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MBO Roundtable – Magic Free Agency Edition

2014 August 1
by Adam Papageorgiou

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Barring a significant trade out of GM Rob Hennigan, the Orlando Magic appear to be done making major acquisitions this offseason. So the MBO staff gathered around for another roundtable discussion and chatted about the franchise’s 2014 free agency and trade hauls. We put on our starting lineup prediction hats as well as whipped out contract extension offers. Contributing to the banter are Brian Serra, Spenser Strode, Preston Raulerson, Andrew Melnick, and Adam Papageorgiou.

 

Who is the more important acquisition: Channing Frye or Evan Fournier? Explain why you prefer one over the other.

 

Brian Serra: Pass. It’s encouraging to see that the Magic are willing to overpay for role players once again, but it would be more encouraging if they had a decent team to surround said role player. Frye is a very good player, but why not hold your cap space and turn Frye/Ben Gordon into a creative $14M offer sheet for Eric Bledsoe in late July? For Fournier, it certainly seems like a little haul for the former best player on your team (Arron Afflalo) and at this point it seems like a shot in the dark if Fournier will develop or remain the same player he is now who doesn’t appear to do anything really well.

 

Spenser Strode: The more important acquisition is Channing Frye. Fournier, while young and still developing, couldn’t consistently make a meaningful impact in Denver despite a rash of injuries that created a plethora of opportunity for the Frenchman in his sophomore season. Moreover, nearly every statistical category took a dip for Fournier versus his rookie season.

Frye is a veteran who provides two proven commodities to the Magic roster immediately: accurate shooting & steady veteran leadership. He’s played an important role on winning teams, and will have a major role on the Magic for the foreseeable future. Fournier’s contributions to the roster are still up in the air for me.

 

Preston Raulerson: I think Frye will be the more important acquisition in the short term. I am interested to see how Fournier will develop, but that is a big question mark – Frye is a known commodity. I think the floor spacing that will come from having a stretch four will really let both the guards and centers come alive, not to mention allowing the playbook to mature a bit more.

 

Andrew Melnick: Although I do think it’s important that Fournier can knock down shots and help handle the ball, Frye will have the bigger impact. He’s going to space the floor and knock down shots for a team badly in need of both. When we asked Victor Oladipo about getting stretch four like Frye, he answered “finally.” I suspect the rest of the squad feels the same way.

 

Adam Papageorgiou: The Fournicator is the most important acquisition. We know what Channing can do when healthy. Frye is 31, can play average defense, and is phenomenal on offensive pick-and-roll situations. Evan is going to be entering his third NBA season already and is the Magic’s wild card who has the talent to make a phenomenal leap in a short period of time. He’s a 6′ 7″ wing with the creativity and variety to be both a spot-up assassin and a solid ball handler. The man will have an important role with France in the FIBA World Cup that begins at the end of August. He can get the #MoreChampagne hype machine rolling with a great showing in that tourney.

 

Below you’ll find the remaining MBO free agency discussion. 

 

Who plays the most minutes/games out of Ben Gordon, Luke Ridnour, and Willie Green this season? What do you expect each of their impacts to be?

 

Brian Serra: This question makes me want to throw up. I think it will be Ridnour early in the season, but overall Ben Gordon. Willie Green may be the actual best player of the 3 at this point, but he is buried quite low on the depth chart (Gordon/Oladipo/Fournier are all versatile) and will be a trade/waive candidate come January/February.

 

Spenser Strode: I wish that the Magic had acquired Luke Ridnour to be the back-up point guard when the team was consistently contending, as I feel like he would have been a perfect fit playing behind Jameer Nelson. Alas, he’s on the roster now, and I believe the majority of his impact will be felt during practice and in the locker room. The Magic have made an investment in Elfrid Payton (and of course, Victor Oladipo) that must be paid off with adequate playing time, which limits Ridnour’s ability to see the floor in a larger capacity.

