- The coronavirus pandemic has slowed construction of the Magic‘s new practice facility, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic, who says that team officials are now hopeful the project will be completed by December 1, 2021. The original target date was September 2021.
The Wizards will have several options available to them to improve their roster this offseason. In the second installment of a two-part chat, David Aldridge and Fred Katz of The Athletic discuss the many paths towards improvement the team could take.
Aldridge posits that some teams may be looking to sell off late first-round picks for cash considerations, and suggests Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard look into procuring one, while Katz discusses the possibility of using the team’s mid-level exception to add a veteran big man. The Wizards, who finished with the ninth seed during the NBA’s summer restart in Orlando, will have the Nos. 9 and 37 picks in this year’s draft at their disposal.
There’s more out of the NBA’s Southeast Division:
- The Magic departed the league’s Disney campus after a 4-1 first round defeat to the Bucks. Now, Josh Robbins of The Athletic assesses the rise or fall of Orlando players’ “stocks” around the league. Potential free agents Gary Clark and James Ennis are both assessed to be on the ascent.
- Hornets guard Joe Chealey will not partake in the team’s training camp this month after suffering a lower leg injury, the team tweeted.
- Heat All-Star wing Jimmy Butler has taken just 14, 11 and 13 field goal attempts in the first three games of Miami’s Eastern Conference Finals series with the Celtics. Despite the Heat’s 2-1 lead, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald wonders if Butler needs to correct his relative passivity on offense. “No matter how many shots I take, no matter how many points I score, our job is to win,” Butler said after a Heat practice Tuesday. Butler’s signing as a free agent in 2019 and the improvement of Bam Adebayo have helped push the Heat to the brink of their first NBA Finals appearance since 2014.
Hoops Rumors is previewing the 2020 offseason for all 30 NBA teams. We’re looking at the key questions facing each club, as well as the roster decisions they’ll have to make this fall. Today, we’re focusing on the Orlando Magic.
Salary Cap Outlook
The Magic currently have approximately $96MM in guaranteed money on their books for 2020/21. That figure would increase to over $102MM if they use this year’s first-round pick and sign last year’s first-round pick, Chuma Okeke. And it would jump to nearly $120MM if Evan Fournier opts into the final year of his contract.
Whether or not Fournier returns, Orlando is unlikely to have any cap room available this offseason, but the team shouldn’t have to worry about going into tax territory. The Magic would have the full mid-level exception ($9.3MM) and bi-annual exception ($3.6MM) available, but almost certainly wouldn’t use both in full if Fournier is back.
Our full salary cap preview for the Magic can be found right here.
Roster Decisions To Watch
- Evan Fournier, player option: $17,150,000
- James Ennis, player option: $2,130,023
- Melvin Frazier, team option: $1,663,861
- D.J. Augustin (Bird)
- Michael Carter-Williams (Early Bird)
- Wesley Iwundu (RFA; Bird)
- Gary Clark (RFA; Non-Bird)
2020 Draft Assets
- No. 15 overall pick
- No. 45 overall pick
The Magic were one of the few NBA teams that didn’t trade either their first- or second-round pick in the 2020 NBA draft. They’ll pick right in the middle of each round.
Three Key Offseason Questions
1. What’s the plan for Evan Fournier?
Before the coronavirus pandemic complicated the financial outlook for teams and players around the NBA, Fournier appeared likely to turn down the $17MM option on his contract in order to test the open market this offseason.
While $17MM is a lot of money to pass up, the stars seemed to be aligning for Fournier — he’s still in his prime (he turns 28 in October), plenty of teams were expected to be in the market for wings, and the Frenchman had put up some of the best numbers of his career, including 18.8 PPG on .470/.406/.820 shooting prior to the league’s hiatus.
However, an illness put a dent in Fournier’s production during the seeding games and the playoffs, and with the salary cap no longer expected to increase, the prospect of finding a team willing to pay him in the neighborhood of $17MM per year on a multiyear deal suddenly looks a whole lot more challenging.
That doesn’t mean Fournier is a lock to pick up his option. He and the Magic could work out a new multiyear contract that significantly increases his overall guarantee without necessarily assuring him of $17MM (or more) per year. A year ago, for instance, Jonas Valanciunas passed on a $17.6MM option in favor of a three-year contract worth $15MM per year, giving him more long-term security.
But the Magic, having already invested long-term in Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross, may be reluctant to do the same for another key contributor to a roster that has finished in the middle of the pack in each of the last few seasons. If that’s the case, Fournier’s safest bet would be to opt in and try his luck on the 2021 market.
