Two-year deals with massive money makes sense for Orlando Magic free agents

Orlando Magic Nikola Vucevic (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Orlando Magic Nikola Vucevic (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic have difficult decisions to make about retaining their free agents this summer. Short-term deals are the most the team should commit to them.

With Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross becoming free agents this summer, the Orlando Magic face an interesting couple weeks of decision making. Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross were two of the top contributors on a Magic team that made their first playoff appearance since 2012.

Now they may be forced to move on from the duo that was vital in their best season in years.

Vucevic, in particular, is coming off an All-Star season where he averaged career-highs in points (20.8), rebounds (12.0), assists (3.8) and blocks (1.1) per game while shooting 36.4 percent on 2.9 3-point attempts per game. He has been the stable figure for the Magic since joining the team in 2011 and went through six seasons of lottery years before breaking through this season into the playoffs.

Ross, who joined the Magic via trade during the 2017 season, also averaged career-highs in points (15.1) and rebounds (3.5) per game. He also shot an impressive 38.3 percent on 7.0 3-point attempts per game.

Ross’ flamethrower performances off the bench garnered him a fifth-place finish in the Sixth Man of the Year voting and could net him a large contract this offseason.

The Magic have said re-signing both will be the team’s priority. But there does seem to be a limit. Both players have their fair share of suitors this summer.

Vucevic will reportedly garner interest from several teams including the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, as well as the Sacramento Kings among other NBA teams. Ross will reportedly be courted by the Philadelphia 76ers, the Los Angeles Lakers and any team that wants a bench scorer and 3-and-D shooter of his caliber.

With each player projected to have a busy market, the Magic find themselves in an unfortunate position after making the playoffs for the first time since 2012: Hamstring their cap space to bring one or both of them back and remain competitive, or let them walk and go all-in with the youth movement.

Vucevic could get around max money from one of the many teams with plenty of cap space. Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News reports the Dallas Mavericks, a team long believed to chase Vucevic, are out of the running because they expect him to command a $25 million salary.

Vucevic will seriously consider offers from all these teams because of the amount of money they can offer and, in the Celtics or Lakers’ case, their more advanced contending stage.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN has reported both the Magic and Vucevic want to get a deal done. But the other teams will come for him if the sides cannot come to an agreement.

With Mohamed Bamba waiting in the wings, it is going to be hard for the Magic to commit too much money and too many years to Vucevic despite his All-Star season.

Similarly to Vucevic, Ross could land an eight-figure per season deal maintaining a similar role on a team that is primed for immediate contention. The Magic gave him great freedom to shoot, but is that enough to stay loyal to Orlando?

If Vucevic and Ross receive massive contract offers for four years in the open market, the Magic would be smart not to match them.

Yes, the postseason appearance was worth holding onto them instead of trading them at the deadline, and the playoff experience Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac received was valuable. But giving themselves no cap flexibility moving forward and taking developmental minutes from Mohamed Bamba and the other young players is not worth it.

Orlando is still rebuilding. The playoff appearance was a nice bonus. But this roster is still about developing those young players. And Jeff Weltman and his staff are still reshaping this roster into the team they want it to become.

The Magic should work to maintain cap flexibility to add those kinds of players to the core they are building already. And this is what they have to balance this offseason.

Deals that would make sense for the Magic, and perhaps even the players, are massive two-year contracts, like something in the range of two-years, $50 million, even if a player option on year two has to be included.

This would give each player a great deal of money in only two seasons, with the potential to earn a long-term, large payday after the two seasons when both players are 30 years old.

This allows the Magic to run back the team that made the playoffs, and not hinder the long-term plan of the team. Mohamed Bamba would learn from Nikola Vucevic, and the latter would continue his run as the best Magic player in the post-Dwight Howard era.

These short deals also give the Magic plenty of options to trade them in the future, something people thought was a missed opportunity last season. Expiring deals are attractive for contending teams, and if the Magic get an offer from a contending team midseason in 2021, Vucevic or Ross could net more assets to help them build their core.

The question is whether either of those players would accept such a deal considering this is their first real shot at free agency and perhaps their last shot at a big, long-term contract.

Free agency is officially nearing. The Magic have two players a lot of teams will be interested in and big decisions to make.

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Maintaining that the young core’s development is the most important thing for the Magic, and there are ways to remain a playoff team without losing cap and roster flexibility moving forward.