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Examining the Orlando Magic's Trade Assets

Yesterday, in a segment I blockquoted extensively, Eddy listed the Orlando Magic's trade assets:

General manager Otis Smith always talks about assets and he has plenty of them to make a splash — Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, trade exception of roughly $6.9 million, and draft picks. It’d be tough to move Vince Carter, but he is essentially an expiring contract that can be used to match salaries if necessary.

I thought it might be useful, with the help of ShamSports' incomparable salary and exception database, to go into greater detail about each of the assets Eddy mentioned.

Ryan Anderson

Age: 22; Position: Power Foward

Contract details: On a rookie scale contract; signed through 2010/11 for $1.409 million, with a team option for 2011/12 worth $2.244 million

Key career stats: 15.4 Player Efficiency Rating, 15.8 points per 36 minutes, 8.3 rebounds per 36 minutes, 55.2% True Shooting, 36.8% three-point shooting

2009/10 season grade: B+

Why he's available: there's no question Anderson has talent, with a rare combination of three-point shooting, rebounding on both ends of the court, and a knack for only taking efficient shots. However, given his age and the fact that he's playing behind Rashard Lewis, a two-time All-Star on the books for more than $60 million over the next three seasons, he may never get the opportunity to fully develop in Orlando. He showed a lot of promise last season, and one can make a case that he's a better fit for the Magic than Lewis.

What it'd take to pry him from Orlando: I consider him the least "available" of Orlando's assets, and Smith would likely only give him up if it meant acquiring a bona-fide All-Star immediately.

Bottom line: Orlando's best trade sweetener or incentive, he's not likely to go anywhere. But he's not untouchable.

Brandon Bass

Age: 25; Position: Power Foward

Contract details: On a mid-level contract; signed through 2011/12 for a flat $4 million annually, with a player option for 2012/13 worth an additional $4 million

Key career stats: 15.4 Player Efficiency Rating, 14.9 points per 36 minutes, 8.1 rebounds per 36 minutes, 55.4% True Shooting

2009/10 season grade: C

Why he's available: like Anderson, there's no doubting Bass' talent. In his two seasons with Dallas, with which he distinguished himself to such an extent that he earned Orlando's richest free-agent contract last summer, he averaged over 19 minutes per game on a playoff team. He's among the league's best mid-range-shooting big men, and can create for himself off the bounce, which makes him a tough cover in the triple-threat position despite the fact that he hardly ever passes. Yet, as I've explained here multiple times, he simply does not fit with the Magic, who prefer to have four three-point shooters on the court at all times. His lack of three-point range wouldn't be such a problem if he wasn't such a defensive liability, as his frequent errors on that end of the court conspired to keep him in coach Stan Van Gundy's doghouse for much of the year. $4 million is a fair price for a player of Bass' age and ability, but not for a third-string power forward. He's unhappy with his minutes, understandably, and will seek a trade.

What it'd take to pry him from Orlando: an established, impactful player at either wing position or at point guard. A league source confirmed to me that the Magic had discussed sending Bass to the Charlotte Bobcats earlier this season for young point guard D.J. Augustin, but those plans fell through when Charlotte also asked for J.J. Redick. A player of Augustin's caliber might be on the low end of what Orlando can expect, honestly, as Augustin's little more than a third guard at this point in his young career. Bass won't net Orlando an All-Star, or anything close to it, but he's valuable. Most GMs recognize that fit, and not talent, is what caused him to have a poor season this year. He will draw interest. What's less clear is if those GMs will try lowballing Smith, as Bass' value hasn't been this low since his unproductive first two seasons in the league.

Bottom line: He's young, on a fair deal, and talented. Smith will have his chances to deal him, and it wouldn't surprise me if Bass found himself in another team's uniform sometime before February's trading deadline.

Vince Carter

Age: 33; Position: Shooting Guard

Contract details: On a veteran contract; signed through 2010/11 for $17.522 million, with $4 million guaranteed in 2011/12. He's owed the full $18.3 million on his deal for that season if he's still on the roster on June 30th, 2011.

Key career stats: 21.1 Player Efficiency Rating, 22.2 points per 36 minutes, 4.0 rebounds per 36 minutes, 53.7% True Shooting, 37.5% three-point shooting

2009/10 season grade: B-

Why he's available: Smith acquired Carter to be an upgrade over Hedo Turkoglu, a playmaking wing who can create his shot from anywhere and can score 25+ on any given night. Yet he adapted to his role with Orlando slowly, and that transitional period included the worst shooting slump of his career. Though he certainly had his moments, he also faded in key others, notably for much of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics. Two crucial missed free throws in a Game 2 loss, as well as a 1-of-9 shooting performance in Game 4 with Orlando facing elimination. That's not what anyone wants on his resume.

What it'd take to pry him from Orlando: It's hard to say. On the one hand, Carter indeed had a disappointing year. BUt on the other, it's not difficult to imagine him improving next season, with more time to adjust to Van Gundy's Dwight Howard-centric offense. He can do better, and--more importantly, when considering his value--it's pretty hard to imagine any realistically obtainable player being an upgrade at the position. But on the other hand, he did little to inspire confidence in his ability to be the Magic's top wing player, and it's fair to wonder if even an improved, fully adjusted Carter can produce enough to be the go-to clutch scorer on a title team. Thus, Smith will field calls asking about Carter, if there are any, though I don't think he's actively shopping him.

