Frye Will Help Magic's Young Core Grow

By John Denton
July 15, 2014

ORLANDO -- The Orlando Magic made Channing Frye their top priority in free agency primarily because of his sweet stroke from 3-point range, his basketball smarts and his willingness to be a mentor to the younger players on the roster.

But the Magic also signed the 31-year-old power forward to a lucrative four-year contract because of what he can do for players like Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris on the court in the future.

By making defenses guard Frye all the way out to the 3-point line, Oladipo and rookies Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon should have larger gaps with which they can attack the rim for layups, floaters and drive-and-kick paint plays.

When Frye positions himself at the top of the key – a position where he made 46 threes and shot 40 percent last season – opposing power forwards will have to lift above the free throw lane and free Vucevic from the double-teams that came late last season as his offensive game blossomed.

And when Frye is positioned on the wings – where Frye drilled a whopping 102 3-pointers last season – Harris can roll off screens and have the middle of the floor wide open to utilize his full offensive arsenal.

``It’s pretty much my job to make sure that nobody gets double-teamed and that we have the right spacing,’’ Frye said on Monday upon signing his contract with the Magic. ``I’m very excited with the guards that we have. Vic is one of the tougher new guards in the league. I was watching Summer League and I didn’t know a lot about (Elfrid) Payton, but I could tell that he’s going to be nasty. I’m excited about the progression of these guys.’’

While some might look at Frye’s 9.9-point scoring and 5.2-rebound averages and discount the Magic’s signing, the belief in the Orlando organization is that the power forward will have a tremendous trickle-down effect on the rest of the roster. GM Rob Hennigan went to great lengths to study Frye’s effectiveness as a shooter and the impact that he can have on teammates. That analysis led to the Magic making Frye their top priority in free agency.

``We talked teams that have had him in the past and (former) teammates. We’ve done a lot of research statistically and have watched video,’’ Hennigan said of Frye. ``I guess it’s a well-rounded approach to dabble into a few things to get a good picture of who he is.

``We feel like Channing’s ability to stretch the floor is going to help our team and really complement some of the other skill sets that we have on the roster,’’ Hennigan continued. ``We tried to look at it on the aggregate – which is something that most teams try to do – and figure out how the different pieces can complement each other. And we feel like Channing does that very well.’’

Frye was a big reason why the Phoenix Suns were the surprise team in the NBA last season and winners of 48 games. Frye, who had missed the season before because of heart irregularities, was a major cog for the Suns by averaging 11.1 points and 5.1 rebounds a game, while shooting 38.5 percent from 3-point range. His ability to spread the floor greatly aided point guard Goran Dragic – a player he had solid chemistry with from their time together on the second unit in the years before.

``I like being the underdog. I liked being in Phoenix where we never got any respect. And here, it’s a great opportunity,’’ Frye said confidently. ``I don’t listen to what anybody says we’re going to be next year or what our record might be because most of the time they don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s a challenge and I’m ready to step up.’’

Several NBA teams recognized Frye’s worth in the Suns’ system and pursued the power forward when he hit free agency. On July 1 – the first day that free agents were allowed to begin negotiations with teams – 14 teams contacted a vacationing Frye and his agent. The first to call was the Magic, and they made quite an impression on Frye. And when Hennigan and head coach Jacque Vaughn travelled to Los Angeles to meet Frye and his family, they sold the eight-year NBA veteran on the team’s bright future.

``I’m an information-gatherer and I like to get the best information. When I met with them they sold me on what they want to do and they sold me on the future. That put me over the top,’’ he said. ``The wife had already looked up places to get houses, things to do and getting a day pass for Walt Disney World. For me, with the basketball part they really sold me on what they want to do here for the future. Their aggression was the cherry on top.’’

What the Magic want Frye to do is shoot the ball the way he has last season and throughout his career with New York, Portland and Phoenix. He is a career 38.5 percent 3-point shooter from beyond the arc. He’s made at least 160 3-pointers in three of the past four seasons.

This past season, Frye made six 3-pointers in January against Milwaukee, hit five threes in a game six times and connected on at least three triples 25 times. He dropped 30 points on the Denver Nuggets in January by putting on a 10 of 12 shooting exhibition (with five-of-seven 3-point shooting). Also, he scored at least 20 points in 11 games.

Hennigan feels that Frye’s age (31 years old) is a positive and not a concern. His professionalism and basketball smarts outweigh whatever concerns there are about the mileage on his body. Because Frye is more of a shooter than a high-flyer, Hennigan feels that the versatile big man will be able to continue to be effective well into his 30s.

``Not a lot (of pause). Age is what it is,’’ Hennigan said. ``We feel like Channing’s game is one that will age wisely and we’re sure that his game will not be impacted a lot by what age he is.’’

Frye’s impact will be felt next season if he’s able to create driving space for Oladipo, Payton and Gordon, keep Vucevic from getting double-teamed on the low block and impart some of his scoring wisdom on Harris, his first cousin. Fyre feels like the Magic have the ability to defy expectations next season if all of the Magic’s dynamic young pieces can work together in concert next season.

``I am going to create space for guys who like to get to the rack,’’ he said. ``We have a lot of those guys with Oladipo, both rookies and the big fella. My role is that if you are getting double-teamed I need to make more shots. My thing is that I don’t want guys to get double-teamed.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.