The upcoming free agents the Orlando Magic should be watching in the Playoffs

The Orlando Magic got their shooting right as Aaron Gordon heated up to deliver the Magic to a win. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic got their shooting right as Aaron Gordon heated up to deliver the Magic to a win. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

While the Orlando Magic will not be participating in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, that does not mean there are not plenty of players to watch.

Playoff experience is a valuable commodity in basketball, and the Magic would be wise to watch some of the talented players in the coming weeks to add veteran experience to their new project.

Free agency officially starts on Aug. 2, but it is never too early to do intensive scouting for players who will have the opportunity to shine on basketball’s biggest stage.

Orlando will likely want to stay away from grizzled veterans looking to make a run at the end of their careers. Those players likely would not be interested in joining a team at the beginning stages of a rebuild. That would disqualify players such as Danny Green, P.J. Tucker, Paul Millsap and Serge Ibaka.

The Orlando Magic will be mining the mid-level exception candidates for veterans who can help support their young players as they prepare for free agency this offseason.

But the Magic certainly could still use a veteran player. As coach Steve Clifford noted, Gary Harris’ voice was valued after he spoke up following practice Monday. The Magic will have some veterans in Gary Harris, Terrence Ross and Michael Carter-Williams still under contract.

Orlando will want to keep at least some veteran voices around to guide their young players. It is an important role necessary for their development and focus.

It would also behoove the team to avoid going after positions the team has invested a tremendous amount of resources into such as point guard.

The prospect of evaluating the shooting guard position is a little more complicated. Realistically speaking, there are about three guard spots available after accounting for Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz and R.J. Hampton.

Dwayne Bacon has had a nice stretch of games at the end of the season. In his last six games, he has averaged 17.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game on 50-percent overall shooting.  It is unlikely though that Orlando brings back the stop-gap guard next year as he certainly will fetch or want more than the minimum contract the team offered him last offseason.

Bacon will be a sacrifice to the numbers game with the Magic’s already full backcourt and the likelihood the team adds another wing player with one of the two top-10 picks they are likely to use this year.

Harris is the other elephant in the room. Orlando invested quite a bit to get the 26-year-old and it has not worked out as most had hoped on the court.

Since joining the Magic, he has averaged 10.7 points, 2.4 assists, and 1.8 rebounds per game on 35.3-percent shooting. They are also playing the young guard a hefty 26.4 minutes per game. He also is ranked 297th in defensive rating among players who have played as many games as him this season.

Orlando also will be paying Harris $20 million next year. They hope a healthy offseason can get him closer to his 2018 levels. But his value is more the example he sets as a veteran even if his production has not quite matched that impact yet.

Harris is not likely going anywhere yet. Orlando values that veteran leadership from him. But he will quickly become a target at the trade deadline with his expiring contract.

If the Magic decide to target the shooting guard position, they will probably want rotational young players who can contribute off the bench.  Small Forwards and Centers should be their top priority this offseason.

Shooting Guards

Bruce Brown, Brooklyn Nets (RFA)

Restricted free agents are often difficult to peel away from teams but the Brooklyn Nets are anything but normal when it comes to their team makeup.

With Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden taking up the majority of the team’s cap space for years to come, Brooklyn will have to rely on minimum-level contracts to make up the rest of its roster.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Any significant push for the 25-year-old this offseason would instantly get Orlando the exact kind of player the team needs. Orlando will have a little bit of money to throw around — $18.3 million in cap space before accounting for the team’s draft picks which will eat into most of that room by cap exceptions. He could certainly be had for the mid-level exception (although the Nets might match that).

The Nets could very well march straight to the NBA Finals this year and that kind of experience could be massive for a rebuilding Magic team with the fourth-youngest roster in the NBA.

Alex Caruso, Los Angeles Lakers

Alex Caruso would fill the exact same role should the Orlando Magic truly be interested in this kind of player to join the team next year.

The biggest difference is Caruso has already gone all the way. In fact, he made a lot of big plays in the Los Angeles Lakers’ championship run and even started Game 6 of the NBA Finals. He had a +20 plus/minus in 32 minutes played during the Lakers’ championship-winning performance.

As a 40-percent shooter from behind the arc, he could be a nice mediation between effort and production to usher in a new era of basketball for the Magic.


Kevon Looney, Golden State Warriors (PO)

Kevon Looney may not be the most exciting name on this list but the 25-year-old poward forward is ripe for a bigger role on another team. The Golden State Warriors have an impressive 18-6 record when he has played more than 25 minutes this season.

While he is not particularly amazing at any one skill set, he brings a tremendous amount of effort that could provide dividends as a rotational big to play key minutes against the opposing team’s best 4 or 5.

In his best performance of the season, he played a key role in the Golden State Warriors’ defeat of a healthy Philadelphia 76ers squad on April 19. Joel Embiid did score 28 points in the contest but shot 8 for 21 to get there.

Looney could stick around with Golden State for another year before he officially becomes an unrestricted free agent, but I would not be shocked if he opted out of his current contract. There would certainly be teams willing to give him more consistent playing time and he would have a better chance to secure a nice contract as a bench player heading towards his 30’s by playing for a team like the Orlando Magic.

Derrick Jones Jr., Portland Trail Blazers (PO)

Derrick Jones is perhaps the most interesting name on this list. In his five-year career thus far,  the 24-year-old has yet to average more than 8.5 points per game. The emphatic dunker has also never shot better than 32-percent from 3-point range.

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The Portland Trail Blazers gave him a sizeable 2 year, $19-million contract back in 2020 as an investment in his growth and have yet to see that from him. The UNLV product could be interested in moving on from Portland if he feels his career is not progressing the way he had foreseen.

Orlando could offer him a similar yearly salary via the mid-level exception if they are interested in bringing him in a developmental small forward coming off of the bench.

Jones at his best is a high flyer who can run the floor and finish above the rim and a strong defender. There is always a place in the league for that guy off the bench. But just at the right price.

Big performances in the playoffs earn a lot of players large contracts and can erase regular season mediocrity to a certain extent.  Jones will be given a sizeable opportunity to showcase himself as Portland hopes to make a deep run this postseason.


Nerlens Noel, New York Knicks

To continue the trend of defensive-minded big men, there may not be any better target than Nerlens Noel.

The athletic center is third in defensive ratings under the same criteria listed previously.  He was signed to a measly $5-million dollar contract with the New York Knicks this season and has performed tremendously as their defensive anchor.

Coach Tom Thibodeau will want to bring Noel back but as an unrestricted free agent, there is no reason he will not shop around to explore what kind of money is available to him.  A lot of this will depend on New York’s dedication to Mitchell Robinson who has dealt with a bevy of injuries accounting for the center never playing more than 30 games in any given season.

Next. Projecting the future at point guard. dark

Orlando has their own decision to make this offseason with center Mohamed Bamba existing in a perpetual state of limbo with the team. Bamba will be entering a contract year next year too and the Magic’s overall commitment to him is not overtly clear.