure that would make much of a difference.
I thought about trying to include other pieces in this deal, but I couldn’t find anything that worked. Cole Aldrich has a contract that is partially guaranteed until June 30th. By the time this piece is published, he may have already been waived by the Timberwolves.
The Magic throw in a draft pick if needed to make it work and get not one but two point guards, including Russell, who I still believe can improve his shot and develop into an All-Star, and thus become part of the Magic future if they re-sign him. Orlando rids itself of Vooch, paving the way for more opportunity for Mo Bamba, and parts with Terrence Ross, maybe making the return of Hezonja a little more likely.
The Nets get out from under Jeremy Lin’s contract, opening up more cap space for the summer of 2019, where they have already positioning themselves to be major players.
Orlando moves forward with a core that includes a pair of 20-year olds, Mo Bamba and Jonathan Isaac, and a pair of 22-year olds, Aaron Gordon and D’Angelo Russell,