Before the 2021-22 season started, it was clear the Orlando Magic were prioritizing the development of their younger players.
It was the expected direction after kicking off a rebuild during the middle of last season centered around young talent. Most of the Magic’s roster entering the season were former first-round draft picks — including six former lottery picks since 2017 — 24 years old or younger.
A result of that approach was not only those younger players getting more opportunities on the floor, but also unheralded players getting more chances to prove themselves.
Players such as Ignas Brazdeikis, who played a career-high 536 minutes in 42 games on a two-way contract. Brazdeikis, who had season-long averages of 5.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in 12.8 minutes, averaged 10.3 points (46.7% shooting) and 2.9 rebounds in 23 minutes in his final 12 games.
Or Admiral Schofield. He was among a quartet of players who the Magic signed to 10-day contracts via hardship exceptions in mid-December from the organization’s G League affiliate, the Lakeland Magic, because multiple players were put in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Schofield signed multiple 10-day deals before signing a two-way contract in early January, averaging 3.8 points in 12.3 minutes.
Devin Cannady was the latest to take advantage of an opportunity he earned. Cannady joined the Magic on a 10-day deal on March 31 from the Lakeland Magic before signing a standard contract on the final day of the season, averaging 10 points (40.5% on 3-pointers) in five games.
What made the trio’s opportunities with the Magic this season so valuable is that they understand they aren’t guaranteed.
Brazdeikis was selected out of Michigan by the Sacramento Kings in the 2019 draft’s second round (47th overall) before playing a combined 14 NBA games with the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers, before joining the Magic toward the end of the 2020-21 season.
Schofield had a similar path as Brazdeikis, being selected out of Tennessee in the 2019 draft’s second round (42nd overall) by the 76ers before immediately being traded to the Washington Wizards. He played in 33 games (two starts) for the Wizards during the 2019-20 season, but most of Schofield’s playing time before this season came in the G League (Capital City Go-Go and Greensboro Swarm).
Cannady went undrafted out of Princeton in 2019, spending the 2019-20 season with the Brooklyn Nets’ G League team, the Long Island Nets. He started the 2020-21 season with Lakeland before signing a 10-day deal with Orlando on April 6, 2021. Cannady signed a two-way deal later that month, but that opportunity was cut short after he suffered an open fracture of his right ankle and was later waived.
“You talk about the opportunity for these young men and how grateful they are to play the game in which we love,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said. “Sometimes it gets taken for granted. For [Cannady], this is that opportunity to show this is the work you’ve put in and being rewarded for it and being grateful for every moment he’s on the court.”
Brazdeikis’ and Schofield’s two-way deals expired. The Magic have until June 29 to tender qualifying offers to Brazdeikis and Schofield to make them restricted free agents.
Cannady’s deal, which the Orlando Sentinel first reported as a partially guaranteed multi-year contract, is for three years but is non-guaranteed for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons. His guarantee date for the 2022-23 season is Jan. 10, 2023, according to Spotrac.
Cannady’s one of two players with a non-guaranteed deal for next season.
Moe Wagner, who averaged 9 points and 3.7 rebounds in a career-high 63 games, will have his $1.9 million salary for the 2022-23 season guaranteed if he’s on the roster past June 30. Wagner has played for the Los Angeles Lakers, Wizards, Boston Celtics and Magic since being a first-round pick in 2018.
As much as they’ve stepped up, very little is guaranteed for these Magic players next season. Which is a situation they’re used to and have thrived under.