As the beginning of free agency inches closer, the Orlando Magic took care of some procedural moves on Tuesday.
First, the team announced they had picked up the third-year option on swingman Wes Iwundu’s rookie contract, which was a mere formality. Iwundu, who struggled to get consistent minutes in the first half of the season while splitting time with Jonathon Simmons, played a big role off the bench for the Magic in the second half of the season.
While he didn’t score the ball at a high rate, Iwundu’s defense helped spark the second unit that struggled to find consistency in the first half of the season. He was always finding the right spots, and doing what his team needed him to do, and not trying to do too much.
Add in the Magic being strapped for cap space this summer, limiting their chances to add more to their bench, and keeping Iwundu around at $1.6 million makes even more sense.
On top of picking up Iwundu’s option, the Magic also tendered qualifying offers to Khem Birch and Amile Jefferson, making both restricted free agents come June 30th.
Extending the qualifying offer to Birch makes a lot of sense for the Magic. With uncertainty surrounding Nikola Vucevic’s future, and soon-to-be second-year man Mo Bamba as the only center on the roster, having the opportunity to keep Birch could be massive for the Magic.
Much like Iwundu, Birch was able to make a sizable impact on the team off the bench in the second half of the season. Once Bamba went down with a season-ending leg injury, Birch stepped in and made an immediate impact with his hard screens, tenacious defense and strong rebounding.
Keeping Birch, who some believe is going to have a lot of suitors this summer, could be one of the top goals on the Magic’s list.
Tendering Jefferson is a little more of a head scratching move for the Magic. While many in the franchise have talked very highly of Jefferson, he’s seemingly stuck between being a power forward and a center at the NBA level, and with Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac, along with first round pick Chuma Okeke at power forward, it’s hard to envision Jefferson finding much time, should he accept that offer.
Likely this is a move by the Magic to protect themselves incase they get push out of their price range on Birch, or even Vucevic. Having the insurance of being able to match any offer Jefferson might get gives them some more options, even if it does limit their flexibility.
The Magic still have a few more decisions to make before the start of the moratorium period on Sunday at 6 P.M, though Tuesday’s moves likely indicated what their decision is.
Orlando still has the opportunity to extend qualifying offers to Jerian Grant and Jarell Martin, who both enter free agency for the first time after one season with the team. Neither Grant nor Martin made much of an impact this season, with Grant being pushed to the bench for 10-day contract signee Michael Carter-Williams at one point. It’s hard to see the Magic keeping either of them, and with them not tendering qualifying offers to them on Tuesday, it’s likely both have played their last minutes in a Magic uniform.