Contract extensions unlikely for Aaron Gordon, Elfrid PaytonOrlando Sentinel — By Josh Robbins Orlando Sentinel
Oct. 12-- The Orlando Magic's new front office must make two major decisions over the next few days.
Should the team sign Aaron Gordon or Elfrid Payton to contract extensions?
Under league rules for former first-round picks entering their fourth seasons, the Magic have until Monday to sign Gordon or Payton to extensions. Without agreements, Gordon and Payton would head to restricted free agency in July, and the Magic would have the right to match any offer sheet for Gordon or Payton from another team.
Although Gordon's and Payton's situations could change, it seems unlikely that the Magic will reach extension agreements with either Gordon or Payton before Monday's deadline.
Jeff Weltman and John Hammond, hired in May to lead the Magic's front office, have no prior histories with Gordon or Payton and limited firsthand knowledge of Gordon or Payton so far. And Weltman, the new president of basketball operations, has indicated he and Hammond intend to use the season ahead to evaluate the entire roster.
"One thing I can tell you is they're both very talented and they're both very high-character guys who want to win, and that's a lot," Weltman said during an interview on Sept. 24.
"So from there, now you start to talk about the potential of a player versus the real value of a player today. I'm not going to speak specifically to Elfrid and Aaron, but these are where rookie extension negotiations go. They go: 'Here's what the player's worth today. Here's what we all think that he can become one day. And somewhere in the middle there, is there a deal to be done?' And it's not easy. It's not easy to get those deals done. And I'm not sure. I think it is further complicated by the fact that we are new to this situation and we have some familiarity to get to."
Calvin Andrews, Gordon's agent, said Thursday that he doesn't anticipate Gordon and the Magic agreeing on an extension before the deadline.
Gordon, a 22-year-old forward, and Payton, a 23-year-old point guard, are difficult players to evaluate because of factors beyond their control. The Magic hired brand-new coaches before their second and third NBA seasons, and the lack of coaching continuity has stunted their development. And for most of last season, the Magic employed a style of play that didn't mesh with Gordon's or Payton's strengths.
Gordon and Payton stuffed stat sheets after the Magic traded power forward Serge Ibaka and switched to an up-tempo attack. Gordon averaged 16.4 points and 6.2 rebounds and made 50.3 percent of his shots after the trade. Payton recorded five triple-doubles and averaged 13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game over the same period.
If Gordon and Payton improve on those numbers in the season ahead, and if they lead a major turnaround in the Magic's record, they might be in for big paydays in restricted free agency.
But at the same time, the Magic would have an advantage: Few teams are projected to have significant salary-cap space in July.
Gordon and Payton have had strong preseasons. They benefit from Orlando's up-tempo style of play, from the coaching continuity and from being injury-free.
Payton recently said he was putting thoughts about his contract out of his mind.
On Thursday, Gordon said he's not concerned about his own contract situation.
"That's not why I play the game," Gordon said. "I trust Jeff Weltman and John Hammond to make the right decision, and I'm going to continue to play my game and continue to help my team get wins and improve as a basketball player. They see how hard I work. They see how far my game has come. I'm only 22. My game is going to continue to improve. There's still no ceiling for me. I'm looking to be the best in the NBA at some point in my career."
(c)2017 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)
Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.