Magic will allow R.J. Hampton to become free agent; other options picked up – The Denver Post


The Orlando Magic didn’t exercise R.J. Hampton’s rookie scale fourth-year team option for the 2023-24 season, multiple sources told the Orlando Sentinel on Friday evening.

The Magic exercised the third-year team options on Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner and the fourth-year team options on Cole Anthony and Chuma Okeke for next season, multiple sources said.

The organization later confirmed the Sentinel’s reporting, announcing they’d exercised the options for Anthony, Okeke, Suggs and Wagner.

Monday is the league-wide deadline for teams to pick up rookie scale options.

With the Magic not picking up his team option, Hampton will become an unrestricted free agent in July, meaning he’s free to sign with any team.

The Magic can still re-sign Hampton as a free agent. If they re-signed him, the Magic would be capped at paying Hampton $4.2 million in the first year of his new contract according to Spotrac — the amount of his declined option.

Hampton is in the process of leaving LIFT Sports Management, the agency founded by former UF and Magic guard/forward Mike Miller and CEO Donnie McGrath in the summer of 2020, a source told the Sentinel. He was the agency’s first signing.

Hampton’s fourth-year option not being picked up was slightly surprising. Most first-round picks have their third- and fourth-year team options exercised.

What made the decision less surprising is Hampton hasn’t been a consistent part of coach Jamahl Mosley’s rotation.

Before Friday’s win over the Charlotte Hornets, Hampton was averaging 11 minutes, playing in four of five games.

He played 9 minutes in the Oct. 22 loss to the Boston Celtics and 7 minutes in Monday’s loss to the New York Knicks. Hampton was a healthy scratch in Wednesday’s loss at the Cleveland Cavaliers, the first time that’s happened since the Magic acquired him from the Denver Nuggets in March 2021.

“I really can’t say there have been things I’ve been told that have been pinpointed as far as why I’m not getting consistent minutes or the minutes aren’t the same as preseason,” Hampton told the Sentinel ahead of Friday’s game, before the Magic announced their decisions on the options.

“A lot of it is just staying ready. It sounds cliché but it’s the truth. You never know when your opportunities going to come. When it does, you have to be ready for it. When I get that opportunity, I’ll be ready.”

With Anthony (right internal oblique muscle injury), Markelle Fultz (fractured left big toe), Gary Harris (left knee injury recovery) and Jalen Suggs (sprained right ankle) sidelined, Hampton had 9 points (2 of 7), 4 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals in a season-high 25 minutes Friday.

Hampton was a consistent part of last season’s rotation, averaging 21.9 minutes and playing in all 64 games he was available for, including 14 starts. He averaged 21.9 minutes in the Magic’s five preseason games, suggesting he’d get consistent minutes as part of the regular rotation in light of the team’s injuries but that hasn’t been the case.

“I’d be lying to say it’s not frustrating,” Hampton said, “but it’s all how you control your emotions and how you see the bottle — half full or half empty.”

When asked about Hampton’s reduced role ahead of Friday’s game, Mosley responded: “Part of it is … there are other guys who are handling the basketball. He’s going to continue to get the opportunity. He’s done a great job of continuing to work and grow.”

As for how Hampton could be featured more in the rotation, Mosley replied: “R.J. and I have talked. We do a ton of communicating of his ability to sit down and guard. Picking up guys full court as that primary guard to start our defense. Offensively, it goes back to what we’re telling all of our guys — quick, right decisions.”

Hampton, the No. 24 pick in the 2020 draft, was traded to the Magic along with Harris and Denver’s protected 2025 first-round draft pick for Aaron Gordon.

He averaged 11.2 points, 5 rebounds and 2.8 assists (25.2 minutes) in his 26 games with the Magic during the 2020-21 season and was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for May.

Hampton’s production dipped to averages of 7.6 points, 3 rebounds and 2.5 assists his sophomore season.

His role changed — he wasn’t the primary ballhandler as frequently — because of inconsistent results as a playmaker and his scoring efficiency at the rim declined. He made improvements as a defender and outside shooter, knocking down 35% of his 2.9 3-point attempts in 2021-22 after converting 31.9% of his 2.7 attempts with the Magic as a rookie.

Hampton appeared to make improvements as a playmaker during preseason, mentioning the game was slowing down for him and taking advantage of his elite speed, but his playing time dwindled in the regular season.

The options for Anthony, Okeke, Suggs and Wagner being picked were expected.

Anthony, the No. 15 pick in the 2020 draft who’s slated to earn 5.54 million next season, has averaged 14.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5 assists in 29.8 minutes with the Magic (116 games — 102 starts). He participated in the Rising Stars competition during last year’s All-Star Weekend in Cleveland.

Okeke, the No. 16 pick in the 2019 draft who’ll have a salary of $5.27 million, averaged 8.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals in 24.6 minutes ahead of Friday, mostly as a reserve. He signed his rookie deal in November 2020 after using the 2019-20 season to work his way back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee at Auburn.

Suggs, the No. 5 pick in last year’s draft, has averaged 11.8 points., 4.3 assists., 3.5 rounds and 1.2 steals in 50 regular season games (47 starts). He also participated in Rising Stars.

Wagner, picked three spots behind Suggs, was named to last season’s All-Rookie first team, the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December and participated in Rising Stars.

This article first appeared on Email Khobi Price at or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.



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