Orlando Magic Offseason Grades (Early Edition)
The Orlando Magic’s offseason really started with decisions over guaranteeing several contracts. This we all knew would be the first clue as to whether the Magic were planning something big for free agency and the offseason. But we all anticipated the team would keep these players.
It did not make too much sense for the Magic to go all-in on a weak free-agent class. Or to sign Fred VanVleet for $40 million and gut the team’s depth.
The decision to retain a lot of the Magic’s personnel that were on non-guaranteed deals or team options were pretty simple. They were mostly impact players who had a role on last year’s team and would make life easier for the team moving forward.
The easiest decision among the bunch was guaranteeing the final year of Markelle Fultz’s three-year contract extension. Fultz signed that deal just a few weeks before he suffered a torn ACL during the 2021 season. That put a halt to a comeback story everyone was eager to see.
It also meant he lost a full season of his new deal, only returning after the All-Star Break in 2022. And then a toe injury just before training camp took away a quarter of another.
But when Fultz got up to speed, he started to look like the player who earned the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
He averaged a career-high 14.0 points per game and 5.7 assists per game. He started showing a return of his athleticism with some impressive dunks and even started shooting a bit more from beyond the arc.
To say the least, Fultz is one of the quietest stories in the NBA. And the Magic have every reason to believe he is going to keep on this upward trajectory.
The bigger question in retaining Fultz and the final year salary of $17 million is whether they will extend his contract and keep him around a little longer.
Similar to Markelle Fultz, it was just hard to believe the Orlando Magic would break up too much of their core. Gary Harris was a bit more touch-and-go with the potential of clearing up the extra $13 million for offseason spending.
But ultimately it made far more sense to keep Harris for the final year of his deal.
Harris was the regular starter for the Magic at shooting guard and one of the best shooters on the team, making 43.1 percent of his 3-pointers. That is something the Magic obviously should value and his floor spacing and veteran know-how are really important for such a young team.
Still, Harris’ clock is ticking.
Jalen Suggs certainly has more upside and the potential to take over the spot with the defensive disruption he brings. It just comes down to shooting for him as the Magic desperately need floor spacers in that starting group.
Harris also continues to struggle with injuries. He played in only 48 games last season. So while the Magic need someone who does not need the ball in his hands often — and a way to get him the ball more with better passing — Harris has to be on the floor more to get his full effect.
In either case, this may well be his last season with the Magic as they look to open that spot more for younger players on the roster. Or flat-out improve the shooting guard spot moving forward.