The Andrew Nicholson dilemma

Feb 9, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic power forward Andrew Nicholson (44) shoots over Indiana Pacers power forward Luis Scola (4) during the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 9, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic power forward Andrew Nicholson (44) shoots over Indiana Pacers power forward Luis Scola (4) during the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

After a return to form during the 2016 season, Andrew Nicholson proved he belongs in the NBA. The only question now is, will the Magic bring him back?

Andrew Nicholson played well for the Orlando Magic last season. The big man from St. Bonaventure returned to the level of play he displayed his rookie season in 2012, in averaging 16.8 points per 36 minutes and shooting a career-best 53.7 percent effective field goal percentage.

He clearly is a good piece for any NBA team. But with the Magic’s offseason plan focusing on recruiting major stars, Nicholson’s future is in doubt.

Nicholson knew that coming into this season he had to prove he belonged on a NBA roster. He was impressive early in his career and looked like a player who would produce down the line.

The two years following his rookie campaign, he shied away from the low post and worked on his outside game. This may not have been on him however, Jacque Vaughn seemed to value Nicholson’s shooting over his inside game.

Nicholson was yet again the odd man out in 2016. He did not have a solidified role and he was used to that. The years prior, Nicholson would have long lapses where he barely saw the floor. He played a measly seven minutes in the first 11 games of the season.

When the opportunity arose, Nicholson took full advantage and played solid minutes until early January where he saw a major dip in playing time again.

Following a long two-month stint on the pine, Nicholson returned with something to prove. Displaying his range and craftiness down low, Nicholson averaged just less than 10 points per game the last 16 games of the year.

It showed just how much he had improved on both sides of the ball, extending his range behind the 3-point line and improving his awareness and rebounding on defense. All the while maintaining his strong post game when given that opportunity.

Nicholson exceeded all expectations last season and has forced the Magic to make an extremely tough decision this offseason.

Aaron Gordon has secured his role as starting power forward for the Magic and thus Nicholson’s role would be his backup. That role is currently unresolved.

Ersan Ilyasova is due to make $8.4 million, but if the Magic cut him before July 1, they will save $8 million. He plays the same position as Nicholson and had similar numbers, playing in front of Nicholson after the Magic acquired him. Like Nicholson, his status is still very questionable.

As a restricted free agent, Nicholson may look for a lengthier contract and the Magic may have to pay a heftier price tag to retain him. Especially considering their usage of him the last two years.

Other teams with cap room could look at Nicholson as a key piece on their rotation and bump his price tag higher than the Magic are willing to pay.

Even with his stock rising, Nicholson is part of the old regime, he has been on the Magic roster longer than every other player and that could play a part in general manager Rob Hennigan’s decision as well.

One thing to keep in mind is Andrew Nicholson is a restricted free agent this off season which gives the Magic the ability to match any offer Nicholson receives.

The Magic could face a big problem this summer. If they cannot land a max-contract player, Nicholson could become more of a necessity. Especially if they cut Ilyasova leaving Aaron Gordon with no backup.

If that is the case, Nicholson would be a “no-brainer” to bring back due to his ability to provide scoring off the bench and lack of depth behind Aaron Gordon. Ilyasova is also no lock to come back, so the Magic could be shuffling for a forward.

Rob Hennigan has talked about how the Magic need to add veteran players to a very young core. At 26, Nicholson is heading into his prime and could be a nice rotational piece for the Magic for five-plus years. He fits into the current makeup of the team well too. He can spread the floor, which the Magic desperately need, and he is not a liability on defense, especially with a rim protector on the floor with him.

Whether Nicholson stays in pinstripes, or heads to a new home, one team will be getting a productive player that brings a lot to the table.

The Orlando Magic will try to bring in a top-notch player who demands a big price tag, but filling out the rest of the roster and creating depth will be important too. Andrew Nicholson is a great option to bring off the bench and produces when given the playing time.

Next: Channing Frye finds his fit with the Cleveland Cavaliers

Nicholson is used to waiting for his opportunity to contribute and that will be no different this summer. What price and for how much Nicholson will go for though remains a mystery.