We all know Dwight Howard‘s situation – he waived his Early Termination Option at the trade deadline. He is scheduled to become a restricted free agent after the 2012-13 season, but most expect the Magic to trade him before that happens.
The Magic used a three-man rotation of Howard, Ryan Anderson and Glen Davis this season (and Earl Clark at different times) with second-year man Daniel Orton seeing action when Howard went down with his back injury.
Anderson is a restricted free agent, Clark has a player option worth $1,240,000 and Davis has three years and $19.4 million left on his deal. Orton is an unrestricted free agent. Rookie Justin Haprer has one year left on his deal worth $762,195.
Clearly, the Magic showed they lacked a true center to throw into games for Howard and although Davis did an admirable job at center, that’s something that needs to be addressed this offseason. Plus, the Magic could lose Howard, Anderson, Clark and Orton, meaning they may spend a lot of their offseason looking for other options up front.
First, we’ll take a look at some of the unrestricted free agents the Magic may be interested in.
Carl Landy, New Orleans Hornets – Landry has always been a pretty efficient player and really flew under the radar once Chris Paul was dealt to the Clippers. Landry could be an excellent scoring option off of the bench. This season, he averaged 12.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while shooting 50.3% from the field. He posted a PER of 18.31.
Kenyon Martin, Los Angeles Clippers -Martin decided to sign with the Clippers after his stint in China ended. In 42 games, he averaged 5.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. Martin, now 34, clearly isn’t the presence he once was, but he still showed the ability to defend and block shots. Plus, he played in every playoff game for the Clippers.
Reggie Evans, Los Angeles Clippers – Evans won’t score (he averaged 1.9 points per game this season) and has been labeled as a dirty player (and probably rightfully so), but he can make an impact on a game with his ability to rebound (4.8 per game in just 12.8 minutes per game) and frustrate opponents. Evans’s numbers even went up in the postseason and has been praised by teammate Chris Paul.
Ronny Turiaf, Miami Heat – Turiaf was a player the Magic really could have used after the Washington Wizards cut ties with him this season, but Turiaf decided to sign with the Miami Heat in an attempt to win a title. Turiaf, 29, played 13 games with the Heat this season, averaging 3.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. He has appeared in just four of Miami’s nine playoff games so far.
Louis Amundson, Indiana Pacers – Magic fans became familiar with Amundson and his pony tail after the Pacers eliminated the Magic from the postseason in four games. Amundson is a guy who can give you solid minutes off of the bench, which is what the Magic need to find. This season, he averaged 3.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game.
Kwame Brown, Golden State Warriors -Many laugh when they hear Brown’s name because they remember him as Michael Jordan’s #1 overall pick in Washington. Sure, he’s looked nothing like a top pick, but Brown, 30, has played in the league for 11 years. He’s a pretty good defender and can get you some rebounds. He was averaging 6.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game before he tore a muscle in his chest.
Jason Collins, Atlanta Hawks – The “Dwight Howard Stopper” is now 33 and was selected in the first round of the 2001 draft. Like most of the guys, he won’t give you much in the way of scoring, but he’s a hard-nosed defender who can really challenge an opposing big man off of the bench.
Tony Battie, Philadelphia 76ers – Battie probably can’t play many minutes any more – he averaged just 10.9 minutes per game in 27 games this season and hasn’t played in the postseason, but he could help the locker room – he’s always been friends with Howard. Battie, who mostly got time because of Spencer Hawes‘s injury, averaged 1.6 points and 2.5 rebounds per game this season. He is 36.
Boris Diaw, San Antonio Spurs – Diaw became the butt of everyone’s joke in Charlotte, but now finds himself starting for a team who is probably the favorite to win the title. Diaw turned things around in San Antonio and wound up averaging 4.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in 20 games for the Spurs (he didn’t become the starter until the end of the season). Diaw’s ability to knock down the three could make him a valuable stretch four off of the bench.
Marcus Camby, Houston Rockets – Camby was once the National Player of the Year at Massachusetts and was the second overall pick of the 1997 draft. The 38-year old has always battled injuries, but can still rebound (9.0 per game) and block shots (1.4 per game). Camby is very close to the end of his career and may take less money to play for a better team, but I’m not sure the Magic fit the bill.
