The Orlando Magic have $53.8 million in salary commitments for next season.
Hedo Turkoglu ($12 million), Jameer Nelson ($8.6 million), Arron Afflalo ($7.75 million), Al Harrington ($7.1 million) and Glen Davis ($6.4 million) represent approximately $42 million of that amount.
Since the projected salary cap is $58.5 million for 2013-14, the Magic are on a tight budget. Turkoglu’s contract is only guaranteed for $6 million–but I don’t know what effect, if any, that could have on creating wiggle room. Furthermore, the amnesty clause was already used in December 2011 to waive Gilbert Arenas.
After the 2014-15 season, the Magic’s payroll drops to $13.2 million if they can avoid making any new commitments longer than two years. This, of course, does not include money that will have to be set aside for their upcoming first-round pick and to eventually offer extensions to the young nucleus of players now on rookie-scale contracts.
The Magic should turn to whatever small cap exceptions are available and make offers close to the minimum to fill the two or three available roster spots. With playoffs not likely in the cards for Orlando next season, there is no need to risk financial flexibility down the road.
This is not to say the Magic won’t be able to field a competitive team, it’s just that they are a couple years away from contending.
Here, then, is a list of five free agents to target for 2013-14 in keeping with the Magic’s need for reasonable prices and short-term deals.
5. Mike Dunleavy Jr.
2012-13 stats: 10.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 75 games
2012-13 salary: $3.75 million
For a team that ranked 24th in scoring at 94.1 points per game, a little extra offense wouldn’t hurt. The versatile 6’9″ forward has a smooth shooting touch and the dribbling and passing skills to act as a point man.
Dunleavy averaged 25.9 minutes per game and played close to a full season in 2012-13, but only made three starts for the Milwaukee Bucks. He would add scoring depth and a veteran presence to the second unit.
Entering his 12th season, the third overall pick in 2002 would be worth a one- or two-year investment if he isn’t looking for a raise.
2012-13 stats: 3.1 points, 1.1 rebounds, 78 games.
2012-13 salary: $2.9 million
The Magic finished with the worst record in the NBA this season (20-62), so it’s not surprising that they struggled at the defensive end, allowing 101.1 points per game. To give the defensive effort a boost, Jones would be an inexpensive option as a role player off the bench.
The 6’6″ guard, who split time with the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks in 2012-13, is regarded as a solid one-on-one defender with a knack for keying fast-break opportunities and an ability to attack the basket.
Not much of a risk here, as long as the 10-year veteran sticks to his strengths and doesn’t try to do too much.
3. Randy Foye
2012-13 stats: 10.8 points, 2.0 assists, 82 games
2012-13 salary: $2.5 million
Foye drilled a career-high 178 3-pointers on 41 percent shooting this season. The seventh-year guard also made 72 starts for the Utah Jazz.
There may end up being competition for his services this summer, but the Magic would benefit if Foye falls under the radar on the free agent market.
2. Sam Young
2012-13 stats: 2.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, 56 games
2012-13 salary: $402,065
Nothing about this signing would be glamorous.
The selling point of the 6’6″ forward, who has averaged 15.9 minutes per game over four seasons, is that he would bring some grit and toughness at minimal damage to the team’s bank account.
If you just need a player to fill out the roster, Young is a realistic option with the potential upside of being a guy willing to rebound, defend and make the hustle plays that help win games.
1. Earl Clark
2012-13 stats: 7.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 59 games
2012-13 salary: $1.24 million
In his fourth season, the 6’10″ forward established career highs in points per game and rebounding. Furthermore, Clark stepped in to make 36 starts for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012-13 because of injuries that sidelined Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill.
The athletic 25-year-old would bring an exciting mix of skills at both ends of the floor and I would even excuse the Magic for inking him to a deal exceeding two years.
Clark’s name has stayed relatively quiet since the season ended, but chances are he will be sought after by a handful of teams when the free agency period officially opens in July.