02 July 2007

Magic Release Summer Roster, Hope to Address Frontcourt Needs

It's been a slow news day, at least as far as free agency is concerned, but the Magic did make some news by releasing their roster for the Pepsi Pro Summer League, which runs at the RDV Sportsplex from July 9th to July 13th.

Headlining the Magic's roster is J.J. Redick, who was unable to compete in last summer's league due to injury. Redick will likely be the Magic's starting two-guard if Grant Hill does not re-sign with the team. More noteworthy, at least to me, is the presence of 6'10" power forward Milovan Rakovic on the roster. Rakovic was the last overall selection in last Thursday's draft, acquired from Dallas in exchange for the rights for Reyshawn Terry.

Like many, I certainly don't expect Rakovic to make the Magic's 15-man roster for the 2007/2008 season, but I also didn't expect that he'd even be in the United States at this point. It'll be nice to get a look at what he can do, but in all likelihood he won't play in the NBA for several seasons.

Rakovic won't be the only big-man battling for his NBA life for the Magic this summer. In fact, the Magic's summer roster is loaded with players who could see significant backup minutes at the power-forward and center positions during the regular season. Apart from Dwight Howard, Tony Battie, and Darko Milicic, the Magic have no NBA-caliber talent at power forward and center. The need for a backup is particularly apparent now, as Milicic might leave via free-agency. Former Magic second-round picks Marcin Gortat (7'0", 240 lbs) and James Augustine (6'10", 235 lbs) are on this summer's team, as is former D-League standout Anthony Fuqua (6'11", 225 lbs). And although he isn't on the summer team and hasn't played in the NBA since the 2005/2006 season, former Magic forward Mario Kasun received a qualifying offer from the team last Friday, making him a restricted free agent.

Marcin Gortat, whose favorite actor is
Will Smith, may finally get the chance to prove that he belongs in the NBA.

If it seems like the Magic are scraping the bottom of the barrel for big-men, it's because they are. However, the Magic have to be happier with whichever stiff they sign from the summer team than they are with current backup power forward Pat Garrity, a veteran who saw limited minutes last season. Bo Outlaw also plays the position, but he is an unrestricted free-agent and his status with the Magic for next season is uncertain. The next-best option is Hedo Turkoglu, who is a natural small-forward and a sub-par rebounder, especially given his height of 6'10".

Hedo Turkoglu will have to improve his rebounding if he is to start at power forward, which he might be forced to do if Darko Milicic leaves via free agency.
Photo by Max Whittaker, the Associated Press

Rounding out next season's frontcourt would have been the Magic's highest priority this summer, but their dreadful offense last season made the need for perimeter scoring more pressing. Remember how freaked-out I was when Darko sprained his ankle at the end of last season and it looked like he might miss the start of the playoffs? Well, I'm well beyond that level now. Last season, the most Darko would have missed was two games. Given the way free agency is playing out, Darko might miss 82 games in 2007/2008.

The prospect of signing Rashard Lewis this summer is exciting; the prospect of watching Hedo Turkoglu trying to box out Emeka Okafor is not.

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