ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news late Tuesday night that the Orlando Magic have come to an agreement with restricted free agent big man Khem Birch on a two-year, six million dollar deal to stay with the organization.
Birch has appeared in 92 games for the Magic over the last two seasons, averaging 4.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in 13.3 minutes per game.
The 26 year-old Montreal-native served as the team’s back-up center when rookie Mohamed Bamba went down with a left leg injury last season. The insertion of Birch into Coach Steve Clifford’s regular rotation coincided with Orlando’s late season playoff push. Birch appeared in all five playoff games for the Magic in ‘19, scoring 5.2 points and pulling down 6.2 rebounds (55.6% FG%).
Jeff Weltman mentioned yesterday after the team’s “free agency” press conference that he was still in contact with Khem’s representatives.
“We’re trying to see if we can work something out,” Weltman told Orlando reporters yesterday just outside of the press room (inside the Amway Center). “Obviously, he played well for us last year and he’s got other teams that are interested in him as well.
“We’re hopeful we can bring him back, but if not, we’ll have to finish our roster in another way,” Weltman added.
It appears that Weltman and the Magic were able to fight off other interested teams and come to an agreement with Birch for two more seasons. Birch was a restricted free agent, meaning even if another team would have offered Khem a contract (and presuming he would have signed the offer sheet), Orlando still would have retained the right to match the offer.
After coming to new contract agreements with Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross, and Al-Farouq Aminu shortly after free agency began on June 30th, it wasn’t exactly clear that the Magic were going to be able to afford Birch.
That all changed Sunday when the organization announced that they were waiving (and reportedly stretching the contract of) Timofey Mozgov. The Russian center was set to make $16.7 million in ‘19-’20, the final season of the four-year contract he signed with the Lakers in ‘16. Rather than letting Mozgov’s contract expire, the Orlando front office group elected to stretch Mozgov’s remaining money owed over the next three seasons. The move allows the Magic to avoid potential luxury tax costs this season, and likely provided an opportunity for Birch to come back as well.
“That was for financial purposes. Financial flexibility plays a big part in today’s NBA and roster building,” Weltman told me yesterday when asked about the decision to waive Mozgov.
After playing collegiately at both Pittsburgh and UNLV, Birch went undrafted and spent time in the NBA’s Developmental League before heading to Europe. Birch played both in Turkey and Greece before returning to the states with the Magic. The Canadian center started 20 games with the Lakeland Magic in 2017-2018 before finishing the season with Orlando.
Stay tuned for a formal announcement from the Magic regarding the re-signing of Birch. But for now, it looks like the Magic are bringing back yet another key piece of their playoff team from a season ago.