With the Orlando Magic losing Jodie Meeks in free agency, the team is in desperate straits to acquire shooting. It is the only thing they should focus on.
The Orlando Magic have been . . . quiet in free agency. They are not exactly lighting up the world with their activity — rumored or otherwise. While many teams have gone out and done a lot in this year’s free agency, the Magic have done nothing.
Part of this was expected. Orlando did not have a ton of cap room to make significant improvements. With roughly $10 million in space, the Magic were not going to bring in a max-caliber player or even a starter-caliber player to the team.
If the Magic wanted to change their roster in a meaningful way, they likely would have to do so through a trade. That is likely what the team is discussing and exploring at this moment. It is still the best way for the Magic to improve themselves in a significant way. It just takes some time.
But the Magic roster still has needs.
And while Orlando is not going to be able to focus primarily on free agency as a means to improve itself this offseason, the team still needs to add something to the mix. The Magic at least have to replace Meeks and his 9.1 points per game and 40.9 percent shooting. Not to mention the threat of his 3-point shooting.
Orlando may not use all of its cap room, opting to preserve it for trades or for some other move down the road, but the team certainly has to use some of it to bolster the bench. Everyone knows it — Elfrid Payton said the team could use bench improvements and depth to help the starters earlier this month.
This is a bare minimum for the Magic. And with Meeks off the board, the Magic are finding fewer and fewer shooters available in free agency. The chance to fill their critical need — shooting from the wings or, even, a stretch-4 — is quickly running out.
Even though Orlando should not feel the need to spend all their cap or make a big splash, every team needs to make changes and make some improvements. Especially after a disappointing 29-win season. It would be silly to come back with the exact same roster.
Free agency this summer is a supplemental tool to make the roster better. It is done to make the core better and fill that specific need.
Undoubtedly, the Magic need to improve their shooting. Their 32.8 percent 3-point field goal percentage was 29th in the league. Orlando needs better shooters, it will help make their players better both on drives and on 3-point shots.
Spacing matters and the Magic need to create the threat of shooting to improve their roster. Jodie Meeks helped the offense a lot — among rotation players, the Magic had the third-best offensive rating with him on the floor behind only Terrence Ross and Aaron Gordon.
This problem persists for the Magic.
With shooting at a premium in the league, it is not easy to find. And the Magic certainly seem to be running out of options to replace this player. That was part of the shock of Meeks only going for $7 million over two years.
With the unrestricted free agents all but dried up, the restricted free agents are likely to go off the board next.
Players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (35.0 percent 3-point shooting last year) is likely too pricey for the Magic to pursue. He and Otto Porter (43.4 percent) are expected to receive near max contracts. Jonathan Simmons (32.2 percent) is intriguing enough as a versatile wing, but he could be too expensive too. As could Tim Hardaway Jr. (35.7 percent).
Danilo Gallinari (37.0 percent) seems set to join the LA Clippers, again likely at a price beyond the Magic’s price range. Nikola Mirotic (34.2 percent) too, another restricted free agency, seems set to rejoin the Chicago Bulls too.
The best option for the Magic to find a versatile, defensive-minded 3-and-D win is C.J. Miles. The Indiana Pacers guard shot 41.3 percent from beyond the arc in averaging 10.7 points per game. He can play and defend any wing position. He would seem to be a perfect fit — and a former Frank Vogel player.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to find this shooting skill.
The Magic may not find it in free agency. That just may not be in the cards.
Like on draft night, Jeff Weltman is more likely to punt on the asset and preserve it for a future deal than spend it on something he does not like. The Magic should not — and will not — use free agency space just because they have it, no matter how much improvement the team needs.
But Orlando needs to fill this critical need. Letting Meeks go meant the Magic let go of a critical piece to their puzzle.
Vogel talked after the All-Star Break about becoming a more modern NBA team. That means becoming more efficient with their 3-point shooting. After the All-Star Break last year, the Magic’s 3-point shooting dropped to 32.0 percent, but it improved to 26th in the league.
If the Magic needed to focus on one need this offseason, it was sorting through this.
Jonathan Isaac was a long-game play — a high talent player to be the team’s centerpiece in the future. His 3-point shot is good but not great. Teams will not respect his 3-point shot unless he makes a ton of 3-pointers.
The players the Magic have reportedly targeted in free agency — Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles and now-Indiana Pacers point guard Darren Collison — are both solid 3-point shooters. They would help spread the floor for the bench unit or in the starting lineup when they play with the starters.
The Magic know they need to fill this need.
For the small moves the Magic have left this offseason, they will almost certainly focus their attention on improving their shooting. Orlando may make small moves to do so. It might be all that is available to them.
But with whatever the Magic have planned for free agency, this has to be the focus.