I know, right? What did I just type? It's the most obvious title in the world. Of course the salary cap should matter when determining who and how much a team commits to free agency which starts Monday. But Otis Smith kind of forgot that concept years ago, and it's worth a reminder. For the Magic, being under the salary cap is an important checkpoint for Rob Hennigan's rebuild plan. For the first time since Rashard Lewis inked his juicy contract before the 2007-2008 season, Orlando doesn't have to worry about surpassing the salary cap. The impending cap-saving buyouts of Al Harrington and Hedo Turkoglu, as well as Beno Udrih's assumed departure from Orlando, will insure that even if say the Magic were to acquire Eric Bledsoe and sign him to a new contract right then and there. Far in the rear-view mirror is the debilitating Gilbert Arenas contract that Otis strapped the franchise with.
The timing could not be more perfect as the NBA will be embarking on its 3rd year under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that states that teams will drastically be penalized for being in the luxury tax in the 2013-2014 season. Look at the Nets after the Pierce-Garnett deal. Brooklyn is looking at potentially $80 MILLION IN LUXURY TAX PAYMENTS! That Nets team is ancient in age, led by an unproven new coach in Kidd, and still may not finish in the East's top 4. 'Henny' is just fine staying young and wading in the tall weeds before pressing the green button for championship mode initiation.
The cap has been set at $58.5 million. The minimum team salaries each franchise must have on their payroll is 90% of the cap, or $52.65 million. That's up from around three million dollars last season as the third year of the CBA is setting that ninety percent rule in stone. So why do I not expect Orlando to seek even a moderate 'name' in free agency if they'll be under the cap? Well, because it's not part of Rob's assumed plan. Can the squad that assembles for training camp on October 1st possibly be playoff team in a weak East in the '13-'14 season? Of course. Remember, 12-13 record before Glen Davis went down in an injury-riddled season that had Orlando miss 200+ games due to injury (Hedo's suspension, not included).
Let's just say that, without any acknowledgement or denial from management, that the Magic wouldn't be angry if they were again in the Lottery come summer 2014. Especially when a goldmine of young amateurs awaits. There's almost a dozen guys that could be All-Stars in the 2014 Draft, when most 'analysts' doubt if there are even two of those guys that were selected last week. Hopefully, Oladipo is one of those men. Victor is odds on favorite to be '13-'14 Rookie of the Year.
It's not bad if Orlando sneaks into the playoffs next season. The postseason brings excitement to ticket holders, diehard fans, and cities with one major professional franchise. It would be a priceless experience for Coach Jacque Vaughn and his mostly inexperienced roster...and Orlando can still draft a stud with a draft selection in the high teens. Over half of Orlando's current roster is 23 years old or younger. After next year's Draft, I fully expect Hennigan to dip into his cap space as Orlando transforms into contenders instantly with the help of the 2014 F.A. class. It's a more inspiring list of mercenaries than the current crop.
The Magic have decided to not make a qualifying offer to DeQuan Jones who is back to proving himself at Summer League (begins July 7th) and who has #51 draft selection Romero Osby gunning for his spot. In fairness, Orlando very well could hold on to both men with Al and Hedo just about gone. There's room. Hennigan may let DeQuan go and pick up a cheaper guy from the undrafted free agency pool, but saving around $400,000 isn't a big deal this upcoming season.
Meanwhile, Hennigan and company decided to guarantee E'Twaun Moore's contract for the 2013-2014 season. The $$$ is guaranteed, but Orlando could still waive 3'Twaun if they choose. Unlikely. It's not a 'winning' move, but Moore was retained specifically because he's cheap...and can still be molded at age 24. It's an $884,000 that I'd definitely be absolutely thrilled to bank, and the Magic can afford to give Moore one last season to prove himself as a productive PG/SG.
We won't know Orlando's official payroll situation until July 10th, but Orlando's already in a fantastic position. It'll get even better as Hennigan deals contracts like Afflalo, Jameer, and even possibly Big Baby in exchange for expiring contracts, young talent that's cheap, and draft picks. We're looking at an intriguing next 6 months without even examining how Coach Vaughn's roster will even perform on the parquet floor. The Magic will always be in trade conversations, but don't anticipate too much whispering about free agent pick-ups. As proof, Rob has already stated he doesn't want to use his $5 million mid-level exception. No Chris Paul chatter, and don't make me laugh if you think Dwight Howard is a sane option at an O-Town return. I'm also sorry to say, no J.J. Redick reunion.