With Season Over, Magic Face Offseason Questions
Suddenly, reality struck.
Shortly removed from their loss in the NBA Finals, the Magic face questions that will effect the franchise's immediate future.
With the prospect of being without forward Hedo Turkoglu in 2009, the Magic will attempt to muster an offer to keep him as part of the Magic's core.
Emerging big man Marcin Gortat is also likely to receive big money offers as a restricted free agent. Though the Magic have the right to match any offer, Turkoglu's potential payday may make keeping Gortat around unlikely.
Just who the Magic can purge this off season in an attempt to free salary will also be key to the club's potential run of success.
Bringing Back the Turk
Dwight Howard may be the body, but Hedo Turkoglu is the heart of the Magic's offense.
Clearly the largest off season issue facing the Magic is how to bring back the 30-year-old forward. The 6' 10" veteran's shooting range, ball-handling and distribution skills have proven vital to the Magic's success.
Turkoglu averaged 16.8 points and 4.9 assists per game during the regular season, but his overall importance was showcased throughout the playoffs.
Turkoglu led the Magic with 18 points per game in the Finals. He hit the game winner of Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals. His effort in Game Seven of the Eastern Semifinals: 25 points and 12 assists.
Turkoglu plans to opt out the option year of his six-year, $36-million contract on June 30, and will likely command in the $10 million range per season. He has stated that he appreciates being considered being part of the Magic's nucleus, and would like to stick around.
But it's certainly not out of the question that another club offers Turkoglu a lucrative contract that the Magic deems more than they can afford. The club already has $34 million tied up in just Howard and forward Rashard Lewis.
Bringing Back Gortat
The 6' 11" Polish-born center/forward gave the Magic quality minutes off the bench behind Howard throughout the season and playoffs.
Coach Stan Van Gundy gave little time to a Howard/Gortat front court combo, but Gortat's scoring increased from around four to 10 points per game and 12 rebounds in his handful of starts last season.
Should Turkoglu depart, Gortat's return becomes priority. He provided the club a physical complimentary banger to Howard off the bench, but could move into the lineup next to Howard in this scenario.
Gortat, who earned $770,000 in last season, has said his return will be directly tied to Turkoglu's situation. He is likely to get considerable offers as a restricted free agent from center-starved clubs. If Turkoglu gets a large pay day, the Magic may be forced to let Gortat walk.
Sort Out the Point Guard
Jameer Nelson (16.7 points per game) will likely be back at point for the Magic in 2009, but who backs him up is the question.
Rafer Alston was the distributor the Magic needed from the position when Nelson was lost for the regular season in early February. He provided the Magic 12 points and five assists a game after his acquisition from Houston.
Alston has only one year left on his contract, making him an attractive trade option for a club looking for a salary dump after the 2009 season. The $5.2 million he is set to make also makes him likely for a trade in an effort to drum up cash to re-sign Turkoglu and/or Gortat.
Also against Alston's return is veteran Antony Johnson, who proved more than capable filling in as a starter and off the bench.
J.J., Others on the Go
J.J. Redick had his moments last season, but with rookie Courtney Lee and veteran Mickael Pietrus also getting the bulk of time at shooting guard, Redick is potentially in line to be another victim of the purging need to resign the Magic's big men.
Veteran Tony Battie is due $5.2 million next season, and could be involved in a salary-clearing trade. Midseason acquisition Tyronn Lue, center Adonal Foyle and seldom-used Jeremy Richardson are free agent fodder unlikely to resign.
The Magic front office says it still lost money in 2008-09, despite its Finals trip.
The club was barely under the NBA luxury tax limit of $71.1 million last season, and that number is likely decreasing to below $70 million next year due to declining revenues.
How much luxury tax the organization is willing to absorb is a vital question going into the off season.
The Magic should do everything possible to bring back Turkoglu. Keeping Gortat may then seem impossible, but it is important for the future of the club.
Not resigning or trading the likes of Alston, Battie, Foyle, Lue and Redick over this off season seems all but assured.
The Magic are set to move into a new arena in 2010 that will provide additional income from high-priced luxury suites the Amway Arena lacks. The team must keep this in mind.
If those under contract through next season can't be included in a salary-clearing trade, the Magic's front office should bite the bullet and have a higher than desired payroll for a few seasons in attempt at a championship (say, like the Tampa Bay Rays are doing this baseball season), and keep around both Gortat and Turkoglu.
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