After getting the foundation of his team in the Dwight Howard blockbuster, Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan shifted his focus to the draft, a tool that has been, and will continue to be, vital in his quest to build a championship contender in Orlando. However, Hennigan knows that he can’t just focus on the draft and trades as ways to build a contender.
During the team’s exit interviews, Hennigan said that the team would continue to be “methodical and strategic” on how they added to the team. One of the things Hennigan said the team would do is be “opportunistic” in both trades and free agency. While their activity level in both those facets is to be determined, they have the flexibility moving forward to be active in both areas.
With the cap projected to go up nearly $5 million next season, the Magic are sitting in position to potentially make a big splash in free agency, whether that be this offseason or next. If they choose to go after someone this offseason, and the cap does in fact go up roughly $5 million, the franchise will have roughly $18 million to spend before the signing of their projected two lottery picks. However, that number could jump to upwards of $40 million next offseason, one many expect the Magic to be more active in.
Hennigan did tell reporters that they would be actively looking in free agency, saying they would “look at who is available, what’s realistic and what’s unrealistic.”
In his first full offseason with the organization, Hennigan didn’t make a real big splash, signing two players — Jason Maxiell and Ronnie Price — to two year deals, both of which have the second year fully-unguaranteed. Neither Maxiell or Price played big roles on the court, but had a more sizeable impact off the court, being leaders and helping to set good examples for their young counterparts. Players like Maxiell and Price, while not terribly effective, are players that Hennigan may target in an attempt to promote the team’s growth.
Orlando has some other contracts that will help with their flexibility as well. Point guard Jameer Nelson is entering the final year of his deal and while he’s due $8 million, only $2 of it is guaranteed, per ShamSports Salary Database. The Magic also have Arron Afflalo, who is on what is considered to be one of the league’s better contracts. Afflalo, the team’s leading scorer from this season, has two years left on his deal, and is due $7.5 million in each of those years; however, the second year is a player option, which could make Afflalo an even more favorable trade chip, should the organization choose to move him.
The head of Orlando’s brain trust knows that veterans are important to his team. He knows he has to find a balance with the young guys and the wily veterans, as he had this to say during exit interviews, “I think you have to be careful. Like we’ve spoken about in the past, I really feel like you need to make sure there’s a balance with the age composition of the roster. We’ll try to stay somewhere in the middle to avoid the extremes.”
One thing that a good chunk of the upcoming cap space will be used for is re-signing some of franchises’ young core. Center Nikola Vucevic and combo forward Tobias Harris will be eligible for contract extensions this summer, and will be restricted free agents following the conclusion of next season. Big man Kyle O’Quinn will also be a free agent following next season, and will undoubtedly be a piece Hennigan will want to keep. Forwards Andrew Nicholson and Maurice Harkless will also be up for contract extensions following the conclusion of next season, with both becoming free agents in two years.
With all the money that will need to be tied up into these players, it seems as though the Magic will be stretched for signing a “big name” free agent in the next few offseasons. However, Hennigan will undoubtedly be able to find the guy that thinks is the right fit for his team moving forward, and can help them continue to grow into a championship contender, whether it be a big name, or a glue type guy.