INDIANAPOLIS — The Orlando Magic have determined that they will not exercise their team option on former first-round draft pick Daniel Orton for the 2012-13 season.
The decision means that Orton, a 6-foot-10 center, will become an unrestricted free agent in July.
It also means that the Magic might not ever receive any return on their investment in Orton. He has not appeared in a regular-season game since the Magic selected him with the 29th overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft out of Kentucky.
You have to look at the whole body of work and look at where we are," General Manager Otis Smith said before the Magic faced the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night.
"It's nothing against Daniel. He's done what he's supposed to do. He's gotten himself in good shape. He's worked his tail off. It's nothing against him at all. It's just the way everything fell this year."
The deadline to exercise the third-year options of members of the 2010 draft class is 11:59 p.m. EST today.
If the Magic had picked up Orton's third-year option, he would have been guaranteed to earn $1,182,600 in 2012-13.
Orton, 21, said before Tuesday night's game that he wished he had gotten the chance to prove himself with playing time.
"I haven't done anything on the court to prove that I can play or anything, so I understand why they did it," Orton said. "But I don't understand a lot of things, such as why I didn't get a chance maybe to showcase what I have."
After he was picked in 2010, Orton was limited by lingering issues with his left knee, which he originally injured during his junior year of high school. Orton spent weeks strengthening the muscles around the knee. Then, he tore cartilage in the knee during a stint with the NBA Development League's New Mexico Thunderbirds, and that injury required arthroscopic surgery.
Orton arrived at training camp this season thinner and, by all accounts, in better shape. He appeared in a preseason exhibition, and he dressed for six of the Magic's first 16 games.
"The kid's healthy, so that's not an issue," said Orton's agent, Ara Vartanian. "I just don't know why you would have a player and not give him a chance to show what he can do or even get someone in return who has some value."
The Magic still could re-sign Orton when he becomes a free agent in July.
There have been few clear-cut success stories of players who were selected after Orton in the 2010 draft and went on to huge success.
But perhaps the best story involves shooting guard Landry Fields, whom the New York Knicks selected 39th overall, 10 picks after Orton. Fields started 81 games for the Knicks last season and 15 of the Knicks' first 16 games this season.
Smith said Tuesday that he felt selecting Orton was a good decision, because Orton is a young big man with potential, and talented big men are at a premium.