Orlando Magic Sign Mickael Pietrus; Corey Maggette Joins Golden State Warriors

John LigonCorrespondent IJuly 8, 2008

Florida Today reports that Golden State Warriors swingman Mickael Pietrus has agreed to a new deal with the Orlando Magic.  Teams can officially begin signing free agents on Wednesday.

Pietrus will receive a multi-year deal starting at approximately $5.2 million.  This eats up nearly 90 percent of the Magic's midlevel exception and ends any chance the Magic had of signing Los Angeles Clippers small forward Corey Maggette, who later agreed to move to the Golden State Warriors.

After spending the season moving in and out of favor with Warriors coach Don Nelson, Pietrus is expected to start at shooting guard alongside Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, and All-Star Dwight Howard. 

Pietrus is known as a strong perimeter defender, a skill that apparently set him apart from other free agents such as Maggette in the sight of Orlando GM Otis Smith.  Some also believe the Magic did not think they stood a legitimate chance to sign Maggette for the mid-level exception in the first place.

In addition, the move likely will end any attempt on the part of the Magic to re-sign their own free agents, Keyon Dooling and Maurice Evans.  Evans was the starting shooting guard by the end of last year, and Dooling was one of Jameer Nelson's primary backups at point guard.

Pietrus, who shot 36.1 percent from three pointers last season, gives the Magic another strong perimeter shooter to surround Howard in addition to his defensive prowess. 

However, his scoring average (7.2 PPG) was down last year from his career averages, and his rebounding dipped from 4.5 RPG in 2006-2007 to 3.7 last season.  In addition, lackluster free throw shooting (66.2 % for his career) has always been a weak point in his game.

After signing Rashard Lewis to a lucrative deal last year in free agency—a move considered an overpayment by many pundits—the Magic appear to be tying their hands financially for the next several years to this core of players by spending most of their mid-level exception on Pietrus.  

Though it seems questionable to pay so much money to a player who has been primarily a backup throughout his five-year career, Orlando seems convinced that he possesses the skills and intangibles that go beyond the stat-sheet necessary to bring the Magic into the elite level in the East.

With his hometown Magic out of the bidding for his services, Maggette's options seemed to have narrowed to primarily the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics if he was to follow through on his suggestion that he would be willing to accept the mid-level exception to play for a contender. 

However, as is often the case, money was the deciding factor in who Maggette would join. After failing to sign Clippers forward Elton Brand, who signed with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Warriors quickly moved in to give Maggette a five-year, $50 million deal that neither the Spurs nor Celtics could match.

Maggette looks to be the favorite to start at shooting guard or small forward alongside Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, and Andris Biedrins, assuming Ellis and Biedrins re-sign.  They are both restricted free agents.

Though Maggette largely replicates the skill set of Jackson on the Warriors, the Warriors can't have enough quick wingmen slashers, who typically thrive in Nelson's fast-paced system.

The question in Golden State now appears to be whether to build for the future or to win now.  With scoring machines Ellis, Jackson, and Maggette along with solid role players, the Warriors look to be able to score nearly 110 PPG as they have for the last several years, which is a clip that many teams find difficult to match.

However, they also have a number of young players in Brandan Wright, Marco Belinelli, and Anthony Randolph who could all use some developing.  If the Warriors intend to win now, it may be difficult for Nelson to find playing time for these projects.

The big question left in the free agent market appears to be where the Clippers will go from here.  With the cap space they have left after Elton Brand signed with the 76ers and Maggette signed with the Warriors, they now may look to lure one of the top restricted free agents left on the market such as Chicago's Ben Gordon or Atlanta's Josh Smith or Josh Childress.  Either way, it seems they must find a second star to pair with Baron Davis.

In addition, this leaves San Antonio and Boston with their full mid-level exceptions in play.  Both teams will likely give a look at Celtics free agent James Posey, and the Spurs will likely look at Nuggets restricted free agent J.R. Smith, whom the Spurs have had interest in for several years.

As for the Magic free agents displaced by the Pietrus signing, Dooling apparently has interest from the Miami Heat and may also get a look from the Denver Nuggets, who (still) desperately need a point guard.  Evans has gotten a call from the Nets, but no deal appears imminent for him.