Orlando GM Rob Hennigan has executed a series of puzzling moves this offseason, and consensus opinion is that the Magic are having a poor offseason. I decided to walk through move by move to share my perception of Orlando’s plan.
Arron Afflalo Traded To Denver For Evan Fournier and pick #56 (Roy Devyn Marble) in the 2014 Draft
Afflalo is owed $7.6M in 14-15 and has a $7.8M player option in 15-16 that will likely get declined. So he’s basically a $7.6M expiring with a small anti-freeroll for the Nuggets in case his value plummets in 14-15. Afflalo is underpaid at $7.6M, but for one season at that price he’s not underpaid enough to fetch a big haul.
Fournier isn’t great but he is a former 1st rounder entering the 3rd year of his rookie deal and he clearly has some value. The 2nd rounder isn’t much but I liked the Devyn Marble selection. Collectively these assets are likely worth somewhere in the $3-4M range, and I doubt that 1 season of Afflalo could have fetched more.
It’s clear that Orlando intended to draft a PG and SF and wanted to get a cheaper, younger wing to come off the bench rather than demote Afflalo and watch him walk after a season. I would say the move is neutral value-wise for Orlando and it makes sense for their intents, so I am fine with it overall.
Aaron Gordon drafted #4 overall, Eflrid Payton drafted #10 at the price of #12, 2015 Orlando 2nd, 2017 Philly 1st
Everybody expected Hennigan to take Dante Exum or Marcus Smart 4th overall, but he surprised by taking Aaron Gordon. This makes sense with the 12th pick in hand, as Elfrid Payton and/or Tyler Ennis projected to be the BPA (forgetting my Capela/Nurkic love which seems unshared by NBA GM’s). Essentially Hennigan is making a statement that the difference between Exum and Payton is smaller than the gap between say Aaron Gordon and TJ Warren. I am not sure I agree because Exum really glows with a unique upside to me, but he’s such a fuzzy prospect to peg that I can’t say for certain that Hennigan is wrong. Aaron Gordon was on my short list of 3 prospects who was in the conversation for BPA, and it’s far more important that they didn’t spew on say Julius Randle rather than taking my first choice who I’m not certain is even better than Gordon. Exum’s FIBA sample looks good, but it is completely waffle crushed by Gordon’s FIBA sample which portrays him as roughly the best prospect ever.
What I hated about Orlando’s draft was the willingness to give up all of those picks to lock in Payton. I had Ennis as slightly above him, but am not dripping with confidence in my assertion. I like both and believe it’s perfectly reasonable to prefer Payton. But at the price of a 2015 2nd rounder that will likely fall in the 30’s and a 2017 1st that is only top 11 protected (top 8 in 2018), I’d say Hennigan got tunnel vision on his guy and spewed too much value. He should have offered Hinkie much less and taken Ennis 12th if Hinkie said no.
Hennigan clearly believes that shooting is overrated in the draft (I strongly agree) and the way to go is to take toolsy defensive prospects with a good baseline of non-shooting skill (these are my type of guys too). I like his strategy and feel it’s safe to say that he’s taking a much sharper approach to prospect selection than most other GM’s. He gave some of it back by taking an unsharp approach to the Payton trade, but it’s far more damaging to draft a complete dud so I overall like Orlando’s draft.
Ben Gordon signs for 2/9, Willie Green claimed off waivers
Along with the rest of the world, I do not understand these moves. The Magic are burning roster spots and cap space on washed up veterans who are at best replacement level at this stage of their careers. I really hope that Hennigan does not expect either of these guys will contribute, because that would make me deeply fear for his ability to evaluate NBA talent. It’s possible that he’s just pals with their agents and wants some vets to balance out the youth of the roster while doing his buddies a favor. I don’t know. Making sense of these moves is a futile exercise. The bottom line is that they are completely pointless and the Magic burned 2 roster spots and $6M of cap space on deadweight. They could have just taken on Lou Williams and Bebe instead by one upping John Salmons’ $1M buyout with pure cap space.
These are painfully obvious mistakes, but the good news is that they are inexpensive ones.
