Jason Maxiell steps into the leadership role


It is OK still to be a bit confused with the Jason Maxiell signing.

Glen Davis, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson and Romero Osby (potentially) already on the roster at power forward, signing an undersized center (and a more natural power forward) in Jason Maxiell did not make much sense. Maxiell had cut his teeth in the league as a grinder and defender with the Pistons. He was good for solid defense off the bench, a couple of highlight reel-worthy blocks and a few poster-worthy dunks (mostly against the Magic).

Maxiell has career averages of 6.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, certainly not enough to make a major dent in the Magic's 20-win performance. Like the Ronnie Price signing — or even drafting Victor Oladipo — the Magic were not about to shake up the world and become instant contenders.

This slow climb will require more than that. It may require a Jason Maxiell.

The Magic signed Maxiell to a manageable two-year, $5 million contract. The second year is not even fully guaranteed. This is as low risk as it gets.

But Rob Hennigan certainly has another purpose in mind. The Magic will be shopping around their veterans. Tehre is no getting around it. The Magic are putting an emphasis on developing their young players. If they can get out from under Glen Davis' contract (two years, $13 million) that would be great to free up the playing time for Harris and Nicholson. Even Jameer Nelson (two years, up to $16.6 million with only $4 million guaranteed for 2015) could be on the trading block. And then there is Arron Afflalo.

Of course, this is if the Magic intend to continue clearing cap and invest more playing time in the young players. That makes the veterans that will be at the end of the bench all the more important. And that appears to be why the Maxiell signing begins to make some sense.

Maxiell spoke to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel and John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com last week and stressed this leadership aspect as his goals in his two-year contract with the Magic.

Maxiell from the Orlando Sentinel:

"I’m not a very verbal guy, but sometimes you have to be. I will guide them along the way. I’m going to show them the first time and help them out the second time. And, by the third time, they should have it down pat, and then they’ll be on their own."

If the Magic are looking to move some of those higher-priced players throughout the next year, a guy like Maxiell becomes important to provide the veteran leadership and help the young players learn the ropes of the NBA. A grinder like Maxiell is more likley to be able to provide that guidance and leadership than a star. And he will be a resource for the young players as the season goes on.

In that way, the presence from Davis, Nelson and Afflalo (and J.J. Redick) last year was so crucial for all those young players. They are ready to play, but will make plenty of mistakes. And off the court, they established a standard of professionalism for the young players to follow. You can see it take shape in the way the young players have already bonded and worked out this offseason.

Maybe it is all a bit overstated. Rob Hennigan has done a good job selecting young players who are hungry and driven to work. He is not bringing in "knuckleheads" or guys just happy to collect paychecks. These are players who truly enjoy playing basketball and working at their craft. They are the kind of young players who are open to instruction.

The young players will benefit from Maxiell's presence. Eighty-two games is a long time and a lot can happen for the Magic in that time. They could make a Playoff push with all the experience on the roster and the developing young talent. Or they could struggle on the court as the young players grow.

Either way, if Maxiell can help the young players continue their growth, he will be a good acquisition. Even if it does not make a ton of sense for the current roster.