Cohen: Timeline of Future Possibilities in Orlando

By Josh Cohen
August 14, 2012

In most instances, timelines illustrate past events and occurrences.

But sometimes it’s good to be different. I have conjured up a timeline that underscores the potential future path of the Orlando Magic and some of the decisions they may choose to accept or repudiate over the next few years.

August 2012: The Magic trade Dwight Howard for six players, five future draft picks and salary cap flexibility.

October 2012: At least more point guard will be added to the roster by the start of training camp considering Jameer Nelson is flying solo at the moment.

It remains to be seen if another trade to liberate more salary cap space is explored. Though their value will likely peak toward this upcoming season’s trade deadline, Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington’s contracts are only partially guaranteed in 2013-14. In effect, it’s possible some teams may be intrigued to add either of these veterans to bolster their benches without too much future financial obligation.

February 2013: It seems evident at this stage that the Magic would prefer to be sellers rather than buyers at the trade deadline this season, especially if they are targeting any top tier free agents in the summer.

It’s ambiguous who on the Magic’s current roster is judged as a definite part of the team’s long-term vision. They just re-signed Nelson, acquired Arron Afflalo and have Glen Davis under contract for three more years. All three showed (Nelson, Davis for Orlando, Afflalo for Denver) they can all be influential to helping a young team grow and improve.

Even if Orlando delays any more changes, there aren’t too many commitments on the Magic’s payroll after the season. Indicated previously, Turkoglu and Harrington’s contracts are only partially guaranteed the subsequent season and J.J. Redick – though always an integral part of the organization – is slated to be an unrestricted free agent.

May/June 2013: It may be a very highly anticipated two months for the franchise. While Jacque Vaughn expects to have his team be very competitive on a nightly basis, many assume the Magic will land in the NBA Draft Lottery this season. If that indeed ensues, Orlando’s history of draft lottery success could raise plenty of optimism.

Together with Rob Hennigan’s proven excellence at detecting talent in the draft, grabbing an esteemed collegiate player will open up a new door for the franchise.

July 2013: Depending on the Magic’s salary cap position may determine whether the team will make a pitch for any of the alluring free agents that will be available. Some options may include Milwaukee’s Monta Ellis, Atlanta’s Josh Smith, Oklahoma City’s James Harden (restricted), Indiana’s David West and Utah’s Al Jefferson.

Considering it’s extremely unlikely that it will be far enough below the cap line to try and sign more than one of these top tier free agents, Orlando may decide it’s more advantageous to not hastily spend immediately. Rather, it may be more beneficial to continue in the rebuilding stage and remain salary cap friendly for at least another year or two.

If that choice was made, the Magic could concentrate on their draft selections from the previous month and the current young talent they already possess before inflating the roster with established stars and sizeable contracts.

October 2013: The Magic will walk into training camp with some promise for the future considering they will have likely added at least one high and rewarding draft pick to go along with players such as Andrew Nicholson, Moe Harkless and Kyle O’Quinn who will have had a full year of NBA experience. Still, naturally, there will be growing pains and the team will continue to learn how to win and sustain success.

May/June/July 2014: With more draft picks piled onto the roster and potentially even more salary cap space, the Magic could opt to go all in and attempt to load the roster with a significant amount of talent.

If you take Oklahoma City’s path to success, for instance, as a model, the Thunder obtained Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Harden in three consecutive years in the draft and then started utilizing trades and such shortly after to refurbish the roster.

If Orlando elected to zoom in on the free agent class of 2014, it would seem appealing at first but perhaps a bit of a tease upon further analysis.

There will potentially be mega names on the market, however one can presuppose just about all of them will stay where they currently are. Miami’s Big Three can all exercise early termination options, but after winning a title, it’s hard-pressed to believe there would be a dismantling in South Beach. Carmelo Anthony could opt out of his contract, but his passion for New York is too avid. Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki will be free agents, but loyalty and age deny that from being noteworthy.

The best free agents in 2014 that are legitimate options will be Indiana’s Danny Granger, Chicago’s Luol Deng, Memphis’ Rudy Gay, Phoenix’s Marcin Gortat and Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani.

It may be wise to pass on this class and save for one more year. It’s possible the Magic will have drafted players with a very high ceiling and won’t be relied upon to exclusively consume free agent spending as a means to evolve into a championship caliber team.

July 2015: This may be the summer of paradise for a team with excess salary cap space. Let’s remember, Orlando is one of the most desired cities for NBA players. There is warm weather all year long, no state income tax and the team plays in the best arena in all of professional sports.

Along with all the young talent starting to develop into legit pros that the Magic have compiled over the previous three years, proven stars with an opportunity to relocate via free agency may envision big things in Orlando.

Is it possible superstars like LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo – three perennial All-Stars all in the prime of their careers and all likely to be free agents in 2015 – be interested in uniting together to form a powerhouse in Central Florida?

This entire timeline is just a glimpse of the possibilities now that they have generated substantial flexibility for the next few years. While, obviously, there could be other alternatives than the examples and scenarios proposed in this article, it’s definitely intriguing to think about the various options.

Big things are in store for the Magic. It will just take a bit of time for it all to be sorted out.

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

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