Cohen: Chasing Future Free Agents, Who & When?

By Josh Cohen
August 23, 2012

ORLANDO -- Becoming flexible was the Orlando Magic’s primary objective this summer. When it was more than apparent Dwight Howard no longer wanted to be with the Magic, a crucial decision had to be made.

Like it is for any team forced to trade their best player, the Magic had to determine whether it was more beneficial to accept a deal that involved a proven player or two with disparaging long-term contracts (ex. Brook Lopez) or approve a trade that would permit the franchise to decide down the road how they precisely want to restructure the team.

If they had decided to sanction the proposed Brooklyn Nets deal or authorize a swap of Howard for Andrew Bynum, the Magic would not have much future flexibility. They would have rolled the dice on Lopez or Bynum, two second-rate centers with recent injury problems.

Instead, Rob Hennigan and his staff can now save for more alluring prizes. It may come in the draft, in free agency or some combination of both.

It’s been reviewed incessantly since the Howard trade was completed earlier this month, but let’s just recap for a moment.

Orlando may have sufficient salary cap space to sign one player to a maximum contract next summer or have an abundance of cap space to sign multiple players to max deals in 2014 or 2015.

Much will depend on how the Magic utilize their team options on several players, including Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington who both have partially guaranteed contracts after this upcoming season.

But most importantly, no longer does Orlando have a surfeit of reproachful contracts. Remember; at one stage just a couple of years ago the Magic had three players, Howard, Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter, who were all being paid the max. That not only destroyed any chance of the Magic adding star talent via free agency or trades but it also forced the franchise to pay stiff luxury tax penalties.

Hennigan has repeatedly stated he wants to construct a team that is sustainable. It’s also evident he is willing to be patient and wait for the right opportunity to reload the roster.

Like Miami for a couple of years before its unimaginable restock in 2010, Orlando will wait for the light to turn green before formulating a championship team.

If the Magic chose to utilize free agency in each of the next three years and picked just one player each summer to chase, who would those players be?

Well, obviously it’s way too early to start speculating what impending free agents will decide to do next summer and certainly the subsequent few summers after that.

But, it’s interesting to start pondering the possibilities.

In 2013, some notable stars that could potentially be available on the market include Milwaukee’s Monta Ellis, Atlanta’s Josh Smith, Oklahoma City’s James Harden (restricted), Golden State’s Stephen Curry (restricted) and Indiana’s David West. Chris Paul will also be a free agent, but it doesn't seem realistic for him to leave L.A. for a smaller market in a rebuilding stage.

2014 is far more intriguing, yet a tease. Miami’s Big Three, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, can all exercise early termination options and become unrestricted free agents. However, after winning a title and assumed to at minimum return to the NBA Finals the next two seasons, it seems a tad far-fetched to believe they would divide. New York’s Carmelo Anthony, L.A.’s Kobe Bryant and Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki can all be free agents as well, but either passion to their cities or age make the thought meaningless.

As a result, the best, most pragmatic free agents to pursue will likely be Indiana’s Danny Granger, Memphis’ Rudy Gay, Chicago’s Luol Deng and Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani.

One year later in 2015, true excitement. Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge, Minnesota’s Kevin Love and Boston’s Rajon Rondo could all be obtainable.

If you can select just one free agent in each of the next three summers to pursue, whom would you choose? Vote below and who knows, maybe Hennigan will ultimately take your advice.



Monta Ellis

Josh Smith
James Harden
David West

Stephen Curry


Danny Granger

Rudy Gay

Luol Deng
Andrea Bargnani

Marcin Gortat


LaMarcus Aldridge

Kevin Love

Rajon Rondo

Marc Gasol

Tyson Chandler

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