Channing Frye signs for 4/32
I don’t like this move. Currently Oladipo is 22, Gordon is 18, Payton is 20, Vucevic is 23, and they have another handful of bench players in their early 20’s. So they target a 31 year old free agent and give him 4 years? That doesn’t align with their window at all. Why not offer that same money to 27 year old Josh McRoberts? I’d wager the extra $9M is more attractive to him than maybe getting to play with LeBron. Not to mention that giving 4/32 deals to 31 year olds is a bad practice in general. Hennigan definitely suffered from Wizards-esque myopia with this one.
That said I do find some aspects of the deal positively redeeming. First, it reinforces the fact that Hennigan perceives Aaron Gordon as a SF which is 100% correct. Also paying up for a FA shooter is far better than drafting shooting. Shooting is overpriced in the draft and somehow undervalued in FA, and Henny seems to have at least solved this. And Orlando does badly need a stretch 4 after drafting so many guards and wings who cannot shoot. I would have loved this move if it was for the younger McRoberts. Nevertheless the Magic’s presumed starting 5 of Payton/Oladipo/Gordon/Frye/Vucevic is interesting.
The first thing people may note are that they have poor rim protection, as neither Frye nor Vucevic is a defensive stud. But their perimeter defense is potentially awesome with Payton, Oladipo, and Gordon collectively providing a ton of upside on that end. This is a great way to build around Vucevic (which is no easy task. Vucci is a weird player to build around). Having elite perimeter defense to contain penetration and force jump shots is ideal since it mitigates his rim protection limitations and maximizes his strong defensive rebounding. Frye ties everything together by spacing the floor. It’s a funky lineup to be sure, but I am a sucker for weirdness and I like the way the pieces fit.
Given that Frye has the two best traits for aging well (height and shooting), it’s possible that Orlando ends up in the playoffs by year 2 of his deal and this doesn’t prove to be the worst signing in the world.
Overall it’s fair to question the upside of the roster since nobody is truly a world beater. Gordon is the only player with star upside and he’s at least a few years away from getting there. And if he becomes the SF version of Josh Smith or the next MKG, the Magic don’t have the brightest future. But I still like the way the pieces fit, and Orlando’s roster situation is clearly superior to a plethora of teams.
It seems that everybody is in a rush to hate on Orlando’s offseason, but the worst thing they have done is committed obvious but inexpensive errors (Green + Gordon). It’s painful how pointless these moves are, but other teams have done such worse damage with their bad moves. Are those signings nearly as harmful as the Cavs’ recent draft decisions? Or how about the Lakers paying washed up, injured Kobe 2/48 and then trying to pair him with Melo, while also taking Julius Randle 7th and likely making a horrible coaching hire? How does it compare to the Nets’ strategy of throwing ever last dollar and draft pick at whatever old players come available?
To me, Hennigan is a middle of the road GM having a middle of the road offseason. He’s made some clear mistakes, he has shown a classic case of desperation to win too soon, but at least he is doing some things right. He is taking a clever approach to the draft and he is assembling pieces that fit together in a sensible manner. I simply can’t think of as many nice things to say about half the GM’s in the league.
This could be perceived as commentary than half of the GM’s in the league are completely under-qualified and terrible moreso than Hennigan isn’t that bad. Henny does get blown out of the water by the Buford, Hinkie, and Morey types of the world by a wider margin than be beats out the bottom feeding GM’s. Whenever he makes a good move to set the franchise forward, there will likely be a bad move around the corner to impede progress. But in a world where Phil Jackson is paid $12M/year to make directionless moves while presumably listening to Glory Days on repeat, having an inkling of sense and direction on a macro level stands out to me.
So I’m ever so gently defending Orlando’s offseason. I do so with limited enthusiasm because who knows what other -EV moves they have in store. But I believe they are getting more disdain than they deserve. At least they didn’t enlist a random collection of nerds to ignore so the owner could play GM and make the draft pick himself.
Patrick Laney said:
I hate everything they did mostly centered around they have a young, exciting player in Oladipo who I believe is the only 2013 prospect that was elite. They needed to get him help and instead they made his supporting cast worse. Shooting may be overvalued in the draft–except when you do not have any. Signing Gordon/Frye for 13 million to make up that gap just doubles down on the stupidity of their draft. Instead of losing games in the 100s, they will now lose them in the 70s.
Low level FA signings aren’t going to make or break them though. Nailing picks 4 + 12 will and I think they did well with them. We’ll see how they pay off.
