James Ennis reportedly has opted to test the market, leaving a temporary hole in the Magic’s starting lineup.
Ennis declining his $2.1 million option was somewhat expected, and the possibility remains that he returns to the Magic on a slightly more lucrative deal. Orlando, by holding Ennis’ Early Bird Rights, can sign Ennis to 175 percent of his previous salary ($3.7 million) or the NBA average. Ennis, of course, potentially could command more from another team seeking a 3-and-D wing.
Acquired in a February trade with the Sixers, Ennis started 18 of 20 games for the Magic, allowing Aaron Gordon to primarily play power forward in the absence of Jonathan Isaac. The insertion of Ennis into the starting lineup coincided with the Magic’s offensive outburst and 8-4 stretch before the league paused on March 11. During the regular season, Ennis averaged 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds and shot 45.1 percent from the field. With 47.4 percent of his field goal attempts coming from deep, he hit just 28.6 percent from three, down from 34.9 percent during the first half of the season with the Sixers.
That dropped even further in the playoffs, where Ennis shot just 34.3 percent overall, including 25 percent from deep. He proved his value on the opposite end of the court, playing tenacious defense on Bucks’ All-Star Khris Middleton.
Would have been beneficial for the Magic had Ennis opted in, but it’s an understandable financial move on his part.
If Ennis doesn’t return, it leaves another void for the Magic to address either through the draft or their limited maneuverability in free agency. The long-term hope would be for Chuma Okeke to step into a starting role, but it’s unlikely the Magic thrust a rookie coming off major surgery and a lengthy rehab into such a meaningful position so quickly. Al-Farouq Aminu is another internal option if at full strength.
The Magic also have decisions to make over the next few days on qualifying offers for Wes Iwundu ($2.0 million) and Gary Clark ($1.8 million), as well as a team option on Melvin Frazier ($1.7 million), in addition to sorting out their point guard depth.