Early indications around the league say the Orlando Magic will match offers on restricted free agent Aaron Gordon this summer. A big decision this July.
Gordon enters restricted free agency as perhaps one of the most intriguing young free agents on the market.
He had his breakout season last year, averaging 17.6 points per game with a 50.0 percent effective field goal percentage. His hot start to the season had him looking like a potential All-Star. He faded in the last 20-plus games as teams focused more on him, and perhaps he tried too hard to assert himself.
Regardless, Gordon at 22 years old emerged as an intriguing player who had at least the outlines of a future All-Star. Something the Magic have been desperate for. And it seems like it would be very difficult to let Gordon walk.
Money will be tight around the league and no one knows what kind of deal Gordon might get in restricted free agency. Few teams have cap room to spend big bucks on him, but it will only take one. Orlando will have to understand exactly how much the team is willing to spend to keep him.
Gordon will surely have suitors. Teams are going to chase after the 22-year-old forward and the current management group did not draft him. It is unclear to what amount the Magic might match.
This decision might even hold the Magic’s draft process up some. It seems difficult to see the Magic take another versatile forward like Michael Porter Jr. if Aaron Gordon is to stay and Jonathan Isaac remains on the roster.
So what will the Magic do?
Right now the going believe is the Magic will keep Gordon and match just about any offer given to him. And a few different sources seemed to support this notion.
Shams Charania of Yahoo! Sports joined Chris Mannix on the Chris Mannix Show to begin discussing free agency and said the executives around the league largely expect the Magic to match any offer for Gordon — even a max offer sheet.
The discussion begins at the 27-minute mark.
“I think both teams are aware they need to go to max numbers for them,” Charania says about the impending free agency for Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine. “But the question is will they make them go get a sheet. The sentiment I’ve gotten is if Zach LaVine goes and gets a max, we have too much invested in them. Same with Aaron Gordon.”
A max offer sheet for Gordon would be a four-year, $107 million deal starting at $24.9 million. If the Magic offered Gordon the max — something that feels unlikely but is certainly not impossible — it would be a five-year, $146.5 million deal starting at $25.3 million.
Either way, it is a lot of money. It is unclear exactly how the Magic will play things.
Conventional wisdom says to keep him. A player of his age and ability is something worth investing in. And the league has shown that it can trade almost any player at any salary amount — Blake Griffin is a more accomplished player than Aaron Gordon and got dealt in the first year of a massive contract extension.
Right now, it seems the Magic are more concerned with keeping a quality player. They are not going to tip their hand on this front any time soon.
But Magic general manager John Hammond joined the Mark Moses Show to discuss the team’s offseason. Moses asked Hammond directly about re-signing Gordon and it seems like the Magic are at least signaling their desire to match:
Mark Moses: “I know you’re the GM but you’ve got to resign him. I want to see him in a Magic jersey. I want to see him grow in Orlando. I just have to point that out.”
John Hammond: “I appreciate that, and I feel the same.”
Hammond also spoke about Gordon needing some stability with his coaching and how he is taught the game to take the next step in his career. Mainly, Gordon needs to get that to start winning more consistently.
That is something the Magic hope they have found in coach Steve Clifford.
Those are the early smoke signals at least. Magic management has been notoriously quiet with few leaks coming out about their intentions or inner workings. So take everything said publicly like this with however many grains of salt as you must.
It is typical for teams holding restricted free agency rights to send out signals they will match any offer — even if the league has tried to discourage it.
Orlando will have to make a decision on Gordon soon though. Once free agency hits July 1, the free-for-all will seemingly begin.
If teams believe they can steal Gordon away, they will come with big offer sheets. And the Magic better be ready to pay.