ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orlando Magic’s commitment to build through younger players became further evident Saturday when the team announced it exercised the options of Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris and Andrew Nicholson through the 2014-15 season.
Under the terms of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, the Magic had until Oct. 31 to decide whether to pick up the options of all four players, all 23 or younger. The estimated total cost to the Magic is a shade more than $8.5 million, topped by the $2.75 million that will be due Vucevic next season. That’s less than what they are committed to paying veteran point guard Jameer Nelson for this season alone.
Harris shared his joy on his Twitter account shortly after the news became official.
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Of the four, only Nicholson was drafted by the Magic. Harris was acquired in February in the trade that sent J.J. Redick to the Milwaukee Bucks, while Vucevic and Harkless were property of the Philadelphia 76ers before being packaged as part of the four-team deal in August 2012 when the Magic sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Harris, a 6-foot-9 forward and a 2011 first-round pick of the Charlotte Bobcats, averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in 27 games with the Magic toward the end of last season. He missed four of their last five preseason games because of a sprained left ankle. Following their 101-82 loss Friday night to the New Orleans Pelicans, coach Jacque Vaughn would not say who the Magic’s starter at power forward would be for the regular-season opener Tuesday night at Indiana.
If Harris is unavailable, Nicholson could open in his place. The 6-9 first-round pick in 2012 out of St. Bonaventure made 28 starts as a rookie and averaged 6.6 points and 3.5 rebounds in less than 19 minutes a game during the preseason while going 6 of 13 from 3-point range.
Vucevic, who turned 23 Thursday, finished fourth in the voting for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award after averaging 13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds. The 7-foot center had four games of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds, and only Howard ended last season with a higher rebounding average.
Harkless was the only Magic player to start all eight of their preseason games, a marked change from a year ago when he was still recovering from surgery to repair a sports hernia and didn’t make his pro debut until Nov. 7. The 6-9 forward is the youngest of the four at 20 years old.