At this year’s trade deadline, the Orlando Magic traded Tobias Harris to the Detroit Pistons for the expiring contracts of Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova. The deal cleaned off their books this summer, when the Magic will have upwards of $46 million in cap room. It also left them with a huge void at the power forward position alongside center Nikola Vucevic.
Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel has three free-agent names in mind to fill those salary and frontcourt voids: Al Horford, Ryan Anderson and Chandler Parsons.
In the pursuit of a big forward to complement center Nik Vucevic, the Magic should be on Al Horford’s crowded doorstep the minute free agency opens July 1. The line will be long.
They might also need to express their love for 3-point shooting forwards Ryan Anderson and Chandler Parsons. The Magic figure to have a better shot at signing either one of them over Horford.
Horford, arguably the second-best free agent on the market this summer after Kevin Durant, is a long shot for the Magic — Atlanta can offer him an extra year and more money than anyone else, and is still solidly a playoff team in the Eastern Conference. But if Horford decides to leave, the Magic will have a strong case. He has ties to the area, having played college basketball for the University of Florida. He’s a versatile big who can play either interior position, and he’s an outstanding defender, which would make him a nice complement to the defensively-limited Vucevic. But Horford is 30 and has had several major injuries over the course of his career, so the extra year the Hawks can offer him could trump all other situations.
Parsons and Anderson are intriguing options, given their connections to Florida — Anderson played for the Magic for three seasons from 2009 to 2012, and Parsons played college ball at Florida. Both are good shooters, which would make them good complements to Vucevic’s paint-oriented game. But both of them are liabilities on the defensive end, and they have major injury concerns. Anderson has dealt with back issues recently, and Parsons was limited by a knee injury that never quite went away. Both of them are expected to command max or near-max contracts on the open market, which will be a huge risk for any team that signs them.
But everyone is going to get massively overpaid this summer with the cap rising by more than $20 million due to the NBA’s new television deal. By trading Harris at the deadline, the Magic made the decision to go all-in on free agency, and after four years of missing the playoffs, they want to get back into contention under new coach Frank Vogel. That’s going to mean going after big names.
If they can lure Horford away from Atlanta, it would be a major coup. Anyone else comes with significantly more risk.