If Fournier opts in, there’s nothing stopping the Magic from gauging his value on the trade market. He’d be on an expiring contract and his pre-hiatus play in 2019/20 was impressive — he could appeal to a team looking to add a complementary scorer on the wing.
While it remains to be seen if Fournier is part of the Magic’s long-term plans, all signs point to the team being willing to invest in Fultz and Isaac as cornerstone pieces. It’s just not clear whether that will happen this offseason, when both members of the 2017 draft class become eligible for rookie scale extensions for the first time.
Fultz, who has experienced a pretty unusual career trajectory for a No. 1 pick so far, stayed healthy for the first time in 2019/20 and flashed signs of the upside that made him the first overall choice three years ago. His ability to break down a defense and set up his teammates was on display in Orlando, as he averaged 12.1 PPG and 5.1 APG, but there’s still plenty of work to be done on his jump shot (.267 3PT%).
At age 22, Fultz still has plenty of growth potential. The Magic will have to determine how confident they are that he’ll continue to improve, how much they’re willing to bet on that growth, and whether Fultz will be willing to forgo restricted free agency in favor of an early extension.
If Orlando bets right on Fultz, it could mean getting him on a team-friendly extension as he blossoms into a star, which would change the long-term outlook of the franchise. On the other hand, investing big money in him now and then watching his development curve flatten would hamstring the organization’s spending ability going forward.
It’ll be a tough decision, so it will be interesting to see how high the Magic are willing to go — ESPN’s Bobby Marks suggests the team should wait for Fultz’s restricted free agency unless he’s open to signing a deal that starts in the neighborhood of his 2020/21 salary ($12.3MM).
As for Isaac, the blossoming Defensive Player of the Year contender would’ve been a more logical candidate for a rookie scale extension if he were healthy. Instead, he’ll be recovering from an ACL injury that’s expected to sideline him for the entire 2020/21 season, so the Magic will have to evaluate his recovery before making any major commitment.
The injury doesn’t mean Isaac can’t sign an extension in the coming months. We’ve seen players like Klay Thompson and Kristaps Porzingis get lucrative new long-term deals while recovering from ACL tears of their own, and all indications are that the Magic want Isaac to be a part of their future. Unlike Thompson and Porzingis though, Isaac isn’t a lock for a maximum-salary offer, so some negotiation will be required if the two sides are going to come to an agreement before the ’20/21 season begins.
3. Will Aaron Gordon be on the trade block?
Prior to Isaac’s injury, Gordon seemed like one of the NBA’s most logical offseason trade candidates. He and Isaac overlap positionally, his name has come up in previous trade rumors, and his contract gets more favorable with each passing year due to its declining annual value ($18.1MM in 2020/21; $16.4MM in ’21/22).
Now that Isaac will be out for the season though, Orlando figures to be less motivated to move Gordon. With the power forward position to himself in ’20/21, the 25-year-old could be primed for a career year, which would be a win-win situation for the Magic — not only would they enjoy the benefits of his production, but Gordon could increase his trade value ahead of the ’21 deadline and/or offseason.
Gordon’s athleticism and defensive versatility make him a tantalizing trade target, and if there’s a team willing to give up an appealing package for him this offseason, the Magic should certainly listen. Of the players the team would be open to moving, Gordon is the most intriguing, and he represents Orlando’s best chance to acquire an impact player who would be a better fit for the current roster.
If there are no favorable offers out there this fall or winter, however, the Magic shouldn’t be in any rush to shake things up. Gordon is in position to boost his value next season, and still has two years left on his contract, so unless something goes wrong, the club will have more opportunities to cash in its stock down the road.
- In an extensive conversation with Josh Robbins of The Athletic, Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman discussed possible contract extensions for injured forward Jonathan Isaac and intriguing guard Markelle Fultz, the first pick in the 2017 NBA draft. “These circumstances (with the pandemic) obviously make things more difficult (to plan) than in a typical summer,” Weltman said. “But we’ll have conversations with them at the appropriate time.”
The Pacers are set to begin a wide-ranging search for a head coach that will include more than a dozen candidates, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. As Wojnarowski details, Indiana is looking to interview the following candidates as the team seeks a replacement for Nate McMillan:
- Former Kings and Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger
- Timberwolves associate head coach David Vanterpool
- Nets associate head coach Jacque Vaughn
- Trail Blazers associate head coach Nate Tibbetts
- Spurs assistants Becky Hammon and Will Hardy
- Heat assistants Dan Craig and Chris Quinn
- Mavericks assistants Jamahl Mosley and Stephen Silas
- Bucks assistants Darvin Ham and Charles Lee
- Sixers assistant Ime Udoka
- Magic assistant Pat Delany
It remains to be seen whether the Pacers will be granted permission to speak with all of their potential targets. If they do, the team’s first round of virtual meetings would feature at least 14 interviews.
