Photo by David Manning-USA TODAY Sports
According to the Orlando Sentinel’s Josh Robbins, the Orlando Magic and Nikola Vucevic have agreed to a four-year, $53 million extension.
The timing of the extension doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The Magic had until October 31 to reach an agreement with Vucevic. If not, he would’ve been a restricted free agent in the offseason, which carries its own set of risks for the Magic. But now the 7-foot center will be under contract through to 2018-19 season, as each of his four years are fully guaranteed.
While $13.25 million per year for Vucevic currently is a slight overpay under the current cap, he benefits from playing at a position of need. Vucevic has averaged double-figure rebounds over his last two seasons with the Magic, and he is one of five players currently in the NBA that has accomplished that feat (Dwight Howard, Kevin Love, Joakim Noah, and Zach Randolph being the others). Although there are some clear factors that are holding Vucevic back from being a star for now (like his defense), there are very few players who can score and rebound like he can.
To add to that, the Magic have enough room to make the finances work. They only have $36.7 million committed to their roster next season and $22.3 million the year after. The highest paid player on the roster currently, Channing Frye, will be a free agent in the summer of 2018. More importantly, though, they have their young core of Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton, and Aaron Gordon locked up on rookie contracts for the next few years.
Oladipo will be able to sign an extension in the summer of 2017, and Payton and Gordon will follow suit a year later. Assuming they all re-sign, Vucevic’s contract will expire as soon as theirs kicks in. That gives the Magic flexibility. They are currently in the midst of rebuilding following Dwight Howard’s departure and this gives them the opportunity to re-evaluate their roster before they extend their up-and-coming core.
By the summer of 2018, the Magic should be heading in a clear direction. The moves they make from that point on will be what decides their future. If Oladipo, Payton, and Gordon all develop into the players they are expected to be and Vucevic winds up being the final complementary piece to the group, they’ll be able to retain them all. But if that doesn’t end up being the case, they’ll be able to pick and choose who they want to keep around.
The final point to keep in mind is that the cap will rise greatly in the years to come, thanks to the new TV deal. How much it will rise remains to be seen, but the fact is that what $13.25 million gets you now will be very different to what you can get in a couple years time. Vucevic’s contract might not look great now, but it could look like a steal in a few seasons.
The luxury of being in a rebuilding phase is that rosters tend to be made up of expiring contracts and players on rookie deals. That’s exactly what the Magic are currently dealing with. Oladipo, Payton, and Gordon are expected to be the future of the franchise, in which case they’ll be able to extend each of them for the max without making moves to clear cap space, even with Vucevic signing a four-year, $53 million extension.
Vucevic is one of the few centers in the league who can do what he does on a nightly basis. That comes with a big price tag, but it’s also something the Magic can afford.