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With bad draft on the horizon, Magic must keep trying to win

2013 January 29
by Brian Serra

1152023_sp_0105_ucla_stanford012_LSThe word “tank” is not one that will ever be well received in the Orlando Magic locker room. The same goes for the coaching staff and front office. Everybody knew (except for me apparently) that this team would be a high-lottery team, and that is where they sit today. At 14-30, Orlando has the 4th worst record in the NBA. Barring some unforeseen miracle, they will likely finish the season somewhere between the 3rd and 7th worst record in the league. Or as I like to call it, the best case scenario.

Earlier in the season, with the team sitting at 12-13, that best case scenario included a playoff appearance. Nothing promotes a winning culture, like WINNING. At this point, it’s too late. The playoffs aren’t happening. Orlando currently has a .3% chance to make the playoffs according to ESPN’s Playoff Odds. Meanwhile they have a much higher, significantly higher, chance of winning the lottery with a >10% chance. And that’s ok. Injuries happened, last second losses happened, life happened. Now, the team must continue looking forward.

The team must continue to try and win as many games as they can. The record is bad enough to secure what they need. The draft prospects this season have been universally regarded as average-at-best, so they don’t have to tank for the next LeBron James or Tim Duncan. Further, they shouldn’t. A bad record only ensures a losing cultue, not the top pick. And do you really want to get stuck paying the next Michael Beasley or Derrick Williams mid-level money?       *Future rookie deal numbers after the jump*

Future Rookie Salary Scale*

Number One Overall Pick
Season 1st year salary 2nd year salary 3rd year team option 4th year team option
2013-14 $5,324,280 $5,563,920 $5,803,560   $7,318,289.16
2014-15 $5,510,640 $5,758,680 $6,006,600   $7,574,322.60
Number Two Overall Pick
Season 1st year salary 2nd year salary 3rd year team option 4th year team option
2013-14 $4,763,815 $4,978,184 $5,192,554   $6,553,003.00
2014-15 $4,930,549 $5,152,420 $5,374,293   $6,782,358.11
Number Three Overall Pick
Season 1st year salary 2nd year salary 3rd year team option 4th year team option
2013-14 $4,277,945 $4,470,455 $4,662,965    $5,893,988.00
2014-15 $4,427,673 $4,626,921 $4,826,169    $6,100,277.58

*Salaries based on 3.5% annual raise from 2012-2013 rookie salary scale and contracts signed at 120% of rookie scale.

The entire analysis here is that those are expensive players. The risk is still relatively low with team options for years three and four, but you get the point. A bad pick and suddenly, those salary cap friendly rookie contracts aren’t exactly how they appear. In a draft void of superstars, picking one through three isn’t the place to be. Picking four through seven, offers significantly more value.

Number Four Overall Pick
Season 1st year salary 2nd year salary 3rd year team option 4th year team option
2013-14 $3,857,031 $4,030,538 $4,204,170 $5,318,275.00
2014-15 $3,992,027 $4,171,607 $4,351,316 $5,504,414.63
Number Seven Overall Pick
Season 1st year salary 2nd year salary 3rd year team option 4th year team option
2013-14 $2,895,971 $3,026,257 $3,156,667 $4,008,967.00
2014-15 $2,997,330 $3,132,176 $3,267,150 $4,149,280.85

Taking these factors into account, even where they may seem to work against each other in places, the takeaway is – keep playing hard, keep fighting. There is no guarantee moving forward that Ben McLemore or Shabazz Muhammad will be stars. There never is. The Magic organization as a whole must try to control the only aspects of the process they can effect.

Win games (hopefully). Find the next Lillard, George or Curry. That’s the goal. Progress and process over everything.

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