Most Intriguing Free Agents for Orlando Magic to Sign with Mid-Level Exception
The Orlando Magic may be coming off one of the worst seasons in their recent history, but Magic general manager Rob Hennigan isn’t expected to make much noise in a mediocre free-agency market this summer.
After all, Orlando does hold the second pick in this year’s draft, and 2014 is shaping up to be a monster of a year between a potentially historic draft class and another free-agency period filled with elite talent.
To put it simply, it’s no secret that Orlando is and will be in a frugal state in preparation for a very active offseason next year.
Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington are scheduled to combine to take up nearly $20 million of the Magic’s cap room this year, but Orlando does have the ability to waive each of them if it desires to do so.
However, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Hennigan elect to bring both Turkoglu and Harrington back for one more season. If anything, they will serve as viable bait at the trading deadline, or the Magic could decide to ride the season out with both big men and set them free next summer to free up additional cap space.
And although Orlando won’t be looking to make any notable splashes this summer, there are a few intriguing options the Magic could bring on board with the mid-level exception.
This one is a bit of a stretch, as point guard Mario Chalmers has become an essential ingredient to the Miami Heat’s success over the past few years and the team holds the option to bring him back for at least one more go-round next year at a rate of $4 million.
However, Norris Cole’s development is nothing to scoff at, and with the Heat also likely looking to begin freeing up room to make moves for the best interest of the organization moving forward, perhaps Pat Riley might ponder a change at the point guard position.
The Magic are thought to be interested in bettering their point guard rotation, and the 27-year-old Chalmers would be at least a tempting option, especially with his championship pedigree dating back to his days at Kansas.
Chalmers wouldn’t be just a temporary option, but rather he’s more than capable of being the future of whatever franchise he ends up signing a healthy deal with one day. And with Jameer Nelson now 31 years old, the Magic know the time to find that future option at point guard is fast approaching.
In the end, however, it cannot be overstated that this move will likely be a reach for the Magic for a couple of reasons.
First of all, the Heat will likely bring their starting point guard back for at least one more season. And even if Riley did let Chalmers go, it’s not a stretch to say he could be a hot commodity and might wind up sitting outside the mid-level exception price range of just over $5 million.
A more likely—and more temporary—scenario at point guard would be the former Florida State Seminole, Toney Douglas.
Similar to Chalmers, Douglas is an exceptional defender. He’s also a well-rounded athlete that would add hustle to the Magic’s roster.
On the other hand, he’s never really been known to be anything more than an average producer on the offensive end. Throughout his career, Douglas has averaged a little more eight points and two assists per game.
The upsides to the 27-year-old point guard are his age and his work ethic. Douglas, who's more blue-collared as opposed to a highlight-reel player, is unquestionably fully capable of being a consistent and quality role player in this league.
The questions are, would Orlando see him worthy of the use of its mid-level exception, and would Douglas be willing to settle for a deal for one or two years at the absolute most?
The consensus would likely be slanted towards no, but you never know in an in-between year like the one the franchise is about to enter.
Out of all of these options, J.J. Hickson is likely the biggest stretch money-wise.
The 24-year-old Hickson made $4 million with the Portland Trail Blazers this past season, while averaging a double-double of 12.7 points per game along with 10.4 rebounds.
There may be flashier names looming in next year’s free agency offerings, as well as next year’s draft, but Hickson has proven himself to be a consistent competitor at just 24 years old.
And he certainly could end up earning offers around the league far greater than what a mid-level exception could pay him, but if he happens to be available for the right price, Hickson would definitely be an intriguing option for the Magic.
Though not the most exciting option, Beno Udrih, whom the Magic acquired from Milwaukee this past season, might be the best choice considering the franchise's circumstances and future plans.
Udrih earned a little more than $7 million this past season, which is about $2 million above the mid-level exception mark. However, being 30 years old and shooting a career low of 40 percent from the field this past year, he likely won't be able to command more than mid-level money.
While he's certainly no superstar, Udrih could be a perfect temporary fit as the Magic mull over their plans for next April and summer.
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