NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.
In evaluating Magic president Jeff Weltman’s first offseason last year, I wrote it could take him years to put his stamp on the franchise. He inherited a roster so gummed up with bad contracts for at-least-half-decent veterans. There was no quick fix, up or down.
One year later, and Orlando has an identity.
I’m just unconvinced it’s one Weltman deliberately pursued.
The Magic are building a jumbo frontcourt, a rarity in today’s NBA. Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon and Mohamed Bamba are all promising, and they might – might – fit together. They’d comprise one of the league’s largest 3-4-5s.
But Orlando might have just stumbled into this experiment.
Isaac, the No. 6 pick last year, was already on board as a long-term piece.
The Magic might have hoped a better-fitting player – like point guard Trae Young, who went No. 5 (to the Hawks, via the Mavericks) – slipped to No. 6 this year. But Bamba was the top prospect available, and drafting him was far better than reaching for a lesser alternative.
And Gordon re-signed for a bargain rate. His four-year, $76 million deal is worth $38,093,280 less than a four-year max would have paid. Plus, his salary descends – from $21,590,909 this season to $16,409,091 in year four. Better to get those higher costs out of the way now, when Orlando is capped out anyway. This is one of the most team-friendly contracts of the summer.
So, this plan might have just fallen into the Magic’s lap. But they’re rolling with it now.
Orlando swapped center Bismack Biyombo for center Timofey Mozgov, who’s worse than Biyombo and will earn $1.28 million more over the next two years. Why? The deal allowed the Magic to acquire Jerian Grant, a worthwhile flier point guard. Neither center was likely to play much in Orlando, anyway.
I like the Magic’s second-rounders: Melvin Frazier and Justin Jackson. I like how Orlando got cash for accepting Dakari Johnson in a trade with the Thunder then got cash for flipping Johnson to the Grizzlies for Jarell Martin. I like the Magic’s new coach, Steve Clifford, who replaces Frank Vogel.
The Magic got plenty right this offseason. They just didn’t have clearance for a major takeoff. As much as they have fallen into a style, they were still hamstrung by the problems Weltman inherited.
And it’s far from guaranteed Isaac, Gordon and Bamba will complement each other. Orlando could have to move at least one, and timing a trade will be imperative.
But there’s plenty of time to figure that out. For now, the Magic are still in asset-acquisition mode, and they did well with that this summer.
Offseason grade: B