With the NBA draft and free agency creeping up, more attention is being put on who the Orlando Magic will add during the offseason. But whom the Magic add will depend on which players from the 2021-22 roster return.
Orlando prioritized developing its younger players during a season that ended with a 22-60 record. Expect a similar approach to 2022-23.
“Our goals remain the same, which are to develop these young guys,” Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said during an interview on FM 96.9 The Game’s Open Mike with the Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi. “Everybody says you need stars in this league. Sometimes stars don’t always reveal themselves instantly.
“There are still evaluations to be made. There are still a lot of improvements that our guys have to make and that’s going to take a lot of work. And it’s going to take time. I don’t really think we recalibrate our goals going into the season. We ramp them up, we challenge our guys to get better, and from a team-building standpoint, obviously, we’ll look to add more.”
Wendell Carter Jr., who’s coming off a breakout season and is entering the first season of a 4-year, $50 million extension he signed last year, is all but guaranteed to come back. So are Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac, who’s expected to make his long-awaited return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Devin Cannady, who signed a partially guaranteed 3-year deal before the 2021-21 season ended, will likely be on the roster to start the season.
He has a non-guaranteed $1.75 million salary for 2022-23. His guarantee date of Jan. 10, 2023, according to Spotrac, for the 2022-23 season gives Orlando time to make a decision on his contract.
The Magic still have ways to make roster changes.
They have their own first-round pick and two second-round picks (No. 32 and No. 35) in this year’s draft. The spot of the first-round pick, which is guaranteed to land in the top six, will be determined in Tuesday’s draft lottery. The Magic are also projected to have the league’s most practical cap space ($28.7 million), according to Spotrac.
Orlando will need to make several roster decisions, from players entering free agency or who have options for 2022-23 to a possible trade candidate.
Here are predictions on who’ll stay and who’ll go, not including who Orlando had on two-way contracts (Ignas Brazdeikis and Admiral Schofield) to end the season:
Mo Bamba (restricted free agent): Go
Bamba averaged career highs across the board in his fourth season, including points (10.6), rebounds (8.1), blocks (1.7), assists (1.2), minutes (25.2) and games played (71), playing in a career-best 86.6% of the season.
He was one of four players, along with Jaren Jackson Jr., Kristaps Porziņģis and Myles Turner, to average at least 1.5 blocks and 1.5 3-pointers.
More chances led to better production from Bamba but he also improved at multiple facets of his game with those opportunities.
The Magic have until June 29 to tender a 1-year, $10.1 million qualifying offer to Bamba, the No. 6 pick in the 2018 draft, to make him a restricted free agent.
Before the season ended, Bamba made it clear he wants to return to the Magic. Weltman implied Orlando will tender the qualifying offer, suggesting the Magic are interested in bringing back Bamba with the rights to match offers from other teams.
The result of the draft lottery could influence this decision.
The Magic have the second-best odds of landing the top pick and a 52.1% chance of staying in the top four. Most of this draft class’ top prospects, including Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith and Keegan Murray, are projected to be power forwards/bigs.
Orlando already has multiple young forwards/big who need more playing time to develop. Bamba, 24, fits the Magic’s timeline and has room to grow.
This decision could come down to what’s the most amount of guaranteed money another team’s willing to offer Bamba.
Bol Bol (restricted free agent): Stay
Bol, who the Magic acquired ahead of the Feb. 10 trade deadline, didn’t play for Orlando and was officially ruled out for the season in mid-March after having right foot surgery on Jan. 18 while with the Denver Nuggets.
His potential is evident.
He was a 5-star prospect in high school before playing one season at Oregon, but his limited playing time (328 total minutes in 53 regular-season games with the Nuggets) since being taken with the 44th pick in the 2019 draft makes it difficult to draw conclusions on who he is and can be as a player.
Bol’s injury history — he missed most of his lone season at Oregon because of a stress fracture in his left foot that required surgery — doesn’t help.
At 7-foot-2 with a 7-8 wingspan, Bol fits the archetype the Magic prefer and it’s clear they value his versatile skillset.
Bol, 22, and his potential will draw interest from other teams. But it’s hard seeing him getting more guaranteed money than the $2.7 million qualifying offer, which would make Bol a restricted free agent. The Magic have until June 29 to tender.
If he does, the Magic have the right to match any offer.
Gary Harris (unrestricted free agent): Go
Harris got his groove back after dealing with injury struggles in previous seasons, averaging 11.1 points on 43.4% shooting from the field and 38.4% shooting on 3s in 61 games, the most he’s played in a season since 2017-18.
He was also a positive voice as one of the few veterans in a younger locker room.
Because of his skillset as a 3-and-D wing and age, 27, Harris is expected to garner interest from other teams — especially contending ones — as an unrestricted free agent.
The Magic can offer Harris the most money because they have his Bird Rights and he’s young enough to get another significant contract after the next deal he signs ends.
With Harris in control of his fate, an offer of enough guaranteed money and the opportunity to play for a playoff-contending team again could pry him away from Orlando.
Robin Lopez (unrestricted free agent): Go
Lopez did everything the Magic asked of him in his “utility guy” role while younger players received more playing time.
Like Harris, he was an important voice in the locker room as a veteran player and produced in the chances he got on the floor.
It’s unlikely the Magic will offer Lopez significantly more than the $5 million he signed with Orlando for last offseason. He should be able to command similar money from contending teams looking for a reliable backup big man.
At 34 years old and 14 seasons into his NBA career, Lopez could value having the opportunity to compete for a championship, even if it takes him further away from Disney World.
Terrence Ross (trade candidate): Stay … for now
Ross, the Magic’s longest-tenured player, has made it clear he’d like to continue his career elsewhere.
He’s entering the last season of a 4-year, $54 million contract he signed with the Magic during the 2019 offseason, with his $11.5 million salary for 2022-23 about $1 million more than the projected standard mid-level exception ($10.3 million).
Ross thought he was going to be traded ahead of the previous two trade deadlines, but a deal didn’t materialize either time.
Orlando’s been patient with Ross by not settling for less than what they want in a trade and that approach likely won’t change.
Ross, 31, hasn’t had a negative influence on the locker room and contending teams may be willing to offer more in a trade for him ahead of the 2023 trade deadline — the last opportunity for Orlando to trade Ross on his current deal — when they have better ideas of their needs.
Don’t be surprised if Ross starts next season with the Magic but finishes somewhere else.
Moe Wagner (non-guaranteed deal): Stay
Wagner will have his $1.9 million salary for the 2022-23 season guaranteed if he’s on the roster past June 30.
He averaged a career-high 9 points and 3.7 rebounds in 15.2 minutes (63 games) this past season and has been productive inside (62.4% on 2-pointers) and beyond the arc (33.6% on 3-pointers) since joining Orlando late in 2020-21.
Wagner’s been a solid spark plug off the bench. His production for his low salary isn’t easy to replace.