With LeBron James moving back to Cleveland, the NBA has begun to move on from his big decision as other players begin to find homes. The Orlando Magic have done quite well so far this offseason, both through the NBA draft and also free agency. In fact, the roster has quietly formed what the organization hopes can be the core of a playoff push sooner rather than later.
But is Orlando’s business for the summer done?
The pickups of Ben Gordon, Channing Frye and Willie Green range from the shrewd to questionable. What isn’t in question however is that these are three veteran players, who will add leadership to a team that has lost Aaron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson recently. Add to that the noticeable play of point guard Elfrid Payton during the summer league in Orlando, and the mix on paper at least looks pretty good right about now.
A quick word also on the recent Anthony Randolph trade that went down with the Chicago Bulls. While Randolph was traded from Chicago to shed some cap room as they retool, many expect Orlando to simply let Randolph walk away without ever playing for them.
While the second round draft picks in 2015 and 2016 are the more enticing pickups of the trade, it might be worth at least giving Randolph the chance to prove his worth.
He has already played for four teams in six seasons, so he is running out of chances to keep his career alive. Orlando could be just the spot for him to revive himself.
Expectations still aren’t sky high around these parts, and this is a young and hardworking team. Of course the organization may have other things in mind and different directions to go, but it couldn’t hurt to give him a workout.
Tobias Harris is the starting power forward around here but having spent time as a PF and center in his career, Randolph could give something off the bench.
Whatever happens, the team is certainly going in the right direction, and is doing so under the radar. If the season started tomorrow, this team would surprise some people in winning some games.
The way Orlando is building this team isn’t unique, but it’s a little different, and you really feel that they are plotting to make a serious bid for a top tier free agent next summer.
Frye, for example, signed a four-year $32 million contract, but that’s movable if it looks like the team could land a star. He’s a solid veteran that contending teams love to have.
Similarly, Ben Gordon’s deal is only for two seasons with a second-year team option, so if they need the cap space next year he can be taken off the books. Young players like Victor Oladipo, Payton and Aaron Gordon are on those rookie contracts teams love, so while the team is getting better on paper, the flexibility still exists too.
It is not quite the way the Dallas Mavericks have worked in the past, signing veterans to one-year deals so that they can shed them the following summer to pursue a superstar, but it’s from the same blueprint. General manager Rob Hennigan actually deserves a lot of credit, because the moves he is making are pleasing fans who want to see progress.
However he is not shackling the team to long-term commitments with the majority of these players, making this team a player in free agency next summer.
Orlando will hope now that with this team, their days of going to the lottery are nearing an end. Despite LeBron James staying in the East, and the likes of the Bulls and Wizards arming themselves with new weapons, the East is still pretty weak.
Building for the present and future is really difficult in the NBA, and yet it seems that’s what the Magic are doing, and it is brave. Should the team sneak into the playoffs next season, some free agents will take notice of a young team on the rise.
That will be the moment this team can pounce, ridding themselves of the players necessary to get them that big fish. In some ways it is cruel, but there is no doubting it is also smart.
So smart in fact that, taking stock of the situation, perhaps a bold statement needs to be made. The team probably only have another one or two minor trades left in them, and after that, the prediction here is that they can be a .500 team next season.
It’s not going to be easy, but when you are building like this team is and making the fans believe that change truly is on the way, you’re willing to go all in and think it can happen. Frye, Gordon, Green, the kind of names that provide stability now, and in the long run may just help pave the way for the brighter future we have been sold on.
What a nice thought that is.
Tags: Orlando Magic