Free agents the Orlando Magic can throw the bag at
Isaiah Hartenstein, LA Clippers
I have been banging the drum for a while now that the Orlando Magic’s biggest and most immediate need to fill this offseason is at center. Especially if the team was going to let Mo Bamba go.
As things stand on the current roster, the Magic only have Moe Wagner as a backup to Wendell Carter. And, to some extent, Carter might be better if he can play alongside another center or rim protector next to him.
That is not going to happen now with Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero (not to mention Jonathan Isaac) occupying the two forward positions.
No matter what you say, Orlando is going to ask a lot from its backup center. The team will want someone who can start when Carter is out — he played a career-high 62 games last season — and perhaps even play alongside him if they need to.
Isaiah Hartenstein seems like the early frontrunner to do so. He has already been connected to Orlando by Marc Stein. It sounds like Orlando was perhaps the favorite to bring him in. That should not be considered a done deal yet. Negotiations are not supposed to have started yet.
But Hartenstein gives Orlando everything the team could want. He had a breakout year last year averaging 8.3 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per game while shooting 62.6-percent from the floor.
That, like with Bamba, is what playing time can do. He averaged a little more than 17 minutes per game and produced well. He is a tough low-post defender and a good screener. He is also a solid cutter and passer for a big man. And he is slowly starting to add a 3-point shot.
A big contract for Hartenstein would be a bet on that continued growth.
Hartenstein feels like the guy wo will strike it rich in this year’s free agent class. Someone — and it might well be the Magic — will convince themselves he is the answer. There is at least some proof he can be.
Orlando probably is the one team that could give him more than the non-taxpayer mid-level exception. He probably is not worth all that much. In the end, Hartenstein may end up getting about the same amount as Bamba.