The San Antonio Spurs won an NBA championship without having anyone average more than 17 points a game during the regular season and without any high-profile free-agent additions.
Rob Hennigan, a member of the Spurs’ organization when the team won its titles in 2005 and 2007, has adhered to that philosophy the past two years since taking over as the Orlando Magic’s general manager. So even with the Magic having just traded away their top scorer from last season and with as much as $28.5 million in salary cap space to work with, don’t look for them to be active in free agency which begins at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
When guard Arron Afflalo was dealt Thursday to the Denver Nuggets, it left forward Tobias Harris — who turns 22 next month — as their leading returning scorer from a team which finished with a 23-59 record. And he averaged only 14.6 points in 61 games.
Elfrid Payton had a 19.2-point average in his final year at Louisiana-Lafayette. But he and the Magic’s other first-round draft pick, Aaron Gordon of Arizona, caught the attention of Hennigan and the scouting department for reasons other than their ability to score.
Without Afflalo and Jameer Nelson, who was waived Monday, saving the Magic another $6 million, Orlando will undoubtedly add at least one veteran to avoid having their roster dominated by players under the age of 25. To think they will be serious contenders for the services of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony or even Lance Stephenson, however, is unrealistic.
"I definitely appreciate what Arron Afflalo brought to our team," coach Jacque Vaughn said. "But as an organization, we’ll continue to work toward our goals. This is a work in progress."
The only veteran point guard on the roster is 31-year-old Ronnie Price, who played in 31 games after signing with the Magic as a free agent last summer. There have been reports that Orlando may be interested in Rodney Stuckey of the Detroit Pistons and Isaiah Thomas of the Sacramento Kings. Thomas is a restricted free agent and thus can have any contract offer to him matched by the Kings.
Stuckey, 28, was a longtime teammate of Jason Maxiell, the Magic’s other offseason pickup a year ago. While Stuckey averaged 13.9 points a game last season, he made only five starts and might be hard-pressed to get consistent minutes on a team which drafted Victor Oladipo second overall last summer.
The salary-cap figure for each team next season is expected to be $63.2 million. Despite still having the contracts of Glen Davis and Al Harrington on their books, the Magic have one of the lowest payrolls in the NBA.
In another move made Monday, the team released guard Doron Lamb, who averaged 3.2 points in 53 games off the bench last season. The 22-year-old former Kentucky star had been used sparingly since he and Harris were acquired in the trade which sent J.J. Redick to the Milwaukee Bucks in February 2013.
It could well be that Hennigan is setting his sights on next year’s group of free agents that includes Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol and Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
"We feel confident that you can win with guys who are tough and defend and shoot the ball and want to attack people," Hennigan said.
Added Vaughn: "What we will do, and we’ve said this from the beginning, is we’ll play team basketball."
While teams and free agents can reach verbal agreements as early as Tuesday, no new contracts can be signed and no trades can be completed until July 10.