Many of the Pacers’ coaching candidates identified by Wojnarowski have been linked to other vacancies around the league. Vanterpool, Craig, Mosley, Silas, Ham, and Udoka, for example, are all believed to be interviewing for the Bulls’ job. Udoka and Ham have also been mentioned as potential 76ers candidates, as has Joerger. Vaughn was seriously considered for the Nets job before the team hired Steve Nash, while Hardy and Delany interviewed with the Knicks before they hired Tom Thibodeau.
[RELATED: 2020 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]
Others on Indiana’s list, such as Tibbetts and Hammon, have interviewed in past years for various NBA head coaching openings. Only a couple candidates – Quinn and Lee – haven’t received head coaching consideration in the past, as far as I can tell. Meanwhile, Joerger and Vaughn are the only names on the list with previous head coaching experience.
Mike D’Antoni has also been mentioned as a potential target for the Pacers, but he remains active in the postseason with the Rockets and there’s no guarantee he’ll leave Houston when his contract expires.
Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard has spoken about wanting to hire a head coach who takes a “modern approach” to the game and has the ability to connect with younger players. McMillan’s old-school approach to offense was believed to be one reason why Indiana made a change.
Magic center Mohamed Bamba is eager to leave his coronavirus difficulties in the past after having to depart Orlando early due to complications from the virus, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes.
- Magic center Nikola Vucevic earned redemption after a record-setting first-round playoff series against the Bucks, Parry writes in a separate story for the Orlando Sentinel. Vucevic averaged 28 points and 11 rebounds in five games, shooting 51% from the field and 40% from deep — a noticeable improvement from last year’s dismal first-round performance against the Raptors. “He’s been inside and outside,” coach Steve Clifford said of Vucevic. “He’s done it all. He creates so much offense for our team and he puts so much pressure on the defense because of the nature of how he plays.”
Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. With the playoffs ongoing at the Orlando campus, it’s time to examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors.
Enes Kanter, Celtics, 28, C (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $9.77MM deal in 2019
It’s difficult to pump up your value when you’re glued to the bench. That’s the dilemma for Kanter, who has dropped out of the Celtics’ big man rotation. Kanter averaged 15 MPG in the opening round against Philadelphia but coach Brad Stevens has gone with Daniel Theis and Robert Williams III during the second-round series against Toronto. Save for a four-minute cameo on Thursday, Kanter has been a spectator. He has a $5MM player option for next season and the benching might compel him to take the guaranteed money and force the front office’s hands.
Goran Dragic, Heat, 34, PG (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $85MM deal in 2015
Perhaps we all forgot how good this guy can be. Dragic is getting a little long in the tooth and has battled injury issues, but he’s been fantastic on the Orlando campus. He’s been the most consistent offensive force for the surprising Heat, averaging 22.8 PPG and 5.0 APG against Indiana in the first-round sweep and 25.0 PPG and 4.5 APG in Games 1 and 2 against Milwaukee. Dragic could provide a major jolt for any playoff-caliber club and his price tag keeps rising.
Ben McLemore, Rockets, 27, SG (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $4.3MM deal in 2019
McLemore got off to a strong start in Orlando, including back-to-back 20-point games during the seeding round. As the playoffs have moved along, McLemore has seen his playing time diminish. He received 10 or fewer minutes in the last three games against Oklahoma City, as Russell Westbrook’s return affected his role. McLemore’s $2.3MM for next season isn’t guaranteed. The contract is cheap enough for the Rockets to retain him, but if that happens, there’s no guarantee he’ll be a rotation player.
Evan Fournier, Magic, 27, SG (Down) – Signed to a five-year, $85MM deal in 2016
Fournier has a $17.15MM option on his contract for next season. It seemed likely prior to the stoppage of play in March that he’d opt out and test a weak free agent market. His career year hit a snag during the restart, as he battled a non-COVID related illness and then was generally a non-factor in the first-round series against Milwaukee. He shot 35.7% from the field, compared to 44.9% shooting during the regular season. With all the uncertainty surrounding next season, Fournier has more incentive to take the guaranteed money.
