What will the Magic do for a backup center?
By signing Brandon Bass on Friday to a four-year, $18 million deal, the Orlando Magic acquired one of their top targets this free-agency period, a young power forward who can rebound, shoot effectively and run the floor.
But the Magic still have work to do on their front line especially if, as expected, they don't match the Dallas Mavericks' five-year, $34 million offer sheet to restricted free agent Marcin Gortat. When and if Gortat is allowed to leave for Texas, the Magic will need someone who can spell Dwight Howard at center during games and man the position if Howard gets hurt. After all, that was the role that made Gortat so valuable during the Magic's run to the NBA Finals.
"It's important for us to look at our front line," Magic General Manager Otis Smith said. "We just didn't have a lot of size once we traded away Tony [Battie] and we lost a couple of guys in free agency. So, we didn't have any size. Getting some size [that Bass provides] — he may not be tall, but he's got broad shoulders, and he's a wide body — that was important to us. And we still have some work to do, obviously, as it relates to bigs. So, we're nowhere near done because you still lack size."
Orlando used part of its mid-level exception of $5,854,000 to sign Bass and can use the remainder to lure more free agents.
That said, money is starting to get tight. In addition to a backup big man, the Magic still want a wing player and another backup point guard. Yet even with just nine players under contract, the Magic's payroll now has risen to about $72 million and into luxury-tax territory. Any amount above $69.92 million is taxed dollar-for-dollar, and that's one reason why re-signing a backup like Gortat for so much money would be painful.
So, any remaining free agents the Magic will target likely will be relative bargains. Some of the free-agent centers still available are Jason Collins, Francisco Elson, Ryan Hollins and Theo Ratliff. The pool of wing players is deeper and includes former FSU player Von Wafer, Orlando native Marquis Daniels and former Magic player Keith Bogans. Wafer's agent said the Magic are an attractive option for his client.
Bass gives the Magic options for their starting lineup. Both Smith and Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy acknowledged that Bass could crack Orlando's starting lineup at power forward and allow Rashard Lewis to move to the small-forward spot, Lewis' more natural position.
Van Gundy said: "One of the things I think Otis has done in the past and is doing again is giving us a roster not only with talent but one with versatility where we will have a lot of options in terms of the kind of lineups we put on the floor."