With the signing of Luke Ridnour becoming official on Friday, the Orlando Magic appear to be done making any more major moves this offseason. While they still have work to do — like finding management and coaching for the Erie BayHawks, along with hosting tryouts for their new NBA D-League affiliate — the work with the big club should be done.
The Ridnour signing brings the roster to 15, the maximum amount allowed during the regular season. Of the 15 players on the roster, 14 have guaranteed contracts, and eight are going to be entering their inaugural season with the team in come October.
The Magic rebuilt their backcourt from the ground up, holding on to only one guard from last season — Victor Oladipo. While it was tough for many to see Nelson, a longtime fan favorite, go, it was something that had to be done. At this point in his career, Nelson is best fit trying to help a team poised for a playoff run, not one going into the third season of a rebuild.
Other than Nelson, the big departure for the Magic is Arron Afflalo. Afflalo, the team’s leading scorer last season, was traded on draft night back to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Evan Fournier and the rights to Devyn Marble. Moving Afflalo was something the Magic didn’t necessarily have to do at that point, but it made the most sense to allow Oladipo to move back to his more natural off guard position.
Of the remaining players on their way out, only E’Twaun Moore played significant minutes last year, with Price, Lamb and Maxiell all playing sparingly for much of the season.
Replacing this group is a nice mix of young talent and veteran leadership. From top to bottom, the group that the team has brought in should be able to help them take the next step forward in their rebuild.
Outside of their three draft picks, the big get of the offseason is floor-stretching big man Channing Frye. Frye, who’s spent the last five seasons with the Phoenix Suns, will not only bring a much needed aspect to the team on the floor, but his leadership will be important off the floor as well. Frye has also been extremely popular with the fanbases in Phoenix and Portland, and there’s no reason to think Orlando will be any different. The spacing that Frye will bring to the offense will be the key, especially with two speedy guards in Elfrid Payton and Oladipo who will be looking to break down a defense with every chance they get.
One of the more puzzling moves of any team this offseason came with the Magic, when they agreed to a deal with Ben Gordon. The former Sixth Man Of The Year has struggled his last few seasons, and has reportedly had his fair share of issues in locker rooms over his career. That said, the deal the Magic gave Gordon is one they could easily get out of if he’s becoming too much of a cancer to the team.
While the deal is for two-years at $9 Million, only the first season is guaranteed, with the team holding an option for the second. If Gordon proves to give them issues, they can cut ties with him fairly easily and just eat his salary, something they’ve shown willing to do before. His deal could also be used as a trade chip come the deadline if the team is nowhere near contending and a contender needs a boost in scoring off the bench.
Outside of Gordon and Frye, none of the franchise’s moves in free agency really stick out. Luke Ridnour was brought in on a very favorable contract to help mentor Payton and hopefully teach him some of the things that have helped him be a successful point guard in the league for 11 years. He’s a pass first guy, who’s excited for the opportunity to get to work and play with a great young bunch of guys. Willie Green, like Frye and Ridnour, will be an exceptional person to have in the locker room, and will most likely take over the role that Price played last season. He’s unlikely to get consistent minutes, but will always be ready to come in and contribute when his number is called.
The Magic set themselves up to turn over a large chunk of their roster this offseason to start the next phase of their rebuild, and that’s exactly what they did. While one or two of the veteran deals may not work, the importance of this season is seeing how the young players — especially extension candidates Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris — perform with a more balanced roster around them. Now, we get to sit back, relax, and see who distinguishes themselves with another year of experience this season.