Gordon Hayward has officially announced his agreement to sign with the Boston Celtics. The Celtics now must move contracts to clear cap room – that is where the Orlando Magic come in.
The Boston Celtics were the big winners of July 4, and perhaps of the biggest free agent saga of the summer, when Gordon Hayward (finally) announced he was leaving the Utah Jazz to sign a max contract with the Boston Celtics. It sent shockwaves through the NBA as now several free agents feel their markets are open and they can begin their moves to cash in and teams leave their holding pattern waiting for Hayward’s decision.
For the Celtics, they now have the task of completing deals to ensure they have the room to get Hayward outright. They will need some combination of non-guaranteed contracts and low draft picks to clear enough cap room to officially sign Hayward.
President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and general manager John Hammond have repeated their intentions to stay patient and prudent throughout free agency. They have followed through on that. Scarcely a rumor has emerged about their activity.
Now, as the dominoes fall after the Hayward signing, is where that patience pays off.
The Magic are in a position where they should exploit any chance they can get to turn assets into talented players on team-friendly deals. Converting second-round picks into a young, proven contributor like Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder or Avery Bradley is exactly the kind of move they should look for. It would help the Celtics get their guy in Hayward while helping the Magic improve their roster.
The Magic have collected some future assets that would help a cash-strapped team collect future players while still shedding salary in the short-term. That was part of the purpose in making the two trades at the Draft.
Orlando has some assets the team can look to move immediately to help Boston position itself to sign Hayward — or to help any other team clear that last bit of cap room to sign a free agent.
C.J. Watson’s contract is non-guaranteed until July 10. Only $1 million of his $5 million salary is guaranteed before that date. Patricio Garino and Marcus Georges-Hunt‘s contracts are fully non-guaranteed. Although it is unlikely the Magic are looking to deal either player.
The Magic have more than enough secondary assets to make a move. The Oklahoma City Thunder pick acquired on Draft night is particularly valuable. And the Brooklyn Nets’ 2019 second-round pick would fit nicely alongside the Celtics’ trove of Nets picks.
If they gave up those picks, the Magic would still have a 2019 second-rounder and their own picks in all following years. That move would not put them in a hole.
Adding a player like Smart, Crowder or Bradley is exactly what second round picks and unused cap space are for. If the Magic were to draft players with those picks, they would be lucky to get a player as good as any of them.
That is the nature of second-round picks. Not many turn into quality rotation players, let alone starters or borderline All-Defense wings.
Right now Boston seems like the perfect target to engage in trade talks.
With the Celtics acquiring a big-name wing, they are looking to win now and resolves a logjam in their backcourt. It is no surprise, Boston is looking to move on from one of these players to improve their roster now, in addition to trying to making room for Hayward.
Smart is under control until the end of the 2019 season, when he hits restricted free agency. For the next two years, his contract averages around $5 million. This is a bargain even if you are not a fan of his game.
He is one of the best rebounding guards in the league. Smart is a highly versatile defender who in many situations can guard 1-4. He is an inefficient scorer especially for the volume at which he shoots. But his defense more than makes up for it.
Smart is a bulldog on the defensive end. He is not afraid to get his hands dirty going after loose balls and guarding superstars. If the Magic could throw Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon and Marcus Smart at opposing offenses, few teams would be able to match their versatility, strength and pure tenacity. It could even hide subpar rim protection.
Crowder is another versatile defender on a team-friendly contract. He is under control through 2020 with an average salary around $7 million. He is a more efficient scorer than Smart and doe snot need the ball in his hands as much.
Although his 3-point shooting would be very helpful for the Magic (he shot nearly 40 percent last year), they might prefer to trade for a guard instead of someone who could end up taking minutes away from Gordon or Isaac. But if Isaac starts the season off the bench, Crowder would be an excellent candidate to start at forward.
Bradley is indeed one of the league’s best one-on-one defenders in the backcourt. He is a prototypical three-and-D wing that shot 39 percent from beyond the arc last year. He does not need the ball to be effective. Many teams would give up a lot to have him alongside a star point guard or primary ball handler.
He is not as versatile as Smart or Crowder. Nor can he rebound as well as them. He also only has one year at $8.8 million left on his deal before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. But he is the most proven of the three and is the most dependable starter.
It is a no-lose situation for the Magic. They have expendable assets that would be useful for the Celtics. And Boston has a slew of players it needs to move that would help Orlando.
Each would dramatically improve the Magic’s defense and add a unique scoring element. Crowder and Smart are on team-friendly, low-risk contracts. They are all young and could be added to the team’s young core. The Magic would be lucky if either of the picks they would hypothetically give up turned into a player of that quality.
And this is just one of the scenarios that are presented to the Magic now this big domino in the summer has fallen. Orlando has waited for this opportunity and it has finally arrived.
Hammond and Weltman have maintained patience is a virtue. Here is where that patience can pay off.