Orlando Magic Free Agency: Five targets for the mid-level exception

Milwaukee Bucks guard Wesley Matthews is a proven veteran who can give the Orlando Magic a needed 3-and-D presence. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Milwaukee Bucks guard Wesley Matthews is a proven veteran who can give the Orlando Magic a needed 3-and-D presence. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /
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Austin Rivers, Houston Rockets
Austin Rivers has built a reputation on his toughness and big playmaking ability. But his flaws have been apparent throughout his career. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic will have the mid-level exception to spend in free agency this offseason. That limits their options, but there are still players to sign.

The Orlando Magic are not going to have much room to maneuver when free agency arrives.

The team has the fifth-highest payroll in the league for the 2020 season and has nearly $96 million guaranteed for next year. With the salary cap likely to fall near the 2020 mark of $115 million, Evan Fournier likely opting in will eat up $17 million of that space and Chuma Okeke and the draft pick’s rookie deals will eat up another $5-6 million, that will likely leave the Magic at or slightly above the salary cap.

Orlando should enter this offseason like it will be over the cap, leaving the team with only its mid-level exception — a salary slot of roughly $9 million — to spend in free agency.

If most of our offseason attention has been on the draft and finding trades throughout the league, this is why. The bulk of the Magic’s leg work this offseason will be spent shuffling the roster outside of free agency.

Of course, that does not mean free agency should be forgotten or that it cannot be a place where the Magic make improvements.

Last year, they added Al-Farouq Aminu on a three-year, $29.2-million. While Aminu struggled with injuries and his shot in his first year in Orlando, the move was still considered something of a splash. After all, Orlando convinced a starter from the Western Conference finalist Portland Trail Blazers to take a role off the bench behind Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac.

The move was questioned more for the fit and whether the Magic addressed more pressing needs on offense rather than the kind of player and talent the team was bringing in.

To be sure, though, Orlando will need to find a way to address needs more urgently in free agency. They can clearly get a high-level, starter-caliber player using even just the mid-level exception. But the focus for the Magic this offseason has to be on addressing needs and shortcomings on the roster.

Free agency is always a better place to do that than the Draft, where teams are frankly just looking for players who can contribute in any capacity so they can begin growing them internally.

Orlando may not be willing to spend the full nontaxpayer mid-level exception this time around just to try to keep some costs down. But the Magic still cannot let this period go by the wayside.

And Orlando has some major needs the team needs to try to address through free agency — whether it is a backup point guard as the team figures out what to do with free agents D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams or shooting and wing help.

The names the Magic will look at in free agency may not be the headline-grabbing kind. But there are still players the Magic can pursue on reasonable deals that can make their team better. Here are a few targets they can look at.