We’ve got two days till the start of the free-agency period, where the Magic are sure to be active. They only have eight players under contract at this point, with two major contributors — Hedo Turkoglu and Marcin Gortat — on their way out of town. Don’t expect the Magic to go on a spending spree for a high-priced free agent, though. The Magic only have $5-10 million to play with, meaning they’ll have to go bargain shopping to fill several key needs. Here’s a look at the team’s three biggest needs and some free agents the Magic could pursue at each position.
QUALITY BIG MAN Because Dwight Howard battles foul trouble so often and the Magic play with an unconventional lineup that’s undersized at power forward, finding a quality big man should be priority No. 1 heading into July. It’s not set in stone, but I think Gortat is gone — he wants to start and play full-time minutes, not spend his prime years backing up Howard. That’s the most important thing to Gortat, I believe. So the Magic need a big man, and there are plenty of them out there. This might be the spot where Orlando spends their mid-level exception and gives up some real change. Let’s take a look. Rasheed Wallace: Apparently Wallace told TNT’s David Aldridge that he’d like to sign with the Spurs or the Magic (that’s not confirmed), and the Magic are expected to make an offer. I’m sure the opinions will be incredibly mixed on putting Rasheed in a Magic uniform, but I love it. He’s tough, he can defend, he can shoot, and he’s been absolutely killing the Magic for almost the entire decade. The Rasheed Wallace situation will be a very interesting one. Brandon Bass: Like Wallace, the Magic are expected to already be talking with Bass’ people. Bass has been talked about quite a bit the past couple years, often with the idea that he’d start at power forward and Lewis would shift to small forward. While that’s not going to happen, Bass could be a reliable backup to Howard. Bass can rebound well, and he has nice hands around the hoop. And he’s only 24. Antonio McDyess: Another hard-nosed Detroit big man who has been giving Orlando fits for a long time, McDyess is an unselfish, tough player who would make a fantastic backup to Howard. He could come a little bit cheaper than the two guys mentioned above, as well. Zaza Pachulia: Who can forget Zaza? He was a fan-favorite in Orlando as a rookie in 2003-04, pulling down rebounds and oozing of charisma. He eventually signed on with Atlanta, starting occasionally and contributing on the boards and on defense. If the Magic can’t sign Wallace, Bass or McDyess, Pachulia would be an OK parting gift. Don’t even think about: Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap, Lamar Odom, Drew Gooden, David Lee, Anderson Varejao, Charlie Villanueva, Mehmet Okur After the jump, we’ll take a look at the Magic’s two other primary needs.
WING PLAYER Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, JJ Redick. That’s what the Magic have on the wing at this point. Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson can slide down for spurts, but the Magic would like to keep those two at the 4 most of the time. The Magic need a player who can come off the bench and give the Magic some quality minutes. Grant Hill: It sounds ridiculous, and it’s unknown how soured Hill’s relationship is with Magic management, but there’s no doubt Hill would be a fantastic option coming off the bench. He’ll likely sign for the veteran’s minimum, and talent-wise he’s about the best Orlando can hope for. Matt Barnes: Here’s a guy who could fit into Orlando’s system with his ability to run the floor and hit open 3s. He’s a little bit like Pietrus, except he’s not a very good defender. So I guess he isn’t that much like Pietrus. Ime Udoka: At 32, he’d be anything but a long-term option. But he’s a nice defender who has been a pretty decent outside shooter in the past. Ideally, Udoka would like to sign with the Spurs, who just traded for Richard Jefferson and let go of Bruce Bowen, Udoka’s primary minutes-stealer. Rodney Carney: If he’s cheap enough, Carney could be a nice addition to the Magic. He’s a player who hasn’t quite found the right situation yet. Hedo Turkoglu: He’s 95 percent gone, but you never know. Maybe the Magic will dip waaaay into the luxury tax to complete the best starting five in the NBA. It’d be shocking, though. Don’t even think about: Shawn Marion, Ron Artest, Trevor Ariza, Ben Gordon, Anthony Parker, Desmond Mason, Marvin Williams
RESERVE POINT GUARD Anthony Johnson received a lot of grief last season, but the man was a solid backup point guard. He played defense, he protected the ball, and he knew his role — that’s all you can ask for out of a point guard who backs up an all-star. That said, the Magic can’t go into another season depending on a 35-year-old Johnson to be their first guard off the bench. Last season was the first time Johnson played more than 40 games since 2005-06. It’s imperative the Magic find a serviceable point guard to play behind Jameer Nelson. Orlando’s price range for this spot will likely be the veteran’s minimum. Marcus Williams: Coming out off Connecticut in 2007, Williams showed a lot of potential and flashes of brilliance in his first season with New Jersey. At only 23, Williams is still young enough to improve. Mike Wilks: He’s played for eight teams in six seasons (seriously, is that a record?), and was Orlando’s third point guard last season before suffering an injury. Flip Murray: The 29-year-old probably played himself into a bigger contract (and out of Orlando’s price range) with a nice showing in the playoffs. Tyronn Lue: He’s a great locker room guy — I’ve seen him crack up Dwight Howard several times — and he’s someone who would know his role and fit in with the team. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Magic bring him back. Jason Hart: Incredibly mediocre, and probably a notch below Johnson, but he can dribble and is a team guy. Don’t even think about: Jason Kidd, Andre Miller, Mike Bibby, Raymond Felton, Jarrett Jack, Ramon Sessions