The Orlando Magic ended up with Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton in an exciting 2014 NBA draft. Just prior to that, they traded away Arron Afflalo to the Denver Nuggets, getting Evan Fournier in return. What offseason moves are next?
While many Orlando fans were stunned—and possibly momentarily disappointed—not to hear Dante Exum's name when their team was on the clock, the Magic addressed two important needs.
On the one hand, Gordon is an athletic forward who can protect the rim and has great lateral quickness. On the other hand, Payton is an equally athletic player who can handle the ball and defend the perimeter. He certainly is a great option to eventually take over the playmaker position from Jameer Nelson.
So now that the Magic have young players to man all positions—and several more to come off the bench—the next couple of seasons are solely focused on developing all the talent.
Does this sound familiar?
Yes and no.
This time, Afflalo won't take away any time from the youngsters. While he was arguably the best player on the team during the last campaign, his personal peak didn't match Orlando's schedule. With so many inexperienced athletes, it was obvious that the rebuilding process would take some more time.
It was probably the best for both parties to part ways.
Afflalo will return to Denver and could make an impact for the team, possibly bringing them back to the playoffs. Orlando managed to cash in on the veteran before his contract expired at the end of this upcoming season. In return, the Magic got a younger and cheaper shooting guard in Fournier.
The 21-year-old can certainly become another important piece of the puzzle in general manager Rob Hennigan's attempt to make the Orlando Magic a perennial playoff team once more.
What do they still lack? Which holes should they look to fill?
In order to get a better idea, let's take a look at each position's depth and quality after this draft.
This is probably the most interesting spot.
Nelson is the longest-lived Orlando Magic player on this roster by far. He enters his 11th season with the franchise and is the only athlete who has been with the club longer than Hennigan or head coach Jacque Vaughn.
He is a fan favorite because of his energetic style of play, the fact that he's spent his entire career with the Magic and his outspoken desire of staying with the team until he retires. He never makes the headlines for the wrong reasons and is a great mentor for this young team.
It seems improbable that Orlando will try to get rid of him, let alone during the offseason.
However, his $8 million salary in 2014-15 is clearly the most expensive on the Magic's roster. Should they waive him before July 15, only $2 million is guaranteed.
Payton is the likely successor of the 32-year-old veteran but will need some time to adjust to the NBA. Who better to teach him than Nelson?
The rookie has a lot of potential and—depending on his learning curve—is likely to become a starter later this season. He is a relentless defender and an unselfish player on offense. His athleticism helps him on both ends of the floor, but his jump shot definitely needs improvement.
Orlando needs some better shooting from its backcourt in order to stretch the floor. This allows its big men some space to operate and generates lanes for cutting players.
The only other true point guard, Ronnie Price, has struggled throughout his NBA career. The Magic would be better off trying to get something—anything, really—for him in return or waive him to clear cap space.
That means the team has only two real point guards.
Truth be told, that's one more than last season. When Nelson wasn't on the floor, Victor Oladipo was Vaughn's first choice to bring the ball up the floor. The young combo guard clearly didn't feel at ease with his point guard duties and committed countless turnovers.
He may still be asked to fill in if Nelson or Payton get injured, but the Magic should look to add another playmaker to their roster.
Payton's addition to the team will finally allow Oladipo to switch to the 2 for good.
The 22-year-old will not have to play distributor and can now focus on scoring. An improved jump shot would go a long way in that regard.
The high-octane Oladipo will be the starting shooting guard, with Fournier being his main backup. As it stands right now, E'Twaun Moore is likely to be the third-string combo guard, filling in where needed. If he can provide solid minutes at both guard positions, he will become an important bench player for Orlando, effectively fulfilling their need for that third point guard.
If he can't, Oladipo will be forced to fill in at the 1 once again for the time being.
Roy Devyn Marble was selected with the No. 56 pick. The late second-round pick will not see a lot of minutes, especially considering that his shooting from downtown is suspect. It remains to be seen whether he will play a part in the rotation.