Noah Vonleh, Nuggets, 25, PF (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2019
A lottery pick in 2014, Vonleh has already played for six organizations. It looks like he’ll be adding a seventh to his resume next season, provided he can find another NBA home. Vonleh made three brief appearances in the seeding round but his only action during the playoffs was a three-minute stint during a 37-point loss to Utah. It’s easy to forget that Vonleh started 57 games for the Knicks last season. There won’t be any teams valuing him as a starter this offseason; he’ll be fortunate to get another veteran’s minimum deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Magic center Mohamed Bamba, who missed the first-round series against Milwaukee, has not experienced any serious health issues after leaving the Orlando campus during the seeding round, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel reports. Bamba departed in mid-August for a comprehensive post-coronavirus evaluation after he struggled from the the virus he contracted in June.
“The doctors have ruled out anything serious but it will take some time to clear his system. That’ll probably be measured in months, not weeks,” Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said.
- Weltman said rookie forward Chuma Okeke is in the “late stage of his rehab and development” and the Magic expect him to contribute next season, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Orlando drafted Okeke with the 16th overall pick last year even though he was recovering from a torn ACL suffered during the NCAA Tournament.
There’s still little clarity on when the 2020/21 NBA season will begin and end, but Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman confirmed today that his team expects Jonathan Isaac‘s recovery from a torn ACL to sideline the young forward for the full year.
“We will not have Jonathan Isaac next season,” Weltman said, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link).
Isaac was on his way to a breakout year in 2019/20, having averaged career highs in PPG (11.9), RPG (6.8), BPG (2.3), SPG (1.6), and a handful of other categories in the 34 games (28.8 MPG) he played. However, a severe left knee sprain and bone bruise sidelined him on January 1, and his comeback effort during the restart was abruptly halted in early August by a torn left ACL.
It’s not uncommon for NBA players’ ACL recoveries to span more than a full calendar year. For instance, Kristaps Porzingis suffered a torn ACL in February of 2018 and missed the entire ’18/19 season. Klay Thompson tore his ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals last June and won’t return for the Warriors until the start of the 2020/21 season.
Isaac projects to be one of the Magic’s cornerstone players going forward, so it makes sense for the team to set a conservative recovery timeline for him. Perhaps if the start of the 2020/21 season gets pushed back by several months, Orlando would reconsider Isaac’s return date, but for now it sounds like we shouldn’t expect to see him back on the court before ’21/22.
That timeline means Isaac may be on a new contract by the time he plays his next game. He’ll be eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2020 offseason and will be a restricted free agent in 2021 if he and the Magic don’t reach a new deal before then.
Isaac’s knee injury may negatively impact his leverage when he negotiates his next deal, but if his recovery is progressing well, the Magic will likely still be confident about investing in him long term — Porzingis and Thompson, for instance, both signed five-year, maximum-salary contracts before they’d returned from their respective ACL tears.
The Magic consider their time at the Disney World complex to be a learning experience as they point toward next season, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. The loss of Al-Farouq Aminu, Mohamed Bamba, Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Michael Carter-Williams took away any chance for Orlando to be competitive with the top-seeded Bucks in the playoffs.
“If you go back to, say, our first day of training camp, I envisioned us being a much different team, obviously, than the team that I was speaking with in there,” coach Steve Clifford said after the Magic were eliminated Saturday. “To start the year, we envisioned being a size team that could be great defensively, playing Aaron and Jonathan and then Farouq as obviously a major part of our team. And none of those guys were in there today. It happens in this league, but we did have more than our fair share of bad luck this year with injuries, and not only in the bubble.”
The toughest loss was a torn ACL for Isaac, who was attempting a comeback from a knee injury that had sidelined him since January 1. Two days later, Carter-Williams suffered a strained tendon in his left foot, and then Gordon strained his left hamstring the next day.
“Milwaukee, they’re a championship-caliber team, and we hung in there because we had the right approach,” Clifford said. “We gave ourselves chances in every game but Game 3. It says a lot about the character of the guys in the locker room.”
There’s more from the Southeast Division:
- Jae Crowder has been a valuable addition for the Heat, but management will be cautious about making a long-term investment, contends Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Miami may be planning to maximize cap room for a star-filled free agency market in 2021, and the front office learned from overvaluing players such as Tyler Johnson, James Johnson and Dion Waiters. Winderman believes Crowder might have to accept a large one-year contract if he wants to remain in Miami.
- Heat forward Chris Silva has a stress fracture in his left pubic bone and there’s no timetable for his return, the team announced in an email. Silva, who started the season on a two-way contract, appeared in 44 games but didn’t play in the first-round series against Indiana.
- Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports believes the Warriors have the trade assets to make a serious offer for Wizards guard Bradley Beal, but Washington may not be ready to rebuild before seeing what Beal and a healthy John Wall can do next season.