Orlando Magic

Magic Recall Khem Birch, Wesley Iwundu From G League

  • The Knicks have recalled rookie shooting guard Damyean Dotson from the G League, according to the team (via Twitter). Dotson, assigned to the Westchester Knicks for Sunday’s game, scored 23 points in the team’s victory over the Lakeland Magic.
  • Magic rookies Khem Birch and Wesley Iwundu, who were on the other side of Sunday’s Lakeland/Westchester matchup, were recalled to the NBA today, the team announced (via Twitter). Birch and Iwundu both had double-doubles on Sunday, combining for 34 points and 23 rebounds for Orlando’s G League affiliate.

Magic At A Crossroads After Latest Loss

  • After being one of the league’s early-season surprises, the Magic already face a crossroads to their season after Saturday’s 40-point loss to the Jazz, writes Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando came out of the gate at 6-2, but is back at .500 after dropping four straight games. Coach Frank Vogel hinted that changes might be on the way and called last night’s performance “unacceptable,” a sentiment shared by many of the players. “I think we lost what made us good at the beginning of the season: playing together, having fun out there, enjoying the game,” Nikola Vucevic said. “Over-dribbling, over-trying to get stuff instead of just playing simple basketball, like we did earlier in the year, it just affects us little by little. It just takes away from our energy. It’s like it’s taking little bites [out of us]. By the end of the game, there was no energy left.”
  • The Magic got some good news Saturday with the return of veteran guard D.J. Augustin. An important part of Orlando’s surprising early-season success, Augustin missed seven games with a hamstring injury. He was held scoreless in 17 minutes yesterday, but was averaging 8.3 points and 5.1 assists through his first eight games and shooting 39% from 3-point range.

No Orlando Summer League Next Year

The Magic won’t host their summer league in 2018, according to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Instead, Orlando will join most of the rest of the league with an entry in the Las Vegas Summer League.

The Orlando Pro Summer League was virtually an annual event, being held 14 times since 2002. It provided the first showcase of young talent in early July, followed by leagues in Utah and Las Vegas later in the month. The Orlando league was always closed to the public, Robbins notes, so the move won’t impact Central Florida basketball fans.

The Magic brought in a new management team earlier this year with Jeff Weltman as president of basketball operations and John Hammond as GM, and they decided to go in a different direction.

“The pendulum is swinging towards teams playing in Vegas,” Weltman said. “It’s a level of competition and a level of exposure when more or less every team in the league is there and you’re playing in front of 20,000 people as opposed to playing in a gym with a few hundred people. So it better prepares you for what NBA life is really about with the crowds, the pressure, the travel — a lot of what you’re going to have to confront. Obviously, it’s not a true test of an NBA season, but it’s a little taste.”

The Orlando league had only eight teams this year with the Hornets, Mavericks, Pistons, Pacers, Heat, Knicks and Thunder joining the host Magic. Twenty-four teams were in Las Vegas, with three preliminary games followed by a single-elimination playoff to determine a champion, and the NBA hopes to eventually get all 30 teams involved.

“We want to do what’s right for the team, for our players,” Weltman said. “But that being said, when the large portion of the league is there [in Las Vegas], it does kind of create an environment where you want your young guys to be a part of what the league is about.”

Eyeing Up Aaron Gordon's Pending Free Agency

The Magic could come to regret not offering 22-year-old Aaron Gordon a contract extension prior to the 2017/18 season, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype writes. Now the forward will hit restricted free agency on the heels of what has, so far, been a career year in Orlando.

In 13 games with the Magic this season, Gordon has averaged 17.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, both considerably higher marks than his career 10.1 and 5.4 rates.

Urbina cautions that the Magic would be wise to ink their forward to a lofty deal of their own design next summer rather than let him test the waters as a restricted free agent. The Jazz let Gordon Hayward do just that in 2014 and it came back to haunt them three summers later.

And-Ones: E. Okafor, Perkins, S. Brown, Wood

Two NBA veterans have been among the most impressive G League standouts early in the season, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Emeka Okafor, 35, has spent the past four years recovering from surgery on a herniated disc in his neck. He joined the Sixers for training camp and opted to stay with the organization’s affiliate in Delaware. He is averaging 14.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game and is shooting better than 60% from the field.

Kendrick Perkins was the Cavaliers’ final roster cut and went to Cleveland’s affiliate in Canton. He is averaging 13.0 points and 10.3 rebounds through three games. He has dropped weight and may still be able to help an NBA team at age 33.

There’s more news from the NBA and the G League:

  • Today is an important day for four players who were claimed off waivers during the offseason, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The BullsDavid Nwaba and Kay Felder, the HawksNicolas Brussino and the BucksDeAndre Liggins are all now eligible to be traded.
  • The Sixers used the remainder of this year’s cap space for the renegotiation/extension with Robert Covington, leaving just eight teams with cap room, according to Marks (Twitter link). They are the Bulls [$15.1MM], Mavericks [$12.5MM], Suns [$8.9MM], Pacers [$6.1MM], Kings [$4.3MM], Nets [$3.4MM], Hawks [$589K] and Magic [$549K].
  • Veteran guard Shannon Brown has been claimed from the G League player pool by the Wisconsin Herd, tweets Chris Reichert of 2 Ways and 10 Days. The 31-year-old last played in the NBA in 2014, when he appeared in five games with the Heat.
  • Christian Wood has joined the Delaware 87ers as a returning player, according to Reichert (Twitter link). He played 13 games for the Hornets last year and ended the season in the G League.
  • International stars are having a greater impact on the NBA than ever before, writes Tom Ziller of SB Nation. Many of the league’s best young players hail from overseas, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kristaps Porzingis, both considered early-season MVP candidates, along with Ben SimmonsAndrew WigginsJoel Embiid and Nikola Jokic. Ziller credits former commissioner David Stern for his focus on expanding the league to overseas markets. That strategy not only created more revenue, it exposed the NBA to an international audience and created a new reservoir of players.

