It is a specter that has hung over the Magic since the team decided to boldly match Marcin Gortat’s offer sheet from Dallas and sign Brandon Bass in one fell swoop. Orlando made the audacious and unheard of move of going deep into the luxury tax for the first time in franchise history. There the franchise has remained as the team hopes to win its first NBA title.
It was not too long ago that the luxury tax was a dirty word in the Rich DeVos compound. Orlando poured in tons of money to sign Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill. Hill never saw the court and DeVos’ unwillingness to dip into the luxury tax kept that team from realizing its potential with a guy who was perhaps the best player in the league.
Orlando could say its unwillingness to spend during the McGrady era was a product of the times or a product of Orlando’s position as a “small market.” The Magic always seem to be hampered by this label and generally everyone believes the DeVos family will not be able to continue paying the second highest payroll in the league without ramifications.
With Dwight Howard’s free agency on the horizon, this feeling might be growing as it appears the stars are aligning (literally) in the major markets of New York and Chicago. This divide between the “large” and “small” markets is going to be an issue that possibly divides the owners in collective bargaining this summer. It is a concern though of a lot of fans who see a trend of superstars gathering together and do not believe they will want to do it in cities like Oklahoma City, New Orleans or Sacramento.
You can consider Orlando to be in that group despite coming in as the 20th ranked media market in the nation — which is barely in the bottom half of the league.
Tom Ziller of SB Nation took a look at the disparity between these large and small markets and found that the size of the market has little to do with acutally winning the title. However, as far as spending goes, being in a larger market correlates with being able to spend more over a long period of time. Ziller found the three teams — the Knicks, Lakers and Mavericks — who have been in the luxury tax the most since its inception ahve come from three of the larger markets in the NBA.
As Ziller concludes being in a bigger market only means you probably have the ability to spend more for longer periods of time.
What does this mean for the Magic? Their ability to spend this much money likely will not last. That is probably not what Magic fans want to hear as the team prepares to woo Dwight Howard in about 17 months and tries to get over the hill and back into the NBA Finals and hopefully a NBA title.
Of course, the new CBA could change all these rules and turn out more favorably for Orlando.