The clock is counting down toward midnight — or rather, 6 p.m.
Thursday (today, as I am writing this), free agency is set to begin. And while this is not the busiest free agency in terms of money to move around or players who could change teams, this is indeed a time for change.
The team has already made the decision not to extend a qualifying offer to Mo Bamba, sending him to unrestricted free agency. That has set the touchstone for free agency for this team.
The Orlando Magic are one of the few teams in this free agency to have some money to spend. So why not spend it and think a little big (not too big). There are players the team can throw a bag at.
Orlando was already entering the offseason with somewhere near $29 million in cap room after taking in consideration the increase in the salary cap over the league’s original projects. Not extending the qualifying offer to Bamba releases the team from a potentail $10 million obligation if he took the qualifying offer and more than $22 million in cap hold to retain those matching rights.
The Magic are indeed free to do just about anything in free agency. They have the third-most money to spend in free agency. And perhaps they have the most intrigue in what they will do with it. The New York Knicks seem already accounted for with their reported obsession and interest in Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson.
The San Antonio Spurs made their intentions fairly clear in trading All-Star guard Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks for Danilo Gallinari and four first-round picks. The Spurs seem content to go through a rebuild for th first time in decades.
Although everyone has to spend money.
Orlando is the one team that could throw an unexpected wrench into free agency — just like the team did in the draft. The Magic have a good group of young players and the public promise not to chase a sugar high of a quick playoff trip. The team wants to take a step forward, but the team seems focused on doing so organically.
That does not mean there are not free agents out there who could help them speed things up. This is still a time to address some needs.
With Bamba perhaps out of the mix — the team is still reportedly at least interested in bringing him back on some level — the team will still need a backup center. There are already reports the Magic are leaders to sign Isaiah Hartenstein.
From there, Orlando desperately needs shooting and perhaps another wing to round out its roster. Not to mention more veterans. The team is exceedingly young and could use veteran leadership to get through the season.
That leads back to one thing: What are the Magic going to do in the next few hours? Who are they going to throw some money at?
The safest bet is still to believe the Magic will work for trades, renting out cap space to teams that need an extra hand making a deal.
Even with a player as large as Kevin Durant now reportedly hitting the market, teams will need to free up some money. Orlando could be a good repository for big salaries teams need to dump.
Then again, the Magic have never been a team under Jeff Weltman just to take draft picks because. They are going to be hunting for players to help them.
How Orlando acts could have a big role in the whole offseason.
For now, in the dying hours before the free agency guns go off, let’s assume the team is going to spend a bit this offseason. Who will they be willing to throw the bag at?
That is one advantage Orlando has. Money is meaningless to the team with so many players on rookie contracts. The Magic can overpay to get the guys that can help them, and hopefully maintain some flexibility.