While the Magic were playing their Summer League game, they got some serious help for the rookies that were playing on the floor — well, at least one of them was on the sideline Monday in a blue Magic polo. Rob Hennigan was noticeably absent from the Amway Center to secure the services of this veteran power forward.
On Monday, former Suns forward Channing Frye agreed to a reported 4-year, $32 million deal. Orlando Magic Daily confirmed the signing which was originally reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports and Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Players have been talking about the news ever since and there is a small measure of excitement over the possibilities Frye can unlock.
“He’s a smart player, he’s a pro,” fellow Arizona alumnus Aaron Gordon said. “He’s been in the game for so long. He’s a veteran. He’s going to help me out a lot. He’s going to give me little bits and pieces that I can pick up from. Him and Ben Gordon as well. Just having two vets like that on the club is going to make us a lot better.”
That is certainly part of why Frye is with the team. He is a veteran that will help provide some leadership and guidance to the Magic’s still largely young roster. Frye, Willie Green and Ben Gordon will do all of that.
Frye though figures to be a big part of the rotation however. Last year with the Suns, he averaged 11.1 points per game and shot 37.0 percent from beyond the arc. That is pretty good for a 31-year-old, 6-foot-10 power forward coming off missing a year because of an enlarged heart. His age and health history is where the risk of the four-year, $32 million deal lies.
For the short term though, Frye fills an immediate need. The Magic desperately needed a shooter. A team that shot 35.3 percent from beyond the arc last year (21st in the league) has lost five of its top six 3-point shooters by 3-point field goal percentage. Maurice Harkless is the best returning 3-point shooter at 38.3 percent last year.
No one is calling him a knock-down shooter quite yet.
With guards in Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton who are not known for their shooting, the Magic were in desperate need of a reason for defenses to guard anyone outside the paint. It is not clear yet how much the Magic value 3-point shooting in their offense. The team is still seemingly taking shape and preparing to compete on more than just a nightly basis for the first time in this rebuild.
That is where Frye becomes so important.
Frye was surprisingly not a strong shooter from the corners. Most of his damage is done at the top of the key and from the right wing. Typically in today’s NBA, the knock-down shooters are getting their shots from the corners — it is a closer shot than from anywhere else beyond the arc.
For drivers like Oladipo and Payton this distinction could be crucial. As you are driving to the lane, it will be easier to pass out to the corners or the wing rather than behind you to the 3-point line. Orlando could run pick and rolls to get the ball to Frye in his favorite spots or they could look to get the ball to Frye on ball reversals.
Or Frye will have to become better from the corners.
The important thing is there are possibilities. There is a 3-point shooter that defenses do have to pay attention to, even if he is not the most ideal fit as a stand still shooter.
“[Channing's presence] is going to spread the floor,” Oladipo said. “It’s going to open up the lane finally. People can’t seal it anymore. It’s going to be better reads on the floor. I’m excited for him to get here.”
And that is where the fit really comes in and why the Magic made the move to bring in Frye. They need to find a way to loosen that defense to create driving lanes. Oladipo’s developing 3-point shot along with Harkless’ continually developing 3-point shot will help loosen the defense. There just needs to be one player (at a bare minimum) opposing teams know they cannot leave open and can consistently make pay when they do so.
That will be Frye’s role for the Magic. Shooting is something that typically does not age. Frye does not rely on his physicality or athleticism at all. He is just a stretch-4 shooter. Toward the end of his deal, the Magic may regret some things. But by then he might be coming off the bench or a valuable trade piece.