Day One of NBA Free Agency truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
It’s basketball Christmas, with dreams of tantalizing gifts (see: players) being found under the tree (see: Woj’s Twitter account). Also like Christmas, it tends to be a time of wild indulgence (remember this?) that can also result in heated dysfunction that is equal parts bizarre and hilarious (remember this?!). Pass the eggnog!
So, without further ado, let’s dive in and see whether the Magic managed to come away from a frenetic opening to free agency with hauls of treasure or lumps of coal.
Nikola Vucevic - 4 years, $100 million
It makes sense to start with the biggest deal of all, the one that was first reported, and the single offseason decision that will go the longest way towards determining what the Magic look like in the foreseeable future. Vucevic parlayed his recent All-Star success into a well-deserved contract that will pay him handsomely over the next four years. In terms of the center position, it was the second-greatest amount of money doled out on day one, behind only the $109 million that Al Horford secured from Philadelphia. For Orlando it was a necessary commitment to ensure continuity for a side that only just extricated itself from the doldrums of a prolonged rebuild.
So, with the big guy back and playoff basketball the new present in Orlando, we can deliver a verdict that declares this deal a resounding success, right? Well, maybe not so fast…
As I already outlined in the Free Agency Roundtable, I have some concerns regarding how this positions the Magic both within the current landscape and also down the line. Vooch undoubtedly put together a fantastic body of work last season, but his track record of contributing to winning basketball ain’t great. It’s also hard to envision him providing good value at the tail end of this contract, especially with Mo Bamba waiting in the wings. Plus, you know, there was the absolutely brutal playoff dismantling perpetrated by Marc Gasol.
With the return of Vucevic on a four-year deal, the Magic are, in many ways, locking themselves into the current core. Which, if you needed a reminder, was the seventh-seed in an Eastern Conference that is perhaps now even a little more competitive. Your celebration of this deal will likely vary depending on how happy you are just being invited to the party.
Terrence Ross - 4 years, $54 million
As soon as news leaked of the Vucevic deal, it seemed like a fait accompli that Ross would also be donning pinstripes again next season. Orlando’s front office had evidently decided to bring back the band that conducted last season’s playoff push, and the end result for the Magic’s super-sub was a four-year pact worth $54 million. The Human Torch will again ignite in Central Florida.
This seems like an excellent deal for the Magic. Ross is an indispensable part of their core, providing shooting and versatility for a bench largely lacking in both. That Orlando were able to get him back on a contract that only required a modest bump over his previous one -- an average of $13.5 million annually compared to $10.5 million -- should be seen as a win. That assessment can be doubled down on when one considers the number of contenders who were in the market for his skillset on the wing. Ross had options this offseason, yet he chose to come back at a cost that won’t clog up the team’s cap sheet.
Ross on his own isn’t enough shooting for this Magic side as currently constructed. But locking him up on the first day of free agency was an easy decision. Flame on.
Al-Farouq Aminu - 3 years, $29 million
The new face attached to Orlando after the feeding frenzy of the opening few hours is Aminu, the rangy power forward who was plying his trade in the Western Conference Finals just a few short weeks ago for the Portland Trail Blazers. The Magic evidently went after him hard, lobbing all of the mid-level exception his way and securing a commitment in just a few short hours.
Aminu is now a good player on a more-than-reasonable contract. He’s shown some proclivity for the long ball, shooting north of 33% from deep in each of the past four seasons. It’s his ability at the defensive end, however, that would have grabbed the attention of the Orlando front office (well, that and the wingspan in excess of seven feet). He racks up a decent amount of steals and blocks, has shown some ability to toggle between the two forward positions (although Portland used him almost exclusively at the four), and has consistently generated positive defensive impact via the metrics of box/plus minus (an average DBPM of +1.4 across his career) and win shares (10.3 total defensive win shares in his four seasons as a Blazer).
Still, it’s difficult to chalk this up as a clear win for the Magic. Aminu undoubtedly makes the team deeper and creates a competition for minutes that should have a positive effect. But he’s the third player on the roster with a preferred position of power forward (behind Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac, who are already being forced to learn to coexist as one fish in and one fish out of water). His addition also did nothing to address the more obvious need in the backcourt, particularly at the backup point guard position. It just feels like there should have been better options out there that make more sense in terms of the needs of the current roster.
Michael Carter-Williams - 1 year, app. $2 million (vet. minimum), 1 Instagram post
At the time of writing the specific contract details regarding the 2019/20 status of last season’s key Magic ring-in haven’t been totally nailed down. However, it’s more than likely a one-year deal at the minimum, which is a testament to Carter-Williams’ play after he joined the team. As the third piece in the Magic’s backcourt (behind incumbent starter DJ Augustin and incumbent enigma Markelle Fulltz) he now has some NBA security less than six months after it looked like his basketball career was headed overseas permanently. It’s a great rebound for a player who had a habit of nabbing key boards during his first stretch in pinstripes.
During the opening stages of Sunday’s free agency frenzy, MCW himself shared a picture on social media that featured him repping an Orlando jersey. When asked what the significance of the image was he responded with “you kno what that means”. Well, now that we have that all-important Woj tweet confirmation, we can say that we certainly are picking up what he was putting down in that post. But while his addition last season was a necessary one that paid off, and his presence this season goes some way towards addressing the team’s point guard paucity, the fact remains that his skill set doesn’t really provide the Magic with what they’re most lacking.
MCW’s tenacity, effort and passion last season were a nice find among limited resources that helped the team wriggle out of a tight spot. However, his return to the roster for the coming season represents a failure to address more pressing roster concerns. Let’s wait and see how this one plays out.
And with that we have a wrap on all the action from across the first 24 hours. The Magic took care of each of their most pressing items of business, including the re-signing of talent and the use of the mid-level exception. With those deals done all that remains is some tinkering around the margins; unless, of course, an unexpected trade market materializes.
Be sure to sound off in the comments and let the OPP community know what you think of the moves to date.