Great article – glad too see someone who understands what the Magic were trying to do in the draft. Agree with almost everything you wrote. I believe that Elfrid Payton is worth the cost vs Tyler Ennis and am not as high on Exum for two main reasons – he hasn’t played a competitive bball game in nearly a year and the amount of stats/film we have of him is very small. These factors make him a very risky prospect to me.
More importantly, I like the Channing Frye signing – Orlando would struggle to hit the salary cap floor without him, so the overpay doesn’t matter much. I agree that he won’t be there when this team is in it’s prime, but he will help develop the younger players.You said that this move shows that Henningan knows Aaron Gordon is a 3, but Jacque Vaughn might not. This move makes it obvious to the coach to play him at the 3 – with Frye and Vucevic as the starting bigs. Most importantly he allows their core trio (Elfrid, Oladipo, and Gordon), to have the spacing to get to the basket. The Suns were plus 8.3 points/100 possesions better with Frye offensively and only .7 worse defensively.
Dragic explained how much easier it made life for himself and Bledsoe (Guards who attacked the basket similarly to Payton/Dipo) to Zach Lowe in March. [http://grantland.com/the-triangle/qa-goran-dragic-on-being-fearless-playing-his-game-and-words-with-friends/]
“Q: How much easier is your life when you can run a pick-and-roll with Channing Frye – a screener who can kill teams with outside shots?
A: Oh, man, a lot easier. It’s a huge difference from this year to last year, when Channing was out. Everybody was so much inside the paint, that you could not create. You could not get to the inside. And right now, it’s so much easier. They’re so afraid he’s going to knock down shots.
Q: Defenders just have to stick to him, instead of helping against you as you go around the pick.
A: They have to be close to him. And that’s one man less in the paint. It’s so much easier.
Q: There’s one kind of drive you get – when your defender gets between you and Channing’s pick, like he wants to send you away from the pick, but Channing’s defender is sticking right to Channing. You can just drive into open space away from the pick, right?
A: Exactly. My guy is already on the side of me, and it’s just much easier to penetrate. And if they help, of course, I’m going to find Channing.”
The 2015 nba draft should be loaded with great bigs to either eventually take Frye’s spot or Vucevic’s which will give the opportunity for the Magic to find a rim protector or elite scorer without having to bench or trade key young players.
The Ben Gordon/Willie Green signings are pointless, but Hennigan loses no cap space and did the same with vets Jason Maxiell/Ronnie Price last year, whose unguaranteed contracts have been waived. It allows him to potential trade them for bad contracts + goodies. Orlando as an organization has also stated that it only wants high-character guys and is trying to built a good culture. Ben Gordon is surprisingly well spoken and Willie Green is only in the league because he gives 100% effort.
Well, Frye does come at a cost– Orlando is going to be paying him $8M/year per age 35. Since it’s in Florida and has good young talent, it could become an attractive FA destination before the contract ends and you don’t want to tie up too much cap space in old guys to help before the young guys are ready.
Other than that he’s a perfect fit though for reasons you and Goran mentioned. If this was 3 years from now and they signed 31 y/o Frye I’d quite like it. Henny definitely has some good ideas and some vision with this team.
From what I have heard, Ben Gordon and Victor Oladipo share the same agent. So the Gordon deal may be used to create future goodwill for an Oladipo extension and give the Magic a contract to move in trades.
Frye is also Tobias Harris’s cousin; again possibly a move to aid extension talks. Additionally, it is reported by the Orlando Sentinel that Frye’s deal is front loaded so the last two years of his deal will have cap hits of less than 8 million. Finally, many of the cap experts predict that the cap will keep rising and in 3 or 4 years the average salary will be around 8 million. If Frye’s game ages well, which is likely, it will be a better deal than currently given credit for.
As a Magic fan I was initially perplexed by the FA signings. After researching I am satisfied with the moves and happy our GM has a vision he is sticking to despite what the media or casual fan thinks. While I, like many Magic fans, wish the Frye deal was 3 years instead of 4, we have to realize a re building unproven team has to make some concessions to get talent here. Overall, none of the deals will impact extensions for the young guys or future cap flexibility. Our major signing makes sense and I’m glad we didn’t just throw a max at Greg Monroe or another player that wouldn’t fit.
