Cap Space & Free-Agency Make Orlando Magic ‘Real Important’ This Offseason: Execs

Among the Orlando Magic's decisions this summer are whether to pursue free-agent Gary Trent Jr. (left) and whether to keep Markelle Fultz (right).

Getty Among the Orlando Magic's decisions this summer are whether to pursue free-agent Gary Trent Jr. (left) and whether to keep Markelle Fultz (right).

They are sitting on two picks in the Top 11 in the NBA draft. They have the reigning Rookie of the Year—last year’s No. 1 pick, Paolo Banchero—and six of their Top 8 scorers were 23 years old or younger. They have the capacity to create as much as $60 million in cap space, or to have about $25 million to offer even without making any moves.

There’s a lot that has gone right for the Orlando Magic during their current rebuild, and the team—which has just two playoff appearances in the last 11 years—now is in a position to be one of the most influential teams this offseason.

If they want to, that is.

“They could put together some serious cap space,” one Eastern Conference executive said. “They could sign two guys to big contracts. They could trade away some of their draft assets to get experienced players and just really put everything into turning that corner and becoming a playoff team. But you get the sense that they’re also thinking about taking a small step forward this year, then making the splash next summer. What they do this summer will be real important.”

Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz Expected to Return

That could be key for several free agents this year. The Magic have three players with significant team options or partial guarantees—Jonathan Isaac ($7.6 million of $17.4 million is guaranteed) and Markelle Fultz ($2 million of $17 million guaranteed), plus a pure option on Gary Harris ($13 million next season if the team keeps him).

The expectation is that the Magic will keep Isaac, because his partial guarantee this season becomes fully non-guaranteed next year.

“It can’t hurt to have him back out there, see if he can contribute,” one Western Conference executive said. “But maybe you get something out of him. If not, you play out the year and you can be rid of his contract completely next summer. That’s a worthwhile risk.”

Fultz is a sure thing to be back—and execs project he could get an extension. Fultz has struggled to stay healthy, but did play 60 games last year and had his best season, averaging 14.0 points on 51.4% shooting.

Could Gary Trent, Grant Williams Be in Magic’s Future?

Harris is another story. While he was the Magic’s best shooter from the 3-point arc last season, making 43.1% of his 3s, he is 28 and a bit outside the age range of Orlando’s core. He has been a solid leader for the team, but also struggled to stay healthy (48 games last year).

The Magic, according to league sources, have their eyes firmly on Toronto free-agent guard Gary Trent Jr., a solid two-way guard who averaged 17.4 points last season and made 38.4% of his career 3-point tries.

“He’d be a good bet as their top priority in free agency,” the East exec said. “But that’s if they want to go all in.”

It’s possible the Magic could make a run at Trent while keeping Harris aboard. They have the space for that. But that brings us to the deeper question the exec raised: Do they want more? Do they go all-in now?

If so, the Magic could let Harris walk and create around $40 million in cap space to go after another free agent. Fellow Raptor Fred VanVleet has been rumored to be among Orlando’s targets, though some sources say the team will take a year to see how combo guards Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs continue their development before addressing the point-guard spot more fully.

Another potential target that continually crops up around the Magic is Celtics forward Grant Williams, a restricted free agent who would add experience, toughness and 3-and-D versatility. But the Celtics can match any offer, so unless Orlando is willing to put forth an unusually large sum for Williams, Boston probably will keep him.

“He is 24, he has proven his chops, on both ends,” the West exec said. “You can’t coach that kind of experience. He’s got it. He is a perfect fit there. You want to become a playoff team, he is the kind of guy they’d want. But Orlando would have to overpay to get him and it is tough to expect a team to do that. Obviously, if you are Williams, you want to see the Magic being aggressive on the market.”

A summer in which the Magic come out with two lottery-pick players, plus Trent and Williams, would put the franchise in playoff contention sooner rather than later. They were 34-48, six games out of a play-in spot, last year.

Patience Could Be the Order of the Day in Orlando

But the Magic are also in position to continue showing patience. That’s because, with Isaac’s contract set to be fully nonguaranteed, and with Fultz and Harris running up, too, the Magic could have room in 2024 for two max-contract deals.

That’s more than highly unlikely, of course. But there is a remote possibility that some among the group of Jaylen Brown, Domantas Sabonis, Paul George, Pascal Siakam, Kawhi Leonard and DeJounte Murray could be on the market.

Or, more realistic (and non-max) targets like OG Anunoby, Tyus Jones, Malik Monk and Jarred Vanderbilt may be there, too.

“They could wait for 2024 to make their move,” the East exec said. “But it is not necessarily going to be a great market then. So if there is someone they want, I’d expect them to target him now and then deal with 2024 when 2024 comes. It’s tough to make that call sometimes. They’re not going to get Kawhi, you know? So it doesn’t make sense to pass over someone like Trent, if that’s who they want, to focus on next summer. The market is just not going to be there. I’d expect them to make a move on a good, experienced young guy this year.”

That may not qualify as dominating the offseason. But it will put the Magic in the middle of the action.

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Alfred Loo
Alfred Loo
3 months ago

wow nba executives talk a lot