Willie Green, the Magic’s waiver-wire acquisition looks to be another veteran locker room presence more so than on-floor contributor. That leaves Ben Gordon, who signed with the Magic for a surprising monetary figure, in hopes that the relationship could be mutually beneficial. Gordon has something to prove–that he’s still relevant, and the Magic have a rotation spot available for him if he can resurrect his game

 

Preston Raulerson: Has to be Ben Gordon here. I think we are going to use him early and often for multiple reasons. One, he is more valuable to us as a productive player with many minutes – could become solid trade asset if so. Two, he is happier/less cancerous with consistent playing time. The one issue with Ben is whether he can keep a cool head, and I think that is hard to do if he starts the season with tiny minutes.

 

Andrew Melnick:  Because the team is so badly in need of shooting, I’ve got to go with Gordon here. Yes, he was awful last year, shooting 27.2% from beyond the arc but he was unhappy and rarely played. He’s a career 40.2% shooter from downtown and I expect him to come closer to that this year. Green and Ridnour are good locker room guys and I think they’re here to help the young players.

 

Adam Papageorgiou: Ridnour will end up playing the most, and that’s because I anticipate Ben Gordon to be traded by the All-Star Break. Ben will get more playing time in the first half of the season at around 15-20 per contest. He’ll show he’s revived his career and a playoff team seeking Ben’s shooting prowess off their bench will have some nice assets to offer Hennigan be it a young talent, and/or draft pick(s). By then, hopefully Elfrid will be starting along side Oladipo and Fournier will have erupted into the player I believe he can become.

I expect Luke to play between 60-70 games and somewhere in the 10-15 minute range. Willie’s game total I anticipate to be in the 30-game range as it was for Ronnie Price and Jason Maxiell last season. Green is going to be a good practice player who will mentor some of the young guys.

 

 

If you’re trying to extend Tobias Harris and/or Nikola Vucevic before the season begins, what dollar and year figures are you offering?

 

Brian Serra: Harris: 4 years, $40M. I think this is an overpay and the Magic may have to pay even more than this, but the free market will drive his price up next year. Same for Vucevic. Speaking of…

Vucevic: 4 years, $60M. He may not accept an offer below the initial max, but he should. The market will undoubtedly give him a max contract next summer and this deal lets the team secure him now and avoid the potential drama (and cap raise) next summer.

 

Spenser Strode: With the salary cap set to increase in a couple of years under a new CBA, it makes contract extension figures even more precarious than they would be usually. The incentive to locking up Harris and Vucevic is that you don’t take the risk of being bid-up by other clubs in restricted free agency (See: Gordon Hayward & Utah). But, when a player and team strike a deal to extend, it often comes in the form of the organization taking a calculated risk that the production level will exponentially increase to match the looming increase in salary. I would look at the most recent contracts of two former Magic players as close to fair-market value: J.J. Redick and Marcin Gortat. Harris somewhere in the neighborhood of $7-8 million annually and Vucevic somewhere between $12-14 million per year.

 

Preston Raulerson: I see Vucevic in the 4-year, $55M range. If we get him at $50M, it is a steal. At $60M, it is a little bit of an overpay…but considering future salary cap and the invaluable aspects of a major big man, I’m not too upset with it.

For Harris, I think I am less optimistic than most. My ideal deal would be would 4 years at $35-40M…with a team option at the end of the second year. I am just not sold on him being the answer. That said, I think we would overpay up to 4/$45M or maybe even 4/$50M because frankly that is just how the market is playing right now. I’d be okay with that.

 

Andrew Melnick:  This one is tough. Both players have been on bad teams, but they’re both young and very productive. I think you let the market dictate what they’re going to get rather than extending them now unless there’s a deal you can’t pass on. Of course, that could back fire and both could wind up signing a huge offer sheet if they do hit restricted free agency but that’s a risk I’d probably take. There is an argument to sign them as soon as possible with the cap going up but letting players test their value while still having the chance to match any offer sheet they sign is the advantage of restricted free agency.

