The NBA trade deadline looms large February 24th, just a week from tomorrow, so I thought it'd be a good time to take stock of what assets Otis Smith, the Orlando Magic's President of Basketball Operations, has at his disposal should he wish to make a move.
Rather than simply list the assets alphabetically, I've tried breaking them down into sensible categories. Nine players appear here; I excluded Dwight Howard (duh), Jameer Nelson (more valuable to Orlando than any other team), Gilbert Arenas (bad contract), and Hedo Turkoglu (also a bad contract).
For more on NBA trades and how they work, I refer you to Larry Coon's excellent, must-bookmark NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement FAQ. The sections on Base-Year Compensation and Traded Player Exceptions are particularly helpful in this context.
We'll start with Jason Richardson here. The rest of the assets follow the fold.
Productive Starter on Expiring Contract
Age: 30; Position: Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Contract details: On a veteran contract; signed through this season, worth $14.444 million.
Key career stats: 16.8 Player Efficiency Rating, 18.6 points per 36 minutes, 5.3 rebounds per 36 minutes, 53.1 percent True Shooting, 37.1 percent three-point shooting
My Take: Richardson belongs squarely in the class of sub-All-Star shooting guards. A deadeye shooter, particularly off down-screens, with above-average post-up skill, Richardson's a fantastic scorer with a lot of versatility. He also rebounds well, adding to his skill value.
And, with a $14.4 million expiring contract, he's Orlando's best trade chip. Expiring deals don't have the same value they used to have, as plenty of teams have hefty ones to offer, while other teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors have large trade exceptions they can fill. Still, in the current climate fueled by uncertainty about the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, some smaller market teams will try to cut costs at the deadline. If they like Richardson, it makes sense for Orlando to dangle him. He's their best chance at landing another superstar to pair with Dwight Howard. With that said, the Magic aren't under much pressure to retain him--he's been more "good" than "great" since arriving from the Phoenix Suns in a December 18th trade--and could always let him come off their own books at season's end, rather than flipping him.
Orlando can include Richardson in combination with other players beginning February 18th, this Friday. If the rumors about his availability ever start circulating, it'll be around that time.
Productive Role-Players on Fair Contracts
Age: 25; Position: Power Foward/Center
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: 15.7 Player Efficiency Rating, 15.1 points per 36 minutes, 8.2 rebounds per 36 minutes, 55.5 percent True Shooting
My Take: When healthy, Bass serves as Orlando's starting power forward and Howard's backup at center, positions he's held down since the Magic traded Rashard Lewis to the Washington Wizards for Gilbert Arenas on December 18th. Bass is having the best season of his career, his first as a full-time starter since college, and thus I'm sure Orlando would rather hang onto him. After a spotty first season in Magic pinstripes, Bass improved his effort defensively and on the glass in the offseason, making him a fixture in coach Stan Van Gundy's rotation.
Still, Bass isn't untouchable, especially if he can be combined with Richardson to net another star. And he, like Richardson, produces well at the offensive end. He's among the league's best jump-shooting bigs, even without three-point range, which makes him a threat in pick-and-pop sets. He also has a solid dribble-drive game, aided by the jab-step, his pet move.
Age: 26; Position: Shooting Guard
Contract details: On a veteran contract; signed through 2012/13 at an average annual salary of $6.73 million. The final season is fully unguaranteed, becoming fully guaranteed if not waived on or before July 8th, 2012.
Key career stats: 13.0 Player Efficiency Rating, 14.6 points per 36 minutes, 2.6 assists per 36 minutes, 58.0 percent True Shooting, 39.6 percent three-point shooting
My Take: Like Bass, Redick's a great scorer who's worked his way into Van Gundy's rotation. Though he doesn't rebound well or tally many assists, he's a low-mistake player on both ends of the floor, which has earned him the trust of his teammates and the coaching staff.
Additionally, Redick has expanded his game since joining the NBA. Once merely a spot-up shooter, Redick now has an above-average handle and can thus competently serve as a secondary ballhandler in most offenses. He can shoot off the dribble now, and has worked on adding a floater to his offense, but he's still at his most lethal as a stand-still shooter. That's a valuable skill that won't erode with age.
Consider Redick in the same boat with Bass: important to Orlando's success, but not untouchable. He is, however, tougher to deal than his power forward counterpart: as a Base-Year Compensation player, Redick's outgoing trade value is just half that of his contract, but his incoming value is that of his full contract. Potential trade parters can work around that restriction easily enough, but it's enough of an obstacle for me to consider a trade involving Redick unlikely.
Productive Young Players on Rookie-Scale Contracts
Age: 22; Position: Power Foward
Contract details: On a rookie scale contract; signed through 2011/12 at an average annual salary of $1.826 million
Key career stats: 16.6 Player Efficiency Rating, 16.6 points per 36 minutes, 8.5 rebounds per 36 minutes, 56.3 percent True Shooting, 37.9 percent three-point shooting
My Take: If Anderson's not untouchable, he's darn close to it. The third-year pro ranks fifth in the league in three-pointers per game despite averaging less than 21 minutes.
He's more than simply a three-point specialist and floor-spreader, however. Anderson hits the boards pretty hard, with only Howard ranking ahead of him in per-minute rebounding on the team. He's also a good finisher inside and can drive to the cup when a defender closes too hard on his three-point shot. His biggest issue is a lack of strength, which opposing offensive players can exploit by simply backing him down. But he's not yet 23 and has plenty of time to improve in that area.
Given his productivity, value to Orlando's offense, and inexpensive contract, Anderson isn't really a candidate to get dealt unless a potential suitor sees him as the "great young player" in a trade for a superstar. But because he's averaged just 18 minutes per game in his career, the league may not have caught on to him yet.
Age: 23; Position: Power Foward
Contract details: On a rookie scale contract; signed through the end of this season for $1.898 million
Key career stats: 10.6 Player Efficiency Rating, 14.0 points per 36 minutes, 6.6 rebounds per 36 minutes, 43.9 percent True Shooting
My Take: Clark has worked hard since arriving with Richardson in the trade with Phoenix, but still has a ways to go as an NBA player. His defensive awareness is still suspect, though he has the raw physical tools to be a nightmare on that end; it's not hard to envision him one day being able to guard either forward position and, if he bulks up even more, maybe some centers. The ballhandling he flashed at Louisville hasn't really shown up in the NBA, but he nonetheless enticed scouts with his variety of skills; he's often compared to Lamar Odom, who's had himself a fantastic pro career.
Still, Clark's involvement in a potential trade leans more toward "throw-in" than "stud youngster." He's a free agent this summer--he didn't impress the Suns enough to prompt them to exercise their third-year option on his contract--and a trade suitor could take a cheap look at him before the free agency period. My sense is the Magic like his potential and would like to keep him. But he's not yet part of the team's core, so we ought to consider him expendable at this point.
Age: 32; Position: Power Foward/Center
Contract details: On a minimum contract worth $1.352 million
Key career stats: 10.0 Player Efficiency Rating, 11.6 points per 36 minutes, 6.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, 46.6 percent True Shooting
My Take: Allen hasn't been healthy very often, but when he is, Van Gundy sometimes relies on him to mop up a few minutes at center behind Howard or at power forward behind the Bass/Anderson duo. Allen doesn't do anything particularly well--he's been a below-average shooter and rebounder his whole career--though he does hold his own in the low post on defense and knows how to give a hard foul. On offense, he can at least set screens, move the ball, and stand in the right place.
On the surface, Allen is nearly useless as a trade chip because he doesn't do much on the court and he's making literally the least money possible for a player of his experience. Still, trades sometimes require such salaries to work; recall the Magic's three-way trade with the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets at the 2009 trade deadline necessitated shipping Adonal Foyle to Memphis.
Age: 28; Position: Point Guard
Contract details: On a mid-level contract; signed through 2013/14 for a flat $3.5 million annually. The final season is only $1.5 million guaranteed if waived on or before June 30th, 2013.
Key career stats: 11.3 Player Efficiency Rating, 9.6 points per