Orlando Magic should use extra roster spots to supplement current roster

The Orlando Magic are likely to bring two-way player BJ Johnson to Disney to help supplement their roster. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic are likely to bring two-way player BJ Johnson to Disney to help supplement their roster. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

The NBA will likely expand rosters and give teams a chance to sign some new players. The Orlando Magic should use this to supplement their roster.

The NBA’s return plan is still taking shape even as the July 30 proposed start date inches closer.

Teams are likely to begin ramping up toward training camps next week with smaller groups being allowed to work out together and coaches getting access to players to work with them and sharpen them up. Full team training camp will not be too far behind as teams get set to travel to Disney in early- and mid-July.

The league still has a few finer details to iron out.

Among them are the issues with social justice that several players have brought up and ensuring health and safety among those in the campus setting. The league is debating how to limit people interacting with the players while still creating some insurance for injuries to get to the end of the season.

Commissioner Adam Silver and the players association have a lot on their table. After acting with a lot of confidence and seemingly partnering with the players association at every step, the league seems to have taken some uncertain steps forward.

The season likely will still finish off at Disney in late July. But the league it seems is not going to force anyone who is uncomfortable to sequester themselves at Disney.

This reality is forcing the league to bend some of its own rules. Namely, the league is expected to expand roster sizes to 17 and to allow teams to replace players with injuries who will not be able to play in the bubble — whether because of injury or because they chose to sit out.

This season will end unlike any other.

An opportunity to add to the roster

With a short training camp to help players prepare and reacclimate to games, this is a perfect time to integrate a new player. Everyone is starting virtually from scratch and so this is a chance to bring players into the fold.

The intention of the expanded rosters was to give teams the ability to add some depth and try to spread out some of the risk for injury. It was a sort of insurance in case someone on the team gets sick while in the campus setting and has to be quarantined for at least 10 days. The league is going to have to march on and it does not want to pause.

So most teams figured to add their two-way players with a few players outside the current NBA structure coming in.

It is that latter group that will undoubtedly get the most attention. Fans from many teams have long clamored for their group to add Jamal Crawford or J.R. Smith for added shooting. The best and most visible free agents on the market may still find a home in the NBA.

Even for a team like the Orlando Magic, those players seem very attractive. Crawford is probably the number one suggested signing I have seen from fans throughout the season thinking his shooting and respect as a shooter will help give the team a ton of space.

But players like Crawford or Smith are more like mercenaries. They are only going to join a team that has a chance to win a title. And that is very clearly not the Magic at the moment.

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Instead, the Magic should look to use these extra spots for two purposes — first to bring some added depth and support for the current roster and second to lay the seeds for players they want to develop for next season to help them down the road. These extra roster spots are a chance to help the team grow next season.

After all, the Magic are still a young team and should be seeking opportunities to develop and grow their team internally. Especially considering the team’s cap problems.

Supporting the roster

The first place to look for supporting the roster is with the Orlando Magic’s two-way players. It is almost certain the Magic will use one or both of the extra roster spots converting their two-way contract players into full roster members.

B.J. Johnson and Vic Law have not played very much this season.

B.J. Johnson played meaningful minutes in the Orlando Magic’s upset win over the Los Angeles Lakers, scoring nine points on 4-for-10 shooting. That is also the only game he played more than 10 minutes in any NBA game.

Johnson has had an impressive run with the Lakeland Magic. He averaged 22.9 points per game and shot 42.3 percent on 5.3 3-point field goal attempts per game. Johnson played a lot more on the ball in Lakeland. The adjustment to playing off the ball is still the question. But the Magic clearly liked him enough to keep him around.

The same goes for Vic Law.

The Magic specifically went after Vic Law for a two-way contract before the deadline in January, cutting Josh Magette in the process.

Law averaged 19.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game while shooting 40.3 percent from beyond the arc. He hit some big shots and his size and versatility fit the Magic’s style.

Orlando is clearly still interested in both, even if they struggled to find playing time. Both are still young and showed some promise. They are familiar with the team’s system and there is some level of comfort. They would be starting with everyone else rather than from square one.

And both are quality shooters and scorers, things the Magic need. Law might have more value as someone who could play any wing position and help on the glass more. But really both players will go as far as they can shoot and defend.

The Magic also could look to bring back the other players from the season who eventually found their way back to Lakeland.

Orlando originally signed Josh Magette to a two-way contract at the beginning of the season. He proceeded to tear up the G-League averaging 21.1 points and 10.6 assists per game. This is something he has made a living doing early on in his career.

He did not get much playing time when called up to Orlando, notably playing 17 minutes and scoring three points in the loss to the Phoenix Suns. That was also the only game he played more than 10 minutes with Orlando.

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Orlando could use a third full-time point guard. But the Magic have been platooning Markelle Fultz, D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams at that position. There are very few minutes available at point guard.

The team also had G-League stalwart Amile Jefferson on the roster for much of the season until cutting him in favor of signing veteran Gary Clark.

Amile Jefferson also struggled to break through on the roster and find much playing time. The most minutes he played this season with the Magic was 16 and he had just two games playing more than 10 minutes this season. He grabbed 11 total rebounds in those games.

Jefferson is still looking for his overall fit, but he continues to dominate the G-Leauge. He averaged 25.9 points and 12.6 rebounds per game in the seven games he played since rejoining Lakeland after Orlando cut him.

Seeking help from the outside

Very clearly, the Orlando Magic liked something about all these players. All four have to be considered front runners to take up the extra two roster spots — plus the roster spots assumedly left open by Al-Farouq Aminu and Jonathan Isaac’s injuries.

Their roles will be more about what they can give the team in practice. How will they help the team improve?

For Johnson and Law, things are easier. They fit in easier. Every team always needs wings who can shoot. Those always help in practice and preparation.

Magette and Jefferson do not fit as cleanly.

A fourth ball handler might help and give the Magic a chance to try out different guard combinations in practice. But time is going to be valuable as the Magic surely do not want to be on the practice floor long all things considered. The team is going to have to be efficient.

Jefferson does not quite fit the league anymore without a reliable 3-point shot. And the Magic are already pretty loaded at center.

Orlando should look to add players that can help the team beyond this year. They should view this as an investment for next year as much as anything else.

The team is loaded with versatile power forwards when fully healthy — Aaron Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu and Jonathan Isaac. But with both Aminu and Isaac out, the Magic are short at that position. As Jeff Weltman and John Hammond describe it, the Magic essentially lost a position to injury this year.

Orlando added Gary Clark to help with that need. He has been solid, but is not the most versatile wing.

The Magic could try to split the difference and sign an unaffiliated player like Fort Wayne Mad Ants forward Ben Moore. Moore averaged 13.9 points per game and grabbed 9.6 rebounds per game this season while hitting 39.5 percent of his 3-pointers.

Moore was a solid defender and has good length. He was able to attack the basket and finish around the rim. The strong rebounding numbers should be some sign of his willingness to work.

They could use this time as something of a tryout for a player they might have otherwise eyed for Summer League or as a two-way prospect next year.

And that is the exact kind of prospect the Magic should be targeting with these extra roster spots. Someone they could see some kind of long-term investment in.

The Magic should be willing to look outside of their familiar players to boost the roster and look ahead to next year with these added opportunities. For sure, the Magic will reward guys who they are familiar with.

Next. Jonathan Isaac plans to join Orlando Magic in bubble. dark

But this is an opportunity to get a free shot at free agency they should not pass up.