UPDATE: I omitted Theo Ratliff, a guy who I’d bet big money will be in Orlando next year. Had him on the list, simply forgot to include him. Thanks. Several sought-after names that were in the Magic’s crosshairs — or at least Magic fans’ crosshairs — are off the table. Antonio McDyess is going to the Spurs, Rasheed Wallace will be in Boston, and Shawn Marion will join Marcin Gortat on the Mavericks, all while the Magic saw Hedo Turkoglu and Gortat bolt for other teams. The Magic still have only eight players under contract, and that has some Magic fans worried. But it’s time to relax. Otis Smith has made some pretty glossy moves in his two-plus years as general manager, and he’s earned our trust — at least for a few weeks. I’m with Mike Bianchi:
Take a few deep breaths. And keep saying to yourself over and over again: “In Otis we trust … In Otis we trust … In Otis we trust.” Seriously, hasn’t Magic GM Otis Smith, after putting together the greatest team in franchise history, earned your confidence for a couple of years? Or, at the very least, for a couple of weeks? Instead, here we are in the first few days of free agency, and Smith is being loudly lambasted by the message board malcontents and radio rabble rousers.
That being said, there are several real possibilities left that have been linked to the Magic. Let’s take an updated look at five guys who could be in a Magic uniform next season. Brandon Bass: You knew this would start with Bass, who appears to be getting closer and closer to signing with the Magic. The other teams in contention are Detroit and Portland, two places where Bass would undoubtedly be a backup to a young established power forward (Charlie Villanueva in Detroit and LaMarcus Aldridge in Portland). While it’s still my belief that Bass would come off the bench in Orlando (many believe that Bass would start at PF and Rashard Lewis would slide to SF), the Magic are surely the best long-term fit in Bass’ eyes. Of course, there’s more to it than just fit. There’s money, location, coaching, style of play… that’s to begin with. Brandon Bass will make his choice between those three very soon. At this point, Orlando is the favorite. Matt Barnes: With Mickael Pietrus the only small forward on the roster — well, unless you include Lewis and Ryan Anderson — and Pietrus being indisputably injury-prone, the Magic could use another guy at that spot. Barnes, who played with Pietrus in Golden State and is a very similar player, has his free-agent choices narrowed down to Dallas, Cleveland and Orlando. Barnes can shoot a little bit and he’s known as an above-average perimeter defender — that sounds like a guy the Magic could use. Glen “Big Baby” Davis: OK, Otis Smith shot down any notion of Davis coming to Orlando earlier in the week. But if you trust anything Smith says during the free-agent period, I’ve got some baseball cards and beanie babies that I’d love to show you. The rumored teams to be interested in Davis are San Antonio, Detroit and New Orleans. San Antonio just signed McDyess, so you can take the Spurs out of the equation. It’s highly unlikely the Magic will make a play at Big Baby, but never say never. Drew Gooden: With Zaza Pachulia rejoining the Hawks, Gooden might be the best backup available to Dwight Howard. Gooden, one of the more infamous players in the NBA because of his lack for losing and his facial hair alike, hasn’t been directly linked with Orlando or anyone else this offseason. That aloofness is neither comforting nor alarming, especially given how Otis Smith’s past moves have come about (did anyone hear rumblings of a Vince Carter trade until it actually happened?). Gooden’s ability to score and rebound has to be tempting at this point, especially if the Magic don’t land Bass. Carlos Delfino: The Raptors acquiring Hedo Turkoglu meant Delfino is almost surely out of Toronto. He’s a guard who can shoot and handle the ball, and he’s a player who Jerry Colangelo loved. There haven’t been rumors involving Delfino to another team, but with the Raptors financially strapped after the Turkoglu signing, anything can happen. Theo Ratliff: The most logical choice as a backup big man, Ratliff still has some jump in his legs, would be comfortable with a backup role, and would come relatively cheap. The Magic signing Ratliff is the most likely scenario.