Magic Free-Agency Prioritizes Steady Over Sexy

For months we had our eyes set on big names…or just names….in free-agency…Austin Reaves, Max Strus, Brooke Lopez, Fred VanVleet…and the Magic landed none of them. But the good news is, I’m not even sure they were trying.

The Magic told us loud and clear what the mission is…stay the same and hope to improve with the guys that are on the roster. I know it seems boring on the surface…and in this job especially…a whacked out move would’ve been way more fun to talk about…but, they essentially told us without telling us – the stars we need, are the guys we’ve got. And we’re not going to do anything to screw up the cap for when we are ready to make that big-time push towards the top.

I know no one wants to hear this – but the Magic are not ready to compete with the top teams in the east…they need to become the Knicks before they can become the Bucks or the Celtics…and a single free-agent add from this crop wasn’t going to do it.

So what did the Magic do? Joe Ingles received a 2 year 22 million dollar deal. Mo Wagner signed a 2 year 16 million dollar deal.

They appear to be set with what they have, they could be setting themselves to be major players if a trade becomes available, and they're definitely making sure they have enough $ to resign the guys they want to keep on the roster. Both Franz and Paolo will be extension eligible before we know it.

It is not sexy. But not-sexy seems to be the new sexy in the NBA. Look around the league…only 1 team spent like crazy and rebuilt their roster through free-agency! 1. The Rockets. And do you really want to be the Rockets?

The Magic won free-agency by not getting involved in free-agency. Read a portion of John Hollinger's piece in the Athletic about exactly that.

In fact, the smartest plays I’ve seen on the board have come from teams such as Orlando and Indiana, who have adopted something of a hybrid strategy by essentially turning their cap room into both a useful player and a trade exception.

Bruce Brown is overpaid at $45 million over two years, but with a second-year team option he basically operates as a trade exception. If any deal comes up to get the Pacers a truly difference-making player, they have the large expiring deal they need …and that’s true at any point in the next two years if they pick up the option. In the meantime, they landed a genuinely useful player to help in the backcourt; this is way higher up the food chain than absorbing a salary dump.

Orlando had a similar concept with half the money; Ingles isn’t on Brown’s level, but having his deal on the books lets the Magic quickly pivot if a trade opportunity presents itself.

For teams like the Magic and Pacers that are still figuring out what they have, I thought this was a particularly clever use of their cap room, and I was a bit surprised more teams didn’t go for the short-term overpay as a means of rolling over cap space.

One thing is for sure: Cap space isn’t cool anymore.

New Orleans Pelicans v Orlando Magic

Photo: Getty Images

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