The NBA Free Agency period, also known to some as Christmas in the summer for NBA players and fans, tips-off at 12:01 am on July 1st. The Orlando Magic will have nearly $37 million dollars in cap space to lure key free agents to central Florida to help catapult the franchise back into the playoffs.
Thanks to the draft night trade of Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and Domantas Sabonis, the 11th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Serge Ibaka, the Magic have filled their biggest glaring need for a strong defensive power forward that can also knock down perimeter jump shots to keep the space open down low for Nik Vucevic. But, that trade along with other roster moves have created other needs that can and should be filled immediately. Here’s my wish list for Orlando.
Shooting guard Courtney Lee. General manager Rob Hennigan has already extended a qualifying offer to starting shooting guard/small forward Evan Fournier and it’s expected he will sign it to remain in central Florida. But there’s still a need for depth at the position. Even though they just traded for Jodie Meeks from the Detroit Pistons, it’s rumored the team would like to add another shooting guard. A player of Lee’s caliber could definitely help.
The former first round pick of the Magic in 2008, shot 45.4% from the field and 37.8% on 3-pointers last season for both the Memphis Grizzles and Charlotte Hornets. At 6’5″, the 30 year old is an above average defender and signing him would also steal him from a division rival and 2016 Playoff team. His addiction would bring another steady veteran presence in the locker room with extensive playoff experience. He was a rookie starter on the 2009 team that made the NBA Finals. Lee also still lives in Orlando in the offseason, so maybe he’d like to be around permanently.
Reports, or rumors, also have mentioned Jamal Crawford of the L.A. Clippers and Eric Gordon of the New Orleans Pelicans as potential targets. Crawford is 36 years old and more likely to stay in L.A. or sign with a proven championship contender. Gordon is only 27 years old, with 8 years of NBA experience. While he would be a good fit, he’s likely to ask for more money than the Magic will be willing to give.
Small forward/power forward Chandler Parsons. Parsons is a local kid having played high school ball at Lake Howell and for Billy Donovan in Gainesville at the University of Florida. Parsons has had a bout with the injury bug since signing his last free agent deal with the Dallas Mavericks in 2014. The 27 year-old has made some rumblings on social media lately that things aren’t so great in “Big D.” Maybe a return home would do wonders for his health and happiness. At 6’10 he shoots 49.2% from 2-point range and 41.4% from 3. Adding his versatility to go along with Fournier, Mario Hezonja and Aaron Gordon would make Orlando one of the most, if not the most versatile team in the league.
Plus with the news that power forward Andrew Nicholson, the Magic’s current longest tenured player, won’t be receiving a qualifying offer making him a unrestricted free agent, the Magic need to find more depth on the frontline. Signing Parsons will fill that need.
Shooting guard/point guard Austin Rivers, if you can’t resign Brandon Jennings who was acquired in the Tobias Harris trade or get Lee. Rivers, another local kid from nearby Winter Park High School, improved by leaps and bounds as Chris Paul’s backup with the L.A. Clippers. It was a shock to many he opted out of his contract with the team where he also plays for his father Doc Rivers, but when you look at the potential money that will be thrown around this summer it shouldn’t be that shocking. Orlando should definitely throw him some. Rivers is only 23 years old, and set career marks last season in points per game (8.9), field goal percentage (43.8%) and 3-point percentage (34%) while only playing 21.8 minutes a night. Plus, more importantly, Rivers has significant playoff experience having been in the Conference Semifinals and first round of the Western Conference the last two seasons. Rivers would fit in perfectly with a group of guys under the age of 26 years and ready to blossom.
If the Magic can sign one or two of these guys, it will be Christmas in the Spring of 2017 for central Florida hoop fans, because they’ll receive the gift of playoff basketball for the first time in five years.