 

Adam Papageorgiou: It’d be fantastic to lock up both Nik and T12 to long-term extensions by the end of the September, but it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t happen. Both need to up their statistical output to make a playoff leap as well as to warrant the large salaries that will come their way. Vucci Mane’s countryman Nikola Pekovic signed for 5 years at $60 million last year. I think 4 years at $48 million with incentives for $52 million would be a bargain for the 23-year-old. Even at $15 million per season I’d be content because that becomes fair value in 2-3 years when the salary cap rises 20%.

I am still adamant that T12 is this franchise’s Carmelo Anthony scorer. If Harris stays healthy (which didn’t happen last season) then he’ll prove his worth. I’d offer Tobias 4 years at $40 million with incentive to make $44 million. It’s a solid offer for a 22-year-old who won’t be in his prime until after this upcoming deal ends. I would not exceed $12 million per season with Harris. If you extend Nikola and Tobias now, then there’s no incentive to hold the reins back on them because there would be no need to lower their open market value. The front office should put Magic fans at ease and avoid getting snake bitten by the free agency process next summer. These are two of your studs going forward, treat them as such.

 

We’re 2 months away from training camp, but give me your current Magic starting 5 and their positions.

 

Brian Serra:

PG: Victor Oladipo
SG: Evan Fournier
SF: Maurice Harkless
PF: Channing Frye
C: Nikola Vucevic

At the end of the season, Payton slides in at PG with either Fournier or Harkless sent to the bench. The good news is that the bench should be a little better this season with Payton/Ridnour/Gordon2/Harris/KOQ.

 

Spenser Strode:

In the interest of balancing youth and experience and trying to put together a cohesive 5-man unit, this is my starting five:

PG: Victor Oladipo
SG: Ben Gordon
SF: Maurice Harkless
PF: Channing Frye
C: Nikola Vucevic

There are 3 starters who are virtual locks based on performance and contract: Oladipo, Vucevic, and Frye. Which leaves a toss-up at Small Forward, and a crap-shoot at Shooting Guard. I think that Harris brings more punch to the Sixth Man role than Harkless does, which allows Moe to slide into the starting lineup, and I believe Ben Gordon is a competent placeholder until the Magic feel comfortable giving Elfrid Payton a larger role and shifting Victor Oladipo to the off-guard position.

 

Preston Raulerson:

My best guess is:

PG: Victor Oladipo
SG: Ben Gordon
SF: Evan Fournier
PF: Channing Frye
C: Nikola Vucevic

I still think we have starting 5’s based off of match-ups (I don’t know that Vaughn is out of that mode yet), and I could see Harkless at SF and Fournier at SG in some matchups, or even Harris at SF with Fourner at SG. I think Ben Gordon gets some early starts and more minutes than his production/skills should allow based off his cache with the front office (and our need to get him on track), but I think over time he will be coming of the bench until he is traded.

 

Andrew Melnick:

PG: Victor Oladipo
SG: Ben Gordon
SF: Maurice Harkless
PF: Channing Frye
C: Nikola Vucevic

That’s certainly not my optimal lineup (I’d use Oladipo at the 2 and throw Elfrid Payton right into the fire as a starter) but it’s my best guess at the moment. Plus, they’ll probably find a way for Tobias Harris to start as well.

 

Adam Papageorgiou:

PG: Victor Oladipo
SG: Evan Fournier
SF: Tobias Harris
PF: Channing Frye
C: Nikola Vucevic

Vucevic and Oladipo are locks for being starters. I just can’t imagine Tobias being involved in recruiting his first cousin Channing only to find himself on the bench. I think the Harris-Frye pick-and-roll chemistry is going to be extremely potent. There’s no more tanking and this lineup right now is what will win the most games. The second unit of Payton-Ben/Luke-Harkless-Aaron/Andrew-KOQ is going to prove better than your average NBA bench.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

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