The Magic offseason has reached the free agency stage. And it’s become even more clear that some help will be needed at small forward.
Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel reported that the Magic extended a qualifying offer to Gary Clark, giving the team the ability to match any offer he receives as a restricted free agent. They also parted ways with Wes Iwundu, who was not extended a qualifying offer, and Melvin Frazier Jr., whose third-year team option was declined.
The Magic will extend a qualifying offer to forward Gary Clark (making him a restricted FA). The team will not extend an offer to forward Wes Iwundu and will not pick up the option on Melvin Frazier Jr., according to league sources.— Roy Parry (@osroyparry) November 19, 2020
When James Ennis declined his player option to enter free agency (though he could still remain with the Magic), it seemed to increase the likelihood that the Magic’s potential free-agents-to-be would remain. Of the incumbents, the team prioritized Clark, who was signed to a 10-day contract in January and went on to start all five games in the playoffs in place of Aaron Gordon. In 24 games with the Magic during the regular season, Clark averaged 3.6 points and 2.9 rebounds while shooting 41.9 percent from the field (35.0 percent from three)
That signified the end of a three-year stay in Orlando for Wes Iwundu, who the Magic selected with the 33rd overall pick in the 2017 draft. Iwundu, who started 21 games this season, averaged 5.8 points and 2.5 rebounds while shooting 41.6 percent from the field (34.1 percent from three).
It came as somewhat of a surprise that the Magic opted to extend a qualifying offer to the newcomer Clark over Iwundu when they post equal production, are the same age and had similar cap holds ($2.0 million for Iwundu, $1.8 million for Clark, per Basketball Insiders).
The difference could be that Clark offers more frontcourt versatility with his ability to play the three or the four, and the fact that he is a much more willing three-point shooter, with 81.1 percent of his field goal attempts while with Orlando coming from beyond the arc (97 percent in the playoffs!). Just 35.2 percent of Iwundu’s field goal attempts this season came from deep. While neither players’ percentage was great, on a shooting-starved team like the Magic, even the threat of firing away creates at least some space.
Iwundu took to Twitter to bid farewell to Orlando.
Beautiful city of Orlando, Thank You.⚡️— Wes Iwundu (@_Iwundu25) November 19, 2020
Frazier, who the Magic selected with the 35th overall pick in the 2018 draft, played in just 29 games over two seasons for the Magic.
The Magic took Melvin Frazier Jr. (35th pick) in ‘18 ahead of Mitchell Robinson, Gary Trent, Bruce Brown, De’Anthony Melton, and Svi Mykhailuk.— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) November 19, 2020
The Magic decided today not to exercise their team option on Frazier Jr. He appeared in 29 games (170 total minutes) over two seasons.
Heading into the start of free agency on Friday, the over-the-cap Magic have 11 players under contract, and depending on what Clark commands on the market and whether or not the team is ready to give a starting role to Chuma Okeke, a potential hole to fill at small forward.
Even if Clark returns, the Magic would be wise to use their mid-level exception on a starting-caliber upgrade at the position.