April 23, 2024

Before the season, the Golden State Warriors reportedly offered Klay Thompson a two-year, $48 million contract extension. That’s a significant chunk of change, but a far cry from the five-year max he signed in 2019 that is set to expire after the season. 

Things haven’t gone his way since then. Thompson is shooting career-low percentages from both the floor and from behind the 3-point line. Warriors coach Steve Kerr brought him off the bench for the first time since his rookie season in Golden State’s last game before the All-Star Break. Meanwhile, owner Joe Lacob has said that “plan 1A” for the offseason is to get below the luxury tax line, a difficult task if Thompson returns on a hefty contract.

All parties involved would prefer Thompson retire as a Warrior. He even told The Ringer’s Logan Murdoch that he would be open to a reduced role if it meant staying in Golden State — which may be a necessity given the rise of Brandin Podziemski. But if push comes to shove and the Warriors aren’t willing to pay Thompson what he believes he is worth, Marc Stein is reporting that there are increasing murmurings about one team that might: the Orlando Magic.

The fit is obvious. The Magic rank 27th in 3-point attempts and 29th in 3-point percentage. Their No. 5-ranked defense is built around four starters in Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero, and Wendell Carter Jr. (along with reserve Jonathan Isaac), who can defend multiple positions, making it easy to protect Thompson on that end of the floor as he continues to decline. Eight players have given the Magic at least 750 minutes this season. They are all 26 and under, and not one of them has played in a playoff game. Thompson has obviously played in quite a few.

Orlando’s balance sheet for next season is complicated. They are currently looking at over $30 million in cap space, but that figure could go up or down depending on what they decide to do about their own players. Markelle Fultz and Gary Harris, key role players on this year’s team, are both set for unrestricted free agency. Joe Ingles has an $11 million team option. Isaac’s $17.4 million salary is non-guaranteed. The Magic can generate a max salary slot if they want to. They can also operate above the cap.

Thompson won’t generate anything close to a max offer, but something like that two-year, $48 million offer he turned down in the offseason makes plenty of sense for Orlando if Golden State won’t step up to the plate. It’s a short enough contract not to affect their long-term plans and would expire before Banchero’s inevitable max extension kicks in for the 2026-27 season. 

It would also give the Magic badly-needed short-term shooting and veteran experience as they attempt to rise from the play-in range of the standings to genuine championship contention. Wagner and Banchero handle the ball more than most pairs of forwards, so the Magic could get away with not having a traditional primary ball-handler in their backcourt. If they ever decided to trade for one, Thompson’s hefty cap number on a short deal would be helpful.

The Magic are in a “use it or lose it” phase of having cap space. Wagner and Suggs become extension-eligible this offseason, but those deals wouldn’t kick in until the 2025-26 seasons begin. That gives them the 2024 offseason to spend their space before, at least from a salary perspective, they lock into something resembling their current roster. From that perspective, a Thompson pursuit would be relatively low-risk. He checks several boxes for them at a very limited opportunity cost. If they eventually want to pursue a high-priced guard that fits closer to the age range of the rest of their core, they’d still have enough draft capital and matching salary to do it down the line.

The Warriors should be the favorite to sign Thompson this summer. Nobody wants to see dynastic players finish their careers elsewhere. But as a starter or a reserve, Thompson still has plenty to offer a winning team. If the Warriors don’t pay him for that, maybe the Magic will.

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