2018 Salary Cap Outlook: Southeast Division

NBA rosters will undergo some changes over the course of the 2017/18 season, particularly around the trade deadline, and those changes may have an impact on teams’ cap sheets for future seasons. Based on the NBA’s current rosters, however, we can identify which teams are most and least likely to have cap room in the summer of 2018, which will dictate the type of moves those clubs can make in the offseason.

We’re taking a closer look at each of the NBA’s 30 teams by division this week. Today, we’re tackling the Southeast division. With the help of salary information compiled by Basketball Insiders, here’s how the summer of 2018 is shaping up for the five Southeast teams:

Miami HeatTyler Johnson vertical
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $117,444,952
Projection: Over the cap

Since the start of the 2016 offseason, the Heat have handed out lucrative long-term contracts to Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Kelly Olynyk, and Josh Richardson. It will be Tyler Johnson‘s deal that will be the toughest to swallow in 2018/19 though. Because of the way his 2016 offer sheet from the Nets was structured under the old CBA, Johnson’s cap charge will jump from about $5.88MM this season to $19MM+ next year.

Barring major cost-cutting moves, the Heat will be well over the cap in 2018/19, and may end up surpassing the luxury tax line too.

Charlotte Hornets
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $116,377,251
Projection: Over the cap

The Hornets have six players on their roster set to make at least $12MM apiece in 2018/19, including two – Nicolas Batum and Dwight Howard – earning about twice that. Most of those contracts won’t be easy to move, and Charlotte won’t want to dump the more team-friendly salaries from that group, like Kemba Walker‘s $12MM expiring deal. As such, we can expect the Hornets to head into the 2018 offseason as an over-the-cap club.

Washington Wizards
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $115,896,497
Projection: Over the cap

Despite the fact that John Wall‘s super-max extension won’t go into effect until 2019/20, the Wizards have nearly $116MM committed to just eight players next season. Even if the team were to trade a non-core player on an eight-figure salary, such as Ian Mahinmi or Marcin Gortat, it wouldn’t be enough to create meaningful cap space.

Orlando Magic
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $78,180,655
Projection: Up to approximately $19.5MM in cap room

The summer of 2018 will be a good test for just how attached the Magic’s new front office is to the old regime’s top draft picks. Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton will be restricted free agents, and if Orlando intends to retain both players – or even just Gordon – the team’s cap room will disappear. Letting Gordon and Payton walk and waiving Shelvin Mack and his non-guaranteed salary would get the Magic up to nearly $20MM in cap space.

Atlanta Hawks
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $56,232,915
Projection: Up to approximately $41MM in cap room

The Hawks’ maximum available cap space for 2018 will hinge in part on whether Dewayne Dedmon and Mike Muscala decide to pick up their respective player options. Those options being exercised would reduce the Hawks’ max cap room to about $31MM, which would still be more than enough to make a major addition or two — or to take on a couple undesirable contracts along with picks or young players, if Atlanta isn’t ready yet to accelerate its rebuilding timeline.

Previously:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cavs, LBJ Attempted To Add Jonathon Simmons In Free Agency

Jonathon Simmons believes he can be an elite player in the league and that mindset forced him to say no to LeBron James when the four-time MVP attempted to bring him to Cleveland.

“I even talked to LeBron James over the phone, and he was like, ‘We want you in Cleveland.’ And I said, ‘No, I want to play against you.’ I want to be able to play against elite guys and be able to, in a couple of years down the line, be just where they are,” Simmons said (via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel).

Salary also played a role in turning down the opportunity to join the defending Eastern Conference champs. “It wasn’t enough money, anyway. I have a family. I expressed that to him, which he kind of already knew. He said, ‘I respect that and I’ll see you soon,’” he added.

Cleveland has been over the salary cap since its first offseason with James back in town and because of cap constraints, the franchise was limited in what it could offer free agents this past summer. The most the Cavs could have offered Simmons was the taxpayer’s mid-level exception — it’s worth roughly $5.2MM, and the club used about half of it to sign Cedi Osman. Any deal with Simmons would also have come with serious tax implications for the Cavs since the team is a repeat offender.

Simmons, who’s been a solid fantasy basketball option this season, inked a three-year, $20MM contract with the Magic in July. He’s played 25.3 minutes per game this season and he owns a 25.5% usage percentage, a figure that ranks second on the team.

Magic Pace And Space Like Reigning Champ Warriors

  • While he’s sure to clarify that the Magic don’t boast the same caliber of elite level talent that the Warriors have, John Denton of the team’s official site writes that Orlando has played rather Golden State-ish so far this season. The Magic have benefited from the same pace-and-space tactics that the historically dominant reigning champion Warriors have for the past several seasons.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/9/17

Here are the G League transactions for Thursday:

Magic Recall Khem Birch, Wesley Iwundu From G League

  • The Magic have recalled rookies Khem Birch and Wesley Iwundu from the G League, per a team announcement (Twitter link). Lakeland doesn’t play its next game until Friday, so perhaps Birch and/or Iwundu will be re-assigned before then.
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