ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s shaping up as another summer where the Orlando Magic will create barely a ripple, much less a splash, in NBA free agency.
Not since the acquisition of Rashard Lewis in a sign-and-trade deal with the Seattle SuperSonics in July 2007 has anyone of note been enticed to come aboard. Lewis is now with the Miami Heat. The SuperSonics are now the Oklahoma City Thunder. And Otis Smith, the person largely responsible for that transaction, is no longer the Magic’s general manager.
To say the Magic will be watching with bemused detachment the expected courtship of Dwight Howard between Monday and when teams can begin signing free agents July 10 wouldn’t be entirely accurate.
They were impacted Friday by the drama surrounding the former face of the franchise when Joe Rogowski, their strength and conditioning coach since 2006, was hired in a similar capacity by the Houston Rockets, who will try to lure Howard from the Los Angeles Lakers.
But with only three free agents on the current roster and not much to offer beyond the mid-level exception of around $5 million a season, the drafting of guard Victor Oladipo with the second overall pick will likely be the biggest Magic news for weeks and months to come.
When asked after the draft about the Magic’s upcoming free-agent involvement, general manager Rob Hennigan replied, “I’m not really sure. I think we’ll be active, but probably not super active.”
That level of activity could depend on whether the Los Angeles Clippers are able to retain All-Star point guard Chris Paul. If the hiring of onetime Magic coach Doc Rivers convinces Paul once and for all to sign a maximum contract, the Clippers would become less apt to keep Eric Bledsoe as his backup.
Paul has said that Bledsoe should be a starting point guard somewhere next season, and there were reports before the draft that the Magic were close to obtaining him.
Even with the selection of Oladipo, Hennigan said it’s not a foregone conclusion that Arron Afflalo will be shipped to the Clippers for Bledsoe. Some reports also have the Magic taking on the expiring contract of Caron Butler and trading away their top draft pick from a year ago, forward Andrew Nicholson.
“That’s something that we’ll have to work through as we get into the summer,” Hennigan said. “But as of now, there’s really nothing to say about it.”
The most significant of the Magic’s three free agents is Beno Udrih, who averaged 10.2 points and 6.1 assists in 27 games after being acquired with Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb from the Milwaukee Bucks. Udrih made more than $7 million last season, meaning he would have to take a pay cut of $2 million or so if he was offered the mid-level exception. But he has often spoken of his appreciation to the Magic for getting him out of a bad situation in Milwaukee, and it might also help that his wife is from the Tampa area.
Udrih turns 31 Friday. A combination of him and Jameer Nelson, who is also 31, at point guard would appear to fly in the face of Hennigan’s efforts to rebuild the Magic into a younger and more athletic team.
While Oladipo played some point at Indiana, using him there for more than a handful of minutes when the regular-season begins would be asking too much from him.
The Magic also have an early termination option when it comes to the contract of Hedo Turkoglu, who is scheduled to make $12 million next season but has only part of that guaranteed.
Turkoglu played in only 11 games because of a thumb injury, a 20-game suspension by the league and a desire by the Magic to go with younger players. Forward DeQuan Jones, who made the team as a rookie after going undrafted out of Miami, is a restricted free agent.
Except for Nelson, the Magic don’t have a 3-point shooter who can keep defenses honest. Unless they’re counting on Oladipo, Harris and Maurice Harkless to improve in that area, a free agent who could help them out would be Randy Foye, who made a career-high 178 3s while playing in all 82 games last season for the Utah Jazz. Foye was paid $2.5 million last season and will turn 30 in September.
Harkless and center Nikola Vucevic have been working out at the Magic’s practice facility and were in attendance at the press conference where Oladipo and second-round pick Romero Osby were introduced.
“I’ve always said to them from Day One that this is your job now,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Your job doesn’t end when the summer begins or when the season ends. It’s up to those guys to take it upon themselves and challenge themselves in their offseason. And the good thing is I think they are challenging themselves.”