Chris Kaman, New Orleans Hornets -Most are surprised Kaman never joined another team last season. He was involved in every trade rumor and many thought he’d be bought out. However, it never happened. Kaman, once an All-Star, averaged 13.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game in 47 games this season, but shot just 44.6% from the field.
Aaron Gray, Toronto Raptors – Gray is a player who Magic fans know for strangely playing well against them, especially in his time with the Hornets. Gray’s a good big to have off of the bench and could fill a nice role as Howard’s (or anyone’s) backup. This season, Gray averaged 3.9 points and 5.7 rebounds in just 16.6 minutes per game.
Obviously this list doesn’t really impress anyone, but of course, that’s because the Magic are probably going to have to replace or supplement Howard without spending a whole lot of money.
There are some big name free agents specifically future Hall-of-Famers Kevin Garnett (Boston Celtics) and Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs). Elton Brand (Philadelphia 76ers) and his massive contract could come off the books for the Sixers – he has an ETO and could be an amnesty candidate if he doesn’t terminate his deal. Former Magic forward Brandon Bass (Boston Celtics) has a player option while Kris Humphries and former All-Star Antawn Jamison (Cleveland Cavaliers) are unrestricted free agents. Ersan Ilyasova (Milwaukee Bucks) was fantastic this season and he will be looking for a big raise. He’s a guy who can rebound and knock down three-pointers, much like Anderson. Michael Beasley (Minnesota Timberwolves), who the Magic reportedly discussed acquiring this season, is a restricted free agent.
Former Florida Gator Marreese Speights (Memphis Grizzlies) showed a lot of improvement, as did J.J. Hickson (Portland Trail Blazers, who has been downright awful the last few seasons, once he got to Portland. Jared Jeffries (New York Knicks) was playing fairly well before his injury. Speights and Hickson are restricted free agents while Jeffries is unrestricted.
Former lottery pick Jordan Hill (Los Angeles Lakers) is an unrestricted free agent and he showed flashes in Los Angeles. Dunk contest winner Jeremy Evans (Utah Jazz) is also unrestricted.
In the middle, the ultra athletic JaVale McGee (Denver Nuggets) and playoff standout Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers are restricted free agents who will be looking for big deals. Both players have been inconsistent but have shown flashes that should net them the big bucks they’re looking for.
Spencer Hawes (Philadelphia 76ers) played pretty well for Philadelphia this season – he’s an unrestricted free agent.
Jermaine O’Neal (Boston Celtics) is an unrestricted free agent but after another injury that ended his season, you’d have to wonder if he will retire. Omer Asik (Chicago Bulls) and Nazr Mohammed (Oklahoma City Thunder) are also unrestricted free agents.
Now, we’ll get to the two most interesting names in terms of the Magic, Andrew Bynum (Los Angeles Lakers) and Brook Lopez (Brooklyn Nets). The Lakers have a team option on Bynum worth $16.1 million, an option they almost surely pick up. Bynum is getting a reputation as a head case, but his talent can’t be denied. If the Lakers decide to gamble or Howard changes his mind and accepts a trade to Orlando (and maybe agrees to a contract extension), the Magic may pull the trigger.
Lopez was the centerpiece of every rumored deal between the Magic and the team I and most pundits expect Howard to eventually wind up with, the Brooklyn Nets. However, Lopez is now a restricted free agent (Brook’s brother, Robin Lopez, of the Phoenix Suns is also a restricted free agent) making things more difficult. Lopez could stick with the Nets and eventually be dealt to Orlando or he could sign an offer sheet with another team and force the Nets to decide whether or not to match the offer. With the Nets holding out hope for Howard, they may have to decline to match in order to save cap space to keep Deron Williams and attempt to sign Howard in 2013 when he is an unrestricted free agent.
(Andrew Melnick is the ESPNFlorida.com Magic and NBA Insider, co-host of the ESPN 1080 Insiders Show and publisher of Howard the Dunk. The Insiders Show can be heard Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST on AM 1080 in Orlando and on ESPNFlorida.com. You can follow Andrew on twitter here.)