Orlando Magic Now Just Throwing Money Away

The NBA is in financial trouble right now. We all know that, right? It’s not even a question, what with the salary cap already going down and threatening to plummet in 2010. The new figures, based on projections by David Stern and the league, are a salary cap around $50-54 million and $61-65 million for the luxury tax floor - anything above that line, and teams are paying a dollar-for-dollar tax to the league. In other words, it’s not financially advantageous to go very far over that figure; eventually you’re paying $8 million for a $4 million player.

Marcin Gortat the Destroyer
(”Hello! I’m here to wreck your financial future!”)

Why’s all this important? Because the Orlando Magic, already making head-scratching personnel decisions that involve questionably high-level salaries, have, according to the ORLANDO SENTINEL, just matched the Dallas Mavericks’ offer sheet to restricted free agent Marcin Gortat. Gortat was poised for quite a payday coming out of the shadow of Dwight Howard, and the Mavericks made what looked like a prohibitively large bid of 5 years and $34 million.

In case you’re keeping score at home, that runs Orlando’s salary guarantees to… hang on, let’s crunch the numbers… Eleventy jerzillion dollars.

Okay, those are what mathologists call “imaginary numbers,” but the Magic have simply skyrocketed past the luxury tax, meaning they could be on the hook for almost $100 million in annual salary in years to come.

Via the truly indispensable HOOPS WORLD, we have a frightening look at Orlando’s financial commitments for years to come. Remember, the luxury tax floor is a hair below $70 million and falling:

Orlando Magic Salary Cap

Yes,  that’s upwards of $80 million committed to 2011-2012 already. What’s more, the terms of Brandon Bass‘ new deal, while not officially disclosed, are rumored to be 4 years & $18 million (with a club option on year four). so go ahead and add $4.5 million to each of those tallies.

We’ve got some numbers here, so let’s play with them a bit: Even without the non-guaranteed money for Vince Carter in 2011-2012, the Magic still have $65.5 million committed to, essentially, seven players. Yes, there’s a team option on J.J. Redick, but they could use some small salaries on that club.

Hypotheticals from here on out, but they’re conservative: Suppose the Magic fill out the rest of the lineup, five more guys, at some bargain-basement level, like $1.5 million per player, or $7.5 million. That’s $73 million, well above any reasonable expectation of where the luxury tax will be, and without the last year on Vince Carter’s deal. So they can pick that up; it’ll just cost them almost $38 million for that one season to do so.

Even if they don’t, and even if the luxury tax stays on the high end, like $65 million, they’re already on the hook as we speak for over $80 million for a roster that’s woefully thin on wing players and overall depth. The Lakers or Celtics might be able to afford that. The Magic probably can’t.

It seems, then, that unless/until they dump a ton of salary, Orlando is completely out of the running for quality free agents for the foreseeable future. They may (and probably do) believe that this is a championship-level core that they’ve effectively locked up for the long term, but success in the NBA is so far from a guarantee that sheer probability dictates that at least one of these players will be more valuable as an expiring contract than as a player by 2012.

Oh, and all this money, and they’re still in the same conference as a (frighteningly) still-improving Lebron. Sure, they knocked his Cavs out this season. How many more times do you think that’ll happen? Four more seasons in a row?

Want to bet all of those seasons on it? The Magic just did.