The Orlando Magic are planning on extending the contract of general manager Rob Hennigan, according to a report from Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Hennigan is currently signed through the 2015-16 season.
Hennigan, the youngest GM in the NBA, signed a three-year deal with a one-year team option when he was first hired in June 2012. The option was picked up, leaving him with a contract that expires following the end of next season.
The DeVos family, which owns the Magic, and Alex Martins, the team's CEO, "are pleased with the job Hennigan has done" and believe that signing Hennigan to an extension would be a prudent move for the organization, according to Robbins.
"Martins, who would not comment for this article, likes to maintain continuity in key leadership positions," writes Robbins. "Martins also believes it's dangerous to have a key executive work in the final season of a contract because uncertainty about job status can prompt an executive to make risky decisions for short-term gains."
That plan, according to Robbins, is to discuss an extension after the season ends on April 15.
The question is whether this is a smart move for the Magic. The only way to answer this is by taking a look what Hennigan has done since being hired in 2012.
The Dwight Howard Deal
Hennigan was thrown into the fire as soon as he got the job. Just five days after being hired, Dwight Howard told him that he wanted to be traded. Howard was set to become a free agent in a year and Hennigan had very little leverage.
And yet, Hennigan handled the situation masterfully. Not only did he manage to get a haul of assets in return for a player who everyone knew he had to trade, but he also picked the right players. He said no to Andrew Bynum and instead got Nikola Vucevic, who is currently averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds per game. He's just 24.
Hennigan also got three first-round picks, two second-round picks and some useful veterans, such as Arron Afflalo, for Howard. The situation could not have been handled better.
Here are all the players Orlando has drafted since Hennigan was hired: Andrew Nicholson (No. 19, 2012); Kyle O'Quinn (No. 49, 2012); Victor Oladipo (No. 2, 2013); Romero Osby (No. 51, 2013); Aaron Gordon (No. 4, 2014); Elfrid Payton (Dario Saric, the No. 12 pick in 2014, was traded the night of the Draft to Philadelphia in exchange for Payton).
The jury is still out on Gordon, who's missed the majority of this season with an injury, but you can't argue with the rest of these results. Oladipo has emerged as a potential All-Star over the past couple of months and might be the best player from his draft class. Payton still has to work on his jumper, but is averaging nine points, six assists and four rebounds in 30 minutes per game. He's also shown himself to be a good defender. Nicholson has been a bust (more on that below), but O'Quinn may be capable bench player, a great return for someone taken late in the second round.
The draft is far from a science. That Hennigan had done this well speaks highly of his ability to evaluate young players.
Getting Tobias Harris
In February 2013, Harris was a second-year player in Milwaukee who played just 11 minutes per game. The Bucks were trying to make playoffs and wanted players who could help them right away. Hennigan gave them J.J. Redick, who was playing out the final year of his contract, as well as Ish Smith and Gustavo Ayon. The Magic got Harris, Beno Udrih and Doron Lamb.
Harris is now averaging 17 points and seven rebounds per game, and seems to have a bright future in the league. Redick left Milwaukee for Los Angeles that offseason. (It should be noted, though, that Harris is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason and his future could be elsewhere).
Where are the wins?
The problem with the Magic is that they're contradictory. We praise them, and specifically Hennigan, for building a roster full of talented and promising young players, yet said roster has yet to develop into anything resembling a competitive NBA team.
There are a lot of reasons why, with the coach and roster construction being the primary two. But whatever the reasons, there's been a lot of losing in Orlando since Hennigan took over. Some of that was by design, but all those losses can contaminate an organization and at a certain point it becomes difficult to reverse the ship.
Hennigan hired Jacque Vaughn in July 2012. Vaughn had spent the previous two seasons as an assistant coach for the Spurs, which is where Hennigan got his start. The goal here was clear: Orlando was hoping to build an Eastern Conference version of the Spurs. They wanted to be the Hawks before the Hawks became The Hawks. That, obviously, did not work out as planned.
It's not that Vaughn didn't win games. It's that the team's record never improved while he was at the helm. Orlando went 20-62 in Vaughn's first year, 23-59 in his second year, and was 15-37 when he got fired in February. Three years is a long time -- even longer when you look at the young talent on the roster.
The equation here is simple: if you believe Hennigan has done a good job acquiring talent, then there has to be some reason for the Magic's lack of wins since he was hired. That would likely lead you to the coach that Hennigan initially hired.
Of course, there's more to building a team than just getting as many good young players as you can. The players have to fit, especially if you plan on making them your core. A team with a very good offensive big man who can't protect the rim (Vucevic) should be paired with a defensive-minded power forward. A team with one good young small forward (Harris) may not want to use the fourth overall pick in the draft selecting another one. Having four first-round picks who are all around 6'9 (Harris, Gordon, Nicholson, Harkless) competing with each other for playing time might not be the best way to help them develop.
The few veterans that Hennigan has signed, such as Channing Frye and Ben Gordon, have not fit. Frye can shoot but never made sense for this team, while Gordon is a non-contributor way past his prime. Bringing in good young players is just the first step to building a foundation. The problem is that Hennigan has yet to show himself capable of doing more than that.
The lack of wins is troubling, but a GM's primary job is to get good players. In this area, Hennigan has proven himself. With Oladipo, Payton and Vucevic, Orlando finally has a young core it can now begin to build around.
This offseason, the team will have to decide how it wants to augment that core. Do the Magic want to pay Harris, or bring in an older player? Who do they want to be their coach? What can they do to improve their depth? Is their a veteran point guard out there who can help bring the team along?
This offseason will be a key one for the franchise. If Hennigan gets things right, a playoff appearance next season could be a possibility. If he doesn't, the slate eventually might have to be wiped clean again. That is something Orlando obviously does not want, and the best way to avoid that is by allowing the GM to finish what he started. He knows the team's current players the best, and one would assume he has a plan. Allowing him to see it through is the smart move.