Bottom line: Carter's trade value has never been lower, but because his salary for 2011/12 is only partially guaranteed, teams looking to save money and get a reasonably useful player in return would be wise to get Smith on the horn. Packaged with a future draft pick and up to $3 million in cash--the highest possible dollar amount that can change hands in a single transaction--he could net a solid player. Yet I don't think the return would do nearly as much, in any realistic scenario.

Marcin Gortat

Age: 26; Position: Center

Contract details: On a mid-level contract; signed through 2012/13 for an average annual salary of $7.09 million. Has an early termination option for 2012/13 worth $7.727 million.

Key career stats: 15.4 Player Efficiency Rating, 15.3 points per 36 minutes, 12.0 rebounds per 36 minutes, 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes, 56.7% True Shooting

2009/10 season grade: C+

Why he's available: he's one of the league's premiere backup centers, and happens to play behind the league's best center, at a very high price. For that reason, he's worth more to other teams than he is to the Magic. He's only overpaid when regarded as a reserve. As a starter, though, he could average 10 points, 10 boards, and 2 blocked shots, with above-average efficiency and well above-average defense, for a mere 7 figures annually. Any team without an All-Star at center would love to have that sort of value from a starting center. And the Magic, in fairness, like him, too. Centers are hard to find, which is why Orlando counts itself lucky to have two. But when one is a perennial All-Star and the other is considerably less awesome, well, it's a problem.

What it'd take to pry him from Orlando: the same things it'd take to pry Bass, though my sense is that Gortat is both less expendable and less available. He's better than Bass and actually part of the team's rotation, for one thing. And for another, his combination of skills is so hard to replace that the Magic would already need to have another center on their roster before they could afford to deal him.

Bottom line: He certainly won't finish his contract in Orlando, but because his value's quite low, and because he is (at the moment) important to the team's rotation, he doesn't figure to be moved immediately.

Mickael Pietrus

Age: 28; Position: Small Foward

Contract details: On a mid-level contract; signed through 2010/11 for a flat $5.3 million. Has a player option for 2011/12, also worth $5.3 million.

Key career stats: 12.4 Player Efficiency Rating, 14.5 points per 36 minutes, 5.4 rebounds per 36 minutes, 54.6% True Shooting, 35.9% three-point shooting

2009/10 season grade: B

Why he's available: as with Anderson, Pietrus' likely availability stems from his relative value, not from any sort of unhappiness the team has with him. He's its top perimeter defender, playing for Van Gundy, who values defense above all other facets of the game. And he shoots the three-pointer exceptionally well, and if there's anything for which the Magic have drawn attention over the last three seasons, it's their tendency to dig the long ball. At first glance, he appears to be 100% safe from trade. Yet his mental errors, questionable shot selection, age, and lack of skills in other areas make him available.

What it'd take to pry him from Orlando: he's doesn't figure to be the centerpiece of any trade, but if the Magic need a decent-sized salary to balance the scales as part of a larger trade, Pietrus is the best candidate. The fact that his contract isn't horrible relative to his ability makes him attractive; this isn't James Posey or Morris Peterson we're talking about here.

Bottom line: Likely to finish his contract in Orlando, but available as ballast if the need arises.

Trade Exception

Value: $6,864,200; Expires: July 9th, 2010

Bottom line: Smith addressed the exception in this interview with Tania Ganguli:

TG: The trade exception you acquired when trading Hedo Turkoglu last year expires next month. Will you use that?

OS: You like to use everything you have. Trade exceptions, too. We may let it expire, but we may use it. I’ve allowed a couple to expire but I’ve also used a couple. I can’t say I’m 100 percent guaranteed we’re going to use it but I can’t say 100 percent I won’t.

To be clear, a trade exception can't be combined with another salary for matching purposes; the Magic can't deal Bass (at $4 million) and the exception (at $6.864 million) for a player making $10.864 million. No, as Smith likes to say, "you don't trade exceptions; you fill them." Exceptions allow teams to absorb salaries less than or equal to their value. The Magic can thus fill their exception with a player making roughly the mid-level without giving up anything for that player. Of course, they still have to pay his salary and the corresponding luxury tax hit, but purely from a roster standpoint (and not from a financial one), it's getting something for nothing. The question Smith has to ask when it comes to using the exception is, "Is this player, who will still cost my ownership money, going to put us over the top?"

There's nothing that says the Magic can't use the exception separately in a deal with the same team, at least as far as I know. Say, for instance, the Toronto Raptors believe the best return they can get in a sign-and-trade deal for Chris Bosh is Gortat, Bass, Pietrus, and three future first-round draft picks. Say also that they won't do the deal without unloading a bad contract, such as Marcus Banks'. They could sign Bosh to his max deal to acquire Gortat, Bass, Pietrus, and the draft picks. In a separate transaction, they could send Banks to the Magic to fill the trade exception, and thus generate one of their own.