Yeah I think there’s definitely some behind the scenes politics with agents to drive some of the zanier moves. Not that it necessarily makes the deals worthwhile, but it’s better than Hennigan believing that Gordon can actually contribute.
I’m interested to see how the Magic shake out. Elfrid looked good in summer league and Gordon has plenty of time to grow.
This was a great read! A few thoughts…
1) Fournier is underrated. His outside shooting will more or less replace Afflalo. Obviously his age is a better match for the Magic. And it will be interesting to see if he is the ball handler that he thinks he is!? If he has run the offense better than people think, this will be a great trade for the Magic.
After watching some of Marble’s college games from last year, particularly Iowa’s home game against Michigan, kid can play!! He has the pedigree and what I like the most is his performance against the top teams in the nation. He shows up for big games. Definitely makes the team.
2) The Philly first is protected based on the playoffs, so it will likely become two seconds. Trade with Chicago to clear Randolph added two second rounds. Is one second round and swapping seconds an overpay to get the player you want? After Payton’s play in the Orlando summer league, probably not!?
3) I love Nelson’s loyalty to the Magic, but I also think it was a smart move to let him become a free agent. More playing time for Payton. Also a classy move. Let him go play for a winner, not sit behind a rookie. After letting Nelson loose and the Afflalo trade, we clearly needed vets.
Point is, adding in the Nelson move gives more context to B. Gordon and Green.
4) B. Gordon is a low risk, high reward move. His upside as a shooter is better than Salmons and Williams. If he doesn’t return to form, and I don’t mean year one or two a bulls form, more like Detroit, his three point shooting alone will warrant the price. Yes this is a big IF, but worth the roll of the dice.
Magic might have insider trading information with Gordon’s previously playing in Detroit (perry) and chicago (Lloyd?).
5) I’m a big Wildcats fan, so I kept up with A. Gordon a lot his year. His offensive game is a work in progress, no doubt, but I also feel that he’s not given ANY credit and TOTALLY dismissed. I read almost everything you have written about him, so I know you think he can become a better shooter. However, I think most Magic fans don’t see that his offensive game isn’t THAT FAR behind someone like Noah V., who a lot of Magic fans wanted at no. 4.
Your point about perimeter defense from Payton, Oladipo and A. Gordon is a point is wish all Magic fans thought about. Couldn’t agree more!
6) I’m a big Wildcats fan, so I also like the Frye signing more than most. In addition to clearing space he will be a great leader for this team. I agreed with the commenter who pointed out that Hennigan structured the contract to be as cap friendly as possible. I know you like McBob more, but we have been there and done that before. He is a better passer but a worse shooter. We wanted a shooter, so I think Frye fits the role better.
7) post writing Magic add Ridnour. Thoughts? I also like this signing. Another vet who wasn’t pricey and fills a role. Many Magic haters wanted Seth Curry. I understand, but don’t agree. I don’t expect a lot from Ridnour, but if Payton went down with an injury do you really want to turn it over to Oladipo or Curry? Magic needed another TRUE point guard, not a 1.5!
You’re being optimistic on Ben Gordon, he is a low risk no reward move. He is done as a useful basketball player. He was done like 4 years ago and then for good measure he fell off a cliff last year at age 30. Ridnour may be a bit less washed up, but either way they aren’t getting signed for their basketball impacts I don’t think. They are just there to be veteran presences. I don’t know if that actually helps, my intuition is that coaching is more important but it probably won’t hurt either.
The meal tickets to goodness are the kids, and they are looking good. I think Magic fans can breathe a sigh of relief over Exum not looking that great off the bat, as makes the Gordon pick feel a bit more comfortable. Gordon didn’t do much in SL but he did more than Exum and is more proven from his college play. Payton just looks awesome and might become a better pro than Dante. I definitely agree that it’s fine to send out Jameer and give Payton more minutes. Payton could easily contend for ROY if he gets the PG reins and is free to make mistakes. IMO Henny’s draft looks a bit solid-er after summer league.
Then again, its also possible that Payton will develop into pg with massive upside making the 12 to 10 trade look like a steal in hindsight…
No, it will make the Payton selection look great. It’s unlikely that Hinkie actually required that level of return to give up Payton given that they already have MCW, he just unequivocally owned Hennigan.