Here’s How The Magic Plan To Redshirt Injured Draft Pick Chuma Okeke This Season

Just a few months before the 2019 NBA Draft, Auburn forward Chuma Okeke tore his left ACL in a Sweet 16 game against North Carolina. Luckily for Okeke, it didn’t affect his draft stock too much, as the Orlando Magic selected him with the No. 16 overall pick this summer.

Because Okeke tore his ACL in March, the chances of him playing next season were fairly good, but it seems the Magic have different plans for the 21-year-old. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Magic won’t sign his rookie deal until the summer of 2020, which essentially means the forward will be redshirted by the Magic this year.

While that does mean he won’t be able to see the money from his rookie deal until next summer, the deal is interesting. He’ll actually have the potential to earn more money by signing his rookie deal under the $116 million salary cap for the 2020-21 season as opposed to the $109 million salary cap for the 2019-20 season. In total, he could get up to $1 million more than he would have this year.

Additionally, Okeke can and likely will sign an NBA G League contract with Orlando’s affiliate, the Lakeland Magic, once he’s cleared to play. Doing this would also allow the Magic to retain his rights as well.

Delaying the signing of a rookie is rare, but it’s beneficial for both Okeke and the Magic, the latter of which now has two open roster spots they can use to sign some veteran help on the wing like perhaps J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert or Carmelo Anthony. They also have the added benefit of getting three full years to evaluate Okeke before deciding whether or not to pick up the team options in his contract.

The only downside to the deal is the fact that Okeke essentially gets one less year as a free agent, but because of the uncommon nature of the deal and his health after the injury, it’s safe to assume he knew what he was getting into before the draft. Hopefully this move pays dividends for both parties in the short and long-term.