Orlando Magic's 2024 free agency still planning for a future beyond

The Orlando Magic are reportedly not looking to splurge on a big free agent this season. Instead, they seem to be looking to manage their cap, eyeing a future when they don't have much money available.
The Orlando Magic have a lot of money to spend this offseason. But they should already be planning for the summer of 2025 and a time when they will not have so much to spend.
The Orlando Magic have a lot of money to spend this offseason. But they should already be planning for the summer of 2025 and a time when they will not have so much to spend. / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

A growing consensus has been gaining steam among the reporters following and trying to predict free agency.

Everyone knows the Orlando Magic are going to be players in free agency. Just nobody ever seems to know what the Magic will do. They are typically quiet and airtight, leaving national reporters space to speculate and try to glean what they will do.

The Magic have been connected seemingly to every free agent imaginable.

They were serious about Klay Thompson and now there is reportedly little traction between the two (even though they cannot negotiate directly yet). They could be a secret player for Paul George, now it seems they do not want to rise to his preferred cost.

They could be a team interested in D'Angelo Russell, now they seemingly do not even want to pay him the amount he will decline from his player option for the Los Angeles Lakers. The same could be said for any reported interest in Tyus Jones.

Then there are the veterans on the market like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who could get a short-term deal at a high price.

It is easy to see now why Malik Monk surveyed the market and perhaps did not see the kind of contract he wanted on the open market. Many of the bigger names on the market are finding that too.

A favorite strategy emerging then is for the Magic to hand out a short-term deal at an above-market salary. Call it the Bruce Brown special.

The reality is that as exciting as the Magic's excess of cap room is and the importance of spending to improve the roster, the Magic are planning for their future. As president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman has said repeatedly, the bill for their young stars is coming due. And the team has to be planning for a future when the money will not spend so freely.

Orlando Magic are aiming for flexibility around upcoming rookie extensions

The biggest shadow hanging over the Orlando Magic are extensions for Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs, deals the team can negotiate with them now but are likely to wait to maximize their cap space for the 2025 offseason. To be sure, everything the Magic do has the summers of 2025 and summer of 2026 hanging over them (when Paolo Banchero will likely sign a max extension).

If there is good news then, it is that the Magic seem to have their eyes already on this critical summer. Everything they are doing it seems is.

In many ways, the Magic are and should be operating under the salary cap in 2025 and building their roster as much for this upcoming season as they are for the 2025-26 season.

Things are indeed changing.

The NBA's salary cap will come in at $141 million this year with the Magic holding somewhere between $30 and $50 million. With the impending and expected new TV deal, everyone around the league is expecting the salary cap to increase by the maximum 10 percent for the next several years.

That gives the Magic some freedom to overpay this summer. It is going to be far more useful to start thinking of salaries in terms of the percentage of the cap they take up rather than the raw number—because per year salaries are about to increase dramatically.

Wagner's max contract (regardless of when he signs it) would pay him a five-year, $227.5 million deal. It would start with a salary of $38.8 million and end with a salary of roughly $52.8 million.

But this is the important part. Wagner's initial salary in a max contract is set to 25 percent of the cap. That will increase over time.

And even if he signs a max—or merely gets the maximum eight percent raises—the salary cap is likely to outpace this. With the next TV deal taking effect in the summer of 2025, the league is expecting the salary cap to jump the maximum 10 percent for several years as they play catch up to excess revenue.

That is how the Magic should at least approach the extensions for Wagner and Suggs and how they should look to fit their free agents this offseason onto the team. The raw number is going to feel massive. But that only tells part of the story.

And that tells the story of how the Magic approach free agents this summer.

Orlando Magic should be signing players in terms of the 2026 salary cap

This will become the most important point then. The Orlando Magic—and their fans— need to start thinking of salaries in terms of the percentage of the cap they take up rather than the actual dollar amount because that dollar amount is increasing so rapidly.

Big salaries today are not going to feel so big tomorrow. And there could even be a fairly dramatic change from this season to next.

For instance, last year, Jonathan Isaac was the highest-paid player on the team at $17 million. But he took up only 12.9 percent of the cap. At the expected $141 million cap for the upcoming season, his salary would only make up 12.1 percent of the cap.

For the expected 2026 cap of $155.1 million, 12.1 percent of the cap would be a salary starting at $18.8 million (12.9 percent would be $20.0 million). That is a sign of how much the cap is going to increase and how much salaries will change even in the short term.

For instance, if the Magic indeed intend to offer a Bruce Brown-like deal—he signed an above-market two-year, $45-million contract last year with a team option on the second season—to someone like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a $25 million salary would only account for 17.7 percent of the team's salary cap and only 16.1 percent of the cap in 2025.

In that regard, overpaying a player who could impact and improve the Magic for the 2025 season will likely not feel as onerous for the 2026 season. That is important as the Magic's key players come off their rookie contract and the team loses its spending power.

Even in the summer of 2025, a $30 million salary will make up only 19.3 percent of the salary cap (the max contract for a player coming off a rookie contract is 25 percent of the salary cap). Overpaying now makes more sense than waiting for next year.

This summer is about setting up the Orlando Magic's books for 2026

The Orlando Magic are starting to align their books then for the summer of 2025 when they become more expensive. But they will have a little more wiggle room to sign players.

The going thought it seems among reporters is the Magic will still act conservatively. They are not going to use their cap room to drop a giant sack of cash on the table with their favored target. It seems the Magic are still being a bit more discerning.

At least, if you want to believe reporting and speculation.

The Magic know they have to spend, but they still want to focus on players who fit their identity and style. They still want to chase after their kinds of players, even as salaries increase.

That might explain their desire to retain some financial flexibility. It might explain why there are so many reports of the team seeking a two-year deal for a player like Klay Thompson or the hesitancy to give a long-term contract to a big fish like Paul George.

Of course, the Magic could prove all of this wrong. We will find out on June 30 and after what the Magic intend to do in free agency.

What everyone should recognize is the Magic are not just spending for this upcoming season. They are spending knowing their books will look more cluttered in the very near future—particularly after Banchero gets his likely max deal for the 2026-27 season following Wagner and Suggs' extensions.

On top of this, the Magic have so much financial freedom, they should feel comfortable paying 2025 prices for 2024 free agents. In reality, they should feel comfortable spending like it is the cap for the 2026 season.

This is an offseason to seek ways to improve the roster. It is also a summer to plan and prepare for a different kind of future under the salary cap.