Who are the Orlando Magic competing for free agents with?

The Orlando Magic are one of the few teams with cap room this offseason. But that does not mean they have free reign over the best free agents. They have plenty of competition in the market.
The Orlando Magic should have plenty of money to throw around this offseason. But there is also a lot of competition among teams that have a lot to offer this offseason.
The Orlando Magic should have plenty of money to throw around this offseason. But there is also a lot of competition among teams that have a lot to offer this offseason. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic know they have an opportunity this offseason.

After breaking through to make the playoffs last season, they have a young roster teeming with opportunity. Paolo Banchero is an All-Star still on his rookie contract. Their other two key players in Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs are preparing to come off their rookie contracts. They have loads of financial flexibility.

The Magic can spend this offseason. That is an opportunity at the very least to splurge on the best free agents this offseason and improve the roster. Or an opportunity to acquire players in trades to increase their payroll and (at least theoretically) increase their talent.

Much of the month since the Magic's season ended has been focused on free agents and how the team will add to the roster.

That is, of course, one side of the equation. The Magic should be in a strong position to pick which free agents they target. They have somewhere between $30-50 million in cap room to spend. They have a young roster that showed it could win and advance out of the first round.

That and all the advantages that everyone says Orlando should have as a young city in a tax-free state should make the team very attractive.

But there is competition. Even in a summer with few teams that have cap room and not a ton of marquee free agents, it still expects to be a summer with significant player movement. And the Magic are not the only winning team with cap room to spend.

Orlando is going to have to compete with at least a few teams for some of the free agents the team is expected to chase. And there are more than a few teams that could offer the same kind of opportunity to win as the Magic might.

For the Magic and their offseason strategy, it is just as important to know who their competition is chasing as much as who the Magic are chasing. That will have an effect on how high the price might go for these key players and who the Magic might need to pursue as a backup plan should they get turned down.

This summer is not going to be Jeff Weltman picking who he wants to get. It will be one that tests his ability as a negotiator and salesman.

Philadelphia 76ers feel like they have first dibs on free agents

It is very rare that a team with as much talent and established talent as the Philadelphia 76ers has so much cap room. Even after trading a major expiring salary in James Harden, the Sixers can create a ton of cap room—more than $60 million according to Keith Smith of Spotrac.

That is because the Sixers are carrying only one guaranteed contract this summer—Joel Embiid. They are seemingly likely to let Tobias Harris walk in free agency (that is a $39.3 million salary) and let Buddy Hield walk in free agency ($19.8 million). The Sixers are seemingly going to remake a ton of their roster.

They will use Bird Rights to retain some players. Most notably, Philadelphia seems to have already agreed to a max extension with Tyrese Maxey, but they would prefer to keep his $13.0 million cap hold as opposed to signing him to a starting salary of $35.3 million. That is one of the reasons the Sixers have so much cap room.

The Philadelphia 76ers are largely expected to chase and sign Paul George away from the LA Clippers. Despite reporting from Marc Stein that the Orlando Magic's name continues to pop up in speculation about who will chase George, it seems like George wants to go to a readymade team.

Plus, Philadelphia is in a better position to offer the $48.8 million salary George is declining to enter free agency. The Magic are not quite in the position to offer that much, even if adding a shooter and scorer like George would help the team.

The Sixers have the advantage over everyone else because they have an MVP candidate in place already in Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. They are in a more urgent position to win now with Embiid in his prime as a player.

It feels like every team with money this offseason will be waiting to see what the Sixers do first. They will be the first domino to fall. Or everyone will back off the free agents the Sixers are pursuing.

But that is just for the big names. Depending on who the Sixers might be looking to retain, they still have to fill out their roster. They could be a team that looks to fill out their roster with players like Kyle Anderson or Luke Kennard that the Magic could be chasing to fill out their own roster.

The Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs are Orlando Magic's real competition

The Philadelphia 76ers enter this offseason in a position of power. And while the Orlando Magic have significantly more purchasing power than the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, those two teams have as much to offer as the Magic.

The Thunder finished with the top seed in the Western Conference and have an MVP runner-up in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. They are seemingly closer to a championship than the Magic are today. They are going to be looking to spend their money this offseason to add that last piece to boost their title hopes.

Luckily for the Magic, that seems to be something very focused.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are expected to use the majority of their cap room to try to pry Isaiah Hartenstein away from the New York Knicks. The Knicks are limited in how much they can offer Hartenstein and go over the cap because they hold only his Early Bird Rights in free agency.

The Magic might be a team that looks to add a center this offseason too. But with so few centers available in free agency, the Magic probably are not making a move to deal Wendell Carter without knowing they will get one of Isaiah Hartenstein or Nic Claxton in free agency. And it seems likely the Nets will retain Claxton.

That puts the Magic and Thunder in direct competition.

The San Antonio Spurs do not have the playoff success yet to sell to potential free agents. But they have Victor Wembanyama. He is someone players will want to play with.

The Spurs are expected to be more aggressive in the trade market—they have some salaries to move in addition to their cap room. But they could also make plays for some of the same free agents as the Magic. They, too, are looking for a point guard and could make a play for someone like Tyus Jones the same way the Magic are.

Orlando should still be able to operate independently. The Thunder are looking for something specific that has some overlap with the Magic. The Spurs are at a different stage of their development.

But these teams may sneak in and poach some of the targets the Magic have.

The Detroit Pistons are the wild card this summer

The one team that could throw a real wrench in the Orlando Magic's plans are the Detroit Pistons.

With a new president of basketball operations in Trajan Langdon and waning patience in their rebuild after falling to the fifth pick in back-to-back years, the Detroit Pistons could be this year's version of the Houston Rockets. They could be a team willing to throw a massive overpay at a player to ensure they get him and accelerate their rebuild with Cade Cunningham.

It worked for the Rockets last summer as they took an important step and hung around the postseason picture deep into the season.

The Pistons are expected to be chasing some of the same free agents as the Magic.

Detroit is expected to chase Malik Monk in free agency this offseason. That is perhaps the Magic's chief competition to get the sharpshooter out of Sacramento. It feels certain the Pistons will spend major money on either Malik Monk or Tobias Harris this offseason just to give that team a boost.

They could be a team that goes for a veteran like Gary Harris too. If the Magic want to keep him.

The question is whether the Magic are willing to offer the same amount as the Pistons for Monk or if Monk prioritizes playing on a surer winning team or not. Detroit has an estimated $64.4 million in cap room. That is the most in the entire league this summer.

They can throw that money around like the big stack at the poker table. And they might be willing to pay irresponsibly to ensure they get more talent onto the roster.

The Magic should still have their pick of free agents. They should be able to target who they want and have a compelling case to bring them in. But there is competition throughout the league.