The rookie's addition, however, makes life even tougher for Doron Lamb, who will have to fight for meaningful minutes in the rotation and could end up in a trade scenario.
Orlando has an interesting approach to its forward positions.
Tobias Harris and Aaron Gordon both can play the 3 and the 4. If the young athletes manage to hone their skills accordingly, they can become very valuable for the team. Having such versatile players is a great bonus for any coach.
Harris, for example, has the raw strength to overpower most opposing small forwards. And despite having to fill in as a power forward 74 percent of the time last season, he would be a better fit as a wing player. His athleticism allows for him to cut to the basket and finish through contact.
His most potent tool on offense are these aggressive drives to the rim.
The 21-year-old managed to draw 113 shooting fouls in 1,850 minutes played. The only two players on the team who drew more fouls on shot attempts were Oladipo (134) and Afflalo (132). With approximately 2,500 minutes each, they had considerably more playing time.
Harris still needs to work on his outside shot to draw defenders and become more of a threat in set plays.
While on the subject of perimeter offense, Maurice Harkless showed a much-improved jump shot from downtown in 2013-14. Depending on coach Vaughn's plans, he or Harris will start at the 3 while the other one comes off the bench.
Harkless is the better defender of the two. It seems that all he needs to get to that next level is confidence. If he can get some consistent playing time and a clearly defined role, he should be able to become a valuable asset for this team.
Fournier could also see some time at the small forward position whenever the Magic decide to play small ball.
Gordon may well be a starter on opening night.
With the Magic in rebuilding mode and developing their talents, Gordon could be thrown into the shark tank right away. He certainly is extremely athletic, although he may need to bulk up some more. But his lateral quickness allows him to keep opponents in front of him on defense, and his jumping ability is off the charts.
He may be better suited for the small forward position, but Orlando is short on potent power forwards while having three potential starters at the 3. Between him, Harris and Harkless, Gordon is the one who seems to be the best option at the 4, although Harris may have the stronger body.
Gordon will have to compete with Harris and Kyle O'Quinn for minutes. With the former likely to play more at the 3, O'Quinn is the main option behind the rookie.
At the end of last season, he showed that he can be a rim protector. His offense is somewhat limited, but he is effective in pick-and-roll situations. If he can improve his mid-range jumper some more, opposing defenses will actually have to keep a man on him.
Andrew Nicholson regressed during his second year in the league, mainly caused by his inconsistent minutes on the floor. His lack of production sent him into a downward spiral.
If the 6'9" forward can gain some self-confidence during this offseason, he could become the second option behind Gordon, allowing Harris to play more small forward and O'Quinn to be the main backup center.
Nicholson will not only have to improve his belief in himself, though. He needs to gain weight to avoid getting pushed around.
Failing to do so might lead to him being traded. He is too valuable to waste away on the bench, seeing inconsistent floor time.
Jason Maxiell is not going to be a part of the rotation if 2013-14 is any indicator. What's more, Afflalo's trade opened up the floor for young players and gave a clear signal that youth development is the key. Why would the Magic take away playing time for their talented forwards by keeping Maxiell around?
Nikola Vucevic may not be a shot-blocking presence, but one tends to forgive his shortcomings in this particular area, considering the 24-year-old averaged double-doubles the last two seasons.
Not only does he provide decent offense, he collects boards like others do stamps. And he still has room for improvement. He doesn't have to become a Dikembe Mutombo on defense, swatting balls away and wiggling his index finger.
Simply using his size to change shots will be enough.
Behind him, O'Quinn and Dewayne Dedmon will line up to provide some defense. Any combination of Gordon, O'Quinn and Dedmon should help in keeping opponents away from the basket. While they certainly will not lock down the paint, their energy level and willingness to challenge each shot can make a difference.
So what are the most important holes the Magic have to address?
Let's take a quick look at the depth chart:
Italicized player names indicate their secondary use in the lineup. Players likely to be waived or traded are not included: Maxiell, Price, Lamb, Nicholson.
Looking at the table above, it seems like a good idea for the Magic to pursue another big man who can fill in at the 4 and 5. The backcourt could do with another point guard, especially considering Nelson's age and contract.
