Point guard was easily the most frustrating position for the Orlando Magic last season.
After three years of stability in the form of Elfrid Payton, there have been more questions than answers about the future of that role. The Magic have plugged in career journeymen, former blue-chippers, players that hadn’t had a shot before, and some that proved they aren’t worth another.
That’s sure to change this season — and it could be as soon as Sunday.
Before we take a look at what’s available, let’s take a look at what the Magic could bring back.
While D.J. Augustin, Payton’s former backup, has performed admirably well as the starter in Orlando, it was never supposed to be this way. Plenty of teams would absolutely love to have him run their second unit, but with the position as deep as it’s ever been league-wide, he’s a bottom-five starter in the NBA.
To his credit, Augustin has had arguably the best stretch of his career over the last two seasons, shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game, but he could use some help. He’s the only true point guard currently on the books for next season, so the Magic will have to find it somewhere.
Markelle Fultz is the hope of the Orlando Magic, plain and simple. At this stage in his career, he’s nothing but an enigmatic bag of questions covered in potential, but that last bit is just enough to keep the Magic in a holding pattern indefinitely to see what he can be.
Drafted No. 1 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers just two years ago, everything after that date has been a downhill slide into the truly bizarre. We all know the drill, and there’s no reason to re-hash Fultz’s problems here, but it’s certain that the Orlando Magic braintrust of Jeff Weltman and John Hammond will be making every move with Fultz in mind, as either an off-guard or the primary ball handler.
Like Augustin, former Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams has enjoyed a rebirth in Orlando. The 6-foot-6-inch point guard fits well in Steve Clifford’s system, as he has enjoyed relative success off the bench while playing for Cliff in both Orlando and Charlotte.
MCW is an unrestricted free agent, but it would make a ton of sense for him to return. He was a pivotal bench piece during Orlando’s impressive playoff push, and after playing for five teams in the last four years, some stability could be refreshing for the 28-year-old guard.
Isaiah Briscoe is fun. He’s built like a Tonka truck, and his 6-foot-3-inch height boasts an absurd 6-foot-8-inch wingspan. He has played everywhere from overseas to the G-League, and when the Magic gave the former Kentucky guard his first NBA shot last year, he didn’t disappoint.
That being said, it would be hard to imagine the Magic bringing him back as an unrestricted free agent, even if they choose to stand pat at the position. Based on their play last year, Carter-Williams seems to be the preferential piece if Orlando chooses to add depth.
Now that we’ve established what the Magic had, let’s see what they can add.
The Magic are projected to have little to no cap space this offseason, especially with their ability to sign Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross via Bird Rights. Still, both players are unrestricted free agents and it’s possible that they lose one or both. The Magic have a path to $21.4 million by renouncing all of their cap holds, so let’s have some fun with it.
Update: Marc Stein is reporting that the Magic plan to offer Vucevic a four-year, $90 million contract, so for any of this to be possible, he would need to refuse it and sign elsewhere.
“It was all a dream” may be a great representation of the Magic’s potential pursuit of Brooklyn point guard D’Angelo Russell.
Russell is on the heels of his first All-Star season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. After being banished from Los Angeles and spending most of 2017-18 on the shelf with an injury, Russell led the lowly Nets to their first playoff appearance since the front office decided that the 2013 season was a 2K game.
Armed with this career year as leverage, Russell enters (restricted) free agency slated to make as much as $27 million a year. As previously noted, the Magic have only $21.4 million in possible cap space, which would be needed to sign a new player.
Russell’s trajectory to Orlando would take a real lining up of events. First, Brooklyn would need to renounce him to make room for Kyrie Irving or another possible star, which is the most likely part of the equation. Next, Vucevic would need to turn down the Magic’s offer, then several other stars (Leonard, Durant, Walker) would need to choose to sign with new teams to keep the market down. Even still, Russell would have to take a paycut, making it unlikely. We can always dream, though.
Malcolm Brogdon is a dream fit in Orlando’s system. He can score efficiently, play both guard spots, defend at a high level, and he would work with or without Markelle Fultz.
Brogdon has improved in each of his three seasons in the league, despite a late start to his career, and when I say he’s efficient – I mean like VORP Twitter’s fantasies come to life. Last season Brogdon shot 51 percent from the floor and 43 percent from three. He actually led the league in free-throw percentage, something I didn’t think was legal with Steph Curry still alive.
After paying Eric Bledsoe during the playoffs, it became clear that the Bucks would have to really work to get under the luxury tax while paying their guard trio of Bledsoe, Brogdon, and Khris Middleton, all of whom were up this offseason. Offers are expected to range from $17-20 million, and a number on the high end could seriously make the Bucks consider letting him walk.
If I had one wish, it would be that the Magic decide to be the team to offer that four-year contract to the 26-year-old former Rookie of the Year.
Ricky Rubio is another system fit, although his timeline doesn’t line up with this Orlando team like some others on the list.
Rubio is about to turn 29 and has become a fixture on a Jazz team that pounds the air out of the ball and defends relentlessly. Signing a player like Rubio would signal a commitment to that style in Orlando, which may not necessarily be a good thing, but it would be something.
Derrick Rose’s 2018-19 was pretty much an extended music video for “I Ain’t as Good as I Once Was.” Yeah, he’ll probably never get back to that MVP form, but he’s got enough left in the tank to average 18 points per game and drop 50 on a given night. Maybe that’s just enough to be the spark Orlando needs.
In a world without Vucevic and Terrence Ross (who we’re assuming are gone to create cap space here), a player like Rose would be a jolt of energy to a Magic team with a defensive identity.
It may not be reliable, practical, or advisable, but it would be fun.
Ever since being a pivotal piece of Boston’s playoff run in 2017-18, “Scary Terry” Rozier has done pretty much everything imaginable to scare away his own team and potential suitors in free agency.
After averaging 16.5 points and 5.7 assists per game as the Celtic’s starting point guard in that postseason, he struggled to re-adjust to a bench role with the return of Kyrie Irving at the start of this season. Rozier compounded that by making some really wild comments (please click that link) after the season, all but cementing that he would not be back in Boston.
Many Magic fans salivated over that 2017-18 version of Roizer. He was fiery, he was clutch, he was a leader. But it seems like all of that may be in the past, and what we’re left with is a guard whose career field goal percentage (38%) is lower than Brogdon’s career three-point percentage (41%).
Cory Joseph is a solid backup, and at 27, he’s right in that sweet spot of being a young veteran with playoff experience that can add to any point guard situation. His numbers aren’t great, and he wouldn’t be the starter, but he would be a nice piece to pair with Augustin and Fultz.