Gary Harris will present Orlando Magic’s next challenge

Gary Harris stayed with the Orlando Magic passed the trade deadline. Now the team has to have a big decision on his future. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Harris stayed with the Orlando Magic passed the trade deadline. Now the team has to have a big decision on his future. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic were not as busy at the trade deadline as we all thought they might be.

This was not a seismic-shifting deadline like last year. The team was expected to act like the typical rebuilding team — sending off veterans for whatever they could get and reset the next year as their young group continues to grow. They had another young player preparing for restricted free agency that seemed set for a decision too.

But the Magic stood pat.

As Jeff Weltman told Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel, there were no deals that were mutually beneficial. And that is exactly how the Magic should act. They should not be making deals just to make deals, but only deals that advance their overall project.

For now, keeping the veterans was in the Magic’s best interest. And many fans would agree to some extent — there was plenty of concern about trading both Terrence Ross and Gary Harris at the deadline. There is still some concern about letting go of both Michael Carter-Williams and E’twaun Moore, even if they were out for the entire year with injuries.

The sharks are still circling though. And the Magic still have some key decisions to make that will reverberate beyond this season.

Now that the trade deadline has passed, the Orlando Magic’s next big decision will be figuring out Gary Harris’ future with the team.

It did not take long for the clock to tick past 3 p.m. for the articles and writing to come out speculating who might get bought out. Whether it was John Hollinger of The Athletic or Alicia De Artolo of FanSided, everyone seems to expect the Magic to buy out the final year of Harris’ contract and turn him loose on the buyout market.

Harris has played well enough and reclaimed enough of his career to get that interest. After struggling with injuries for much of the past three seasons after his breakthrough 2018 seasons, Harris has been an exceptional shooter and defender for this young Magic team.

He is averaging 11.7 points per game and shooting a 54.5-percent effective field goal percentage. He is making 38.8-percent of his 3-pointers, the best percentage since the 2017 season.

Harris had a slow start to the season, but he has been on a tear over the last quarter of the season. He is averaging 14.7 points per game and shooting 42.2-percent from beyond the arc in his last 26 games.

This while accepting a role largely coming off the bench and being a supporting veteran on a young roster.

It is easy to consider and see why teams are trying to line up to grab him. And Magic fans would not blame Harris for seeking the opportunity to play for a contending team. It is a testament to Harris that he has so quickly endeared himself to the point Magic fans would be open to re-signing him.

And that is the crux of the decision for the Magic and the difficult decision that lies ahead of them in the coming weeks (I would not expect a decision until after the All-Star Break, although if the Magic are planning to buy out Harris, they will likely keep him around until his agent secures a landing spot for him quickly).

The Magic have to decide whether they want to keep their veteran or allow him to find a new place.

The difficulty of this decision is pretty clear. As the thing that seems like a slam dunk and a sure thing has quickly turned into anything but. The Magic buying out Harris is not a sure thing:

There is a lot at play here.

Obviously, Harris has been a major contributor to the team on the court. And that is ultimately what will entice teams hoping he gets a buyout. It has helped set the market for his free agency this offseason.

The other part of this is to create a good environment for a veteran. A lot of these rebuilding teams are also working to rebuild their reputation around the league. It generates some goodwill to take care of veteran players.

Orlando wants to show veteran players and agents they will take care of players both when they are on the team and as they depart. It is no coincidence the Magic worked with players at last year’s trade deadline.

The choice on whether Harris gets bought out or not ultimately may lie with him.

If he goes to the Magic and asks for the opportunity to play for a winning team, the negotiations to buy him out will probably begin and he will be moving on to another team. If he does not express that and wants to see this season out, he may well finish the season here and perhaps be open to signing a new contract.

Orlando is always going to act in its best interests. That much was made clear at the trade deadline.

When the world was telling them to accept a lesser offer for Terrence Ross or Gary Harris, they held firm. They showed they would prefer to keep their veteran players than just accept whatever comes their way. Nothing pushed them to move.

But now comes that next question: What comes next? How do they handle this choice and how does it reverberate beyond this season?

Orlando has put an emphasis on finding veterans to help foster and mentor its young players. The decision to let Carter-Williams and Moore go signals some kind of confidence the team can handle losing their voices behind the scenes.

Harris plays a key role in that. But the Magic also have an obligation to do right by their players. Especially in a season at the bottom of the standings like this one.

It is not clear yet what the Magic will do. It is not clear what the Magic should do and what is best for them. A lot of those negotiations will happen behind the scenes.

Next. Orlando Magic play in the moment to get back on track. dark

But the next big thing that happens for the Magic will involve Harris’ future. And it is a decision that will have reverberations as the Magic prepare their next steps.