All along, Aaron Gordon has expressed his desire to remain with the Orlando Magic.
“Hopefully we just get it wrapped up with Orlando,” Gordon recently told ESPN’s Ian Begley. “That would be fantastic,”
Based on the moves made so far on the first day of free agency, it appears more likely than ever that he will indeed remain in Orlando. And at a price that is potentially far below the five-year, nearly $150 million max offer he was eligible for.
It was almost a guarantee that the Magic would have matched any offer that Gordon received as a restricted free agent anyway. That most teams know this will likely limit, if not entirely eliminate, the number of offer sheets that Gordon receives. Before the clock struck midnight on Sunday, the teams that had been most rumored to have interest in Gordon included the Pacers, the Suns and to a lesser extent, the Mavericks.
Each of the three teams made signings on Sunday that essentially removed them from the equation.
Initially, the Suns waived point guard Tyler Ulis, bringing their cap space to around $18.5 million and making the likelihood of an offer to Gordon more realistic. The Suns then signed Trevor Ariza to a one-year, $15 million deal, using up nearly all of their cap space and ensuring that, outside of sign-and-trade, Gordon will not be returning to the Arizona area where he starred with the Wildcats.
Now onto the Pacers, who’s chances of making a big splash in free agency took somewhat of a hit when Thaddeus Young exercised his $13.7 million option. Still, they had room to target Gordon...
With the $10.5M Bojan Bogdanovic salary likely becoming guaranteed today, Indiana will enter free agency with $12M in room that could increase to $22.2M. The room takes into account free agent cap holds removed and Al Jefferson waived prior to his July... https://t.co/rqhvKUGfq8— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) June 29, 2018
Potential offer sheet target for Indiana Pacers' anticipated $20M-plus in salary cap space, league sources tell ESPN: Orlando Magic restricted free agent forward Aaron Gordon.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 28, 2018
On Sunday, though, the Pacers agreed to a three-year, $22 million deal with Doug McDermott, meaning that $20 million per offer for Gordon would no longer be on the table.
The Mavericks also quickly bowed out of the Gordon Sweepstakes. It was in February that Sean Devaney of Sporting News first reported that the Mavs had interest in Gordon.
Another team with interest in Gordon, according to sources, would be the rebuilding Mavericks, who have been eager to find a budding star to fill in alongside Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith Jr., softening the blow of Dirk Nowitzki’s retirement, which could come in just months.
The Mavs of course made a Draft night trade to get Luka Doncic, giving them that potential budding star to play alongside Dennis Smith Jr. And then on Sunday...
DeAndre Jordan and the Dallas Mavericks have verbally agreed on a one-year deal approaching the $24.1 million option with the Clippers for next season that Jordan relinquished Friday, according to league sources— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) July 1, 2018
Has the market for Aaron Gordon has essentially dried up? There are only a handful of teams remaining with salary cap flexibility. If the Lakers and Sixers strike out on LeBron and Kawhi, might they extend an offer to Gordon? Unlikely. The Kings have about $17 million to play with but with the drafting of power forward Marvin Bagley III, don’t really have a need for Gordon.
What this all means is the Magic made a wise decision in not bidding against themselves by making a panic offer to Gordon at the start of free agency and overpaying for the next four to five years. They let the market dictate his value and it seems that it is about to work in their favor.
That being said, the Magic should be wise in how they handle their negotiations with the player that most represents the face of their franchise. Just because they may escape any scenario in which they have to match a hefty offer or pay Gordon the max, this is not the time to make a lowball offer to a 22-year-old with untapped potential who could be a part of the organization for years to come.
Just bc the market is drying up, doesn’t mean ORL should use it against AG. You want an amicable relationship going forward. You want him happy and motivated. 4/80 feels right.— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) July 1, 2018
Jeff Weltman and John Hammond are probably smart enough to realize this and will likely present Gordon with a fair offer in a timely manner.
Barring an unexpected team jumping into the mix, it seems the Gordon scenario will play out as ideally as it could have for the Magic. They would retain what they hope is a key piece to their rebuild while possibly paying less than most expected.
If so, they can thank the Suns, Pacers and Mavericks for that.