The veteran will very likely hand over the reins to Payton during the course of this season and is a very important mentor on a team where the next-oldest player is seven years younger. That obviously excludes Maxiell and Price, who both are either going to end up being traded or waived—or at the very least will hardly play at all.
The Orlando Magic are loaded at the 2, with Oladipo having several backups, including the recently acquired Fournier. If Moore can be an efficient combo guard, he will play an important part coming off the bench.
While Gordon will likely feature as the starter at the 4, he can also play stretches at the 3 or the 5 if the situation calls for it. Depending on how Vaughn wants to use Harris and Gordon, the small forward position doesn't require immediate attention.
It will be interesting to see who Hennigan will try to acquire and how he is going to do it.
The Magic's biggest trade asset was Afflalo, and he is gone. Dangling players like Maxiell or Price in front of other teams will certainly not raise any interest. Lamb and Nicholson, however, may well do.
If Orlando's GM wants to go with a free agent, he may want to clear some more cap space first. Afflalo's departure was a first step in that direction.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Fournier will earn $6,266,080 less than the veteran, which just about makes up for the $6,389,880 needed to sign the two first-round picks. That is the maximum salary for Gordon and Payton combined if the Magic use the allowed maximum limit of 120 percent of the rookie salaries.
Maxiell and Price's contracts are not guaranteed if the veterans get waived before July 10, which seems a very distinct possibility—especially if Hennigan wants to scour the free-agent market. That would additionally free up more than $3.8 million.
Assuming Marble gets signed, that still leaves over $18 million in cap space with the 2014-15 salary cap projected at $63.2 million.
Quite a bit of juggling room.
If Nelson gets waived before July 15, an additional $6 million are available. In theory—and only to give you some perspective—this would be sufficient to compete for LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, with Orlando able to offer them the allowed maximum salaries.
And to answer the question you didn't ask: No, it wouldn't make sense.
The Magic are rebuilding. Adding a star-caliber veteran, no matter how highly coveted by 29 other teams, would again take away playing time from the young athletes. At the same time, it couldn't elevate this franchise enough to become a title contender right now.
So it would be a waste of money and cap space.
Instead, Orlando will want to look for yet another young and upcoming player with potential or a veteran who will play the second—or possibly even third—string. The latter could provide some leadership and advice. He would also simply add depth in case of injuries.
There are quite a few low-budget players around who could fit that description. If you want to go young, Greg Monroe comes to mind. However, he is a restricted free agent, and his numbers are very similar to Vucevic's. It wouldn't make much sense to sign him, other than to provide depth and decrease Vuc's minutes to keep him healthy.
Still, Monroe wouldn't really be an upgrade. He would merely be a stunt double for the 23-year-old.
A better option would be Greg Oden.
Before banging your head against your desk in disbelief, think of it this way: Oden would be very cheap to pick up, could provide much-needed interior presence on both ends and wouldn't take away many minutes from Vucevic. If he can play an average of five minutes per game, he can be a great asset.
And if his health stabilizes, he can provide situational relief for many seasons to come.
After all, he is only 26 years of age, even if he looks more like 36.
If his body doesn't hold up, the Magic didn't waste a whole lot of money on him to begin with. For a team like Orlando, Oden would actually be a perfect fit and a low-risk experiment.
As for the point guard position, if the Orlando Magic want to add some depth and experience, there are plenty of options. Ramon Sessions, Steve Blake and Devin Harris are just a few of the veteran playmakers available via free agency.
None of them may be an upgrade over Nelson, but they all come with a lower price tag. The Magic could either add one more point guard to increase the depth at this position or replace Orlando's all-time assist leader.
Considering Payton will become a starter during 2014-15, paying Nelson $8 million seems a bit too much. Putting sentimental feelings aside, a cheaper veteran may be the way to go.
Then again, with so much room below the salary cap, Hennigan can afford to be a gentleman and repay Jameer for all his years spent with the franchise.
You can follow @KurtJonke for more on the NBA in general and the Orlando Magic in particular.
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