The Orlando Magic have waived former second-round pick Stephen Zimmerman, a few days shy of his guarantee date on his second-round contract.
At one point, Stephen Zimmerman looked like a can’t-miss prospect. He was a McDonald’s All-American and projected to be a Lottery pick for much of his 2015 season at UNLV. Zimmerman was an athletic and rangy big who seemingly could step out and hit jumpers with a slight frame.
When the Orlando Magic took him with the 41st pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, they knew they were taking a talented player. But he would be a project. Someone who would need time to develop and add strength to make it in the NBA.
Zimmerman did not play much his rookie year. He would need to get his work into play consistent minutes in the NBA.
That chance is not likely to come.
The Magic waived Zimmerman on Tuesday. His $1.3 million salary would become fully guaranteed Friday (July 6), according to Basketball Insiders. The Magic have decided to cut ties before that date, potentially freeing up additional room to sign free agents after the moratorium ends.
Zimmerman was a project. He was someone whom the team hoped would grow into his skills as his body continued to mature.
He appeared in only 19 games for the Magic as a rookie, averaging 1.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. Zimmerman spent the majority of his time in the D-League, where he more than held his own. He averaged 13.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in 20 appearances for the Erie BayHawks.
This week’s Summer League was a check up on Zimmerman to see if he had increased his strength and ability to play at the NBA level. He averaged 5.0 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in three games so far this week. He shot just 40.0 percent from the floor.
While Zimmerman was good working around the basket and contesting and blocking shots, he still got pushed around in the post. He struggled to finish and hold position and make his presence felt. It was easy to see he had the talent to be a contributor. But it was also to see the flaws that might keep him from doing so.
Summer League showed his strengths and his flaws. And clearly, the flaws outweighed the strengths for the Magic.
It is not clear what may happen next for Zimmerman or for the Magic. It is at least possible Orlando could try to bring Zimmerman back on a two-way contract and have him play in the G-League for another year with the Lakeland Magic. He certainly would have benefited from that arrangement last year so he could practice in Orlando while playing games with Lakeland.
The move also opens up another $1 million or so in cap room for the Magic to use in free agency. While the team has been quiet and unconnected to any players in reports, the team is certainly looking for ways to improve. Adding more cap space will enable them to do it whether it is in free agency or in trades.
This is the first roster move for the Magic this summer. They have another guarantee date coming up with C.J. Watson‘s $5 million salary set to be guaranteed in full July 10. The Magic are expected to trade or cut him before this date.
Zimmerman will likely catch on somewhere again — likely in the G-League.