The Orlando Magic’s chase of All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas appears to have cooled. Rumors from Las Vegas suggest the team is waiting things out.
The Orlando Magic have remained very quiet during free agency — making their signings of Aaron Gordon and Isaiah Briscoe official Friday after the league’s signing moratorium ended. The team simply did not have a lot of tools to add players, having used their available cap space to re-sign Aaron Gordon.
The Magic only had their $8.6 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception to spend to add talent. That was not likely enough to add a starter-caliber player. Not one that was not damaged goods at least.
But one player caught fans’ eyes and, at least for a time, caught the Magic’s attention for a brief moment. Isaiah Thomas is a former All-Star coming off an injury-riddled season and would seemingly add the scoring punch and point guard play the team so desperately needs.
Prior reporting suggested the Magic had discussions with Thomas. The sticking points in any contract seemed like it might have been the length of his deal and the amount of the mid-level exception they would spend. But there were still questions of fit and culture the Magic wanted to explore.
Time passed since the initial report. And while it seems clear the Magic had interest in Thomas, it is also clear the team is in no rush to get something done. And now it appears the team is willing to wait longer or move in a different direction.
Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reports the Magic appear set to move on from their discussions with Thomas. At least, there appears to be no urgency and the team wants to see how the rest of free agency shakes out.
To some extent, Isaiah Thomas may end up in the same boat as Jonathon Simmons. He may be a player no one quite knows how to value and so he falls through the cracks as money around the league dries up (that appears to be happening). And so waiting does no harm if the Magic end up going back to that direction.
Then again, Thomas is still a clearly talented player who other teams might indeed still have interest in.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported earlier this week that there are several teams interested in Thomas.
But most of them are targeting Thomas as a backup. The Magic would seemingly have a slot open for him to start and they are desperate for a starter. And if Orlando brought him it, it is safe to assume that is the role they would want him to fill.
On a one-year deal at the mid-level exception, it always felt like this was a low-risk move. The Magic would potentially get a dominant scorer who can help get the offense through any rough moments. They would also get someone who can easily man the point guard spot.
But there were plenty of concerns too.
Thomas is a poor defender at best. And that would put a lot of pressure on the Magic’s trio of young forwards to cover for him defensively. All while Steve Clifford is teaching what he wants on that end. That lack of size does not fit the mold of players president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman has picked up since taking over the team.
Thomas is also coming off a major hip injury that left him playing in only 32 games. While he still averaged 15 points per game, his efficiency dropped dramatically, shooting worse than 40 percent from the floor overall. If he is not healthy then any benefit he could give the team would be severely blunted.
If the Magic signed Thomas and he was hurt once again, the team likely loses very little. Maybe the upside is greater than the drawbacks. But that is ultimately for the Magic’s executives to weigh and decide.
Orlando it seems knows it is still in a rebuilding mode. The franchise it seems wants to make sure they find the right players to help their team grow and develop. That does not mean the team is looking to make a quick, short-term move to help the team win games immediately.
Still, the Magic need a point guard. They will have to explore the trade market hard in addition to waiting to see what settles once free agency dies down.
It is important to note the report does not suggest the Thomas idea is dead. It merely suggests the Magic are moving in a different direction for now. Their focus on getting a deal done immediately has waned — if that ever existed.
It was an idea the Magic explored. But one they felt no urgency to complete. All indications for now are the Magic are exploring every option available to them before filling this point guard role and using that mid-level exception.
With every team in Las Vegas, there will surely be the chance to have face-to-face discussions. That might create some movement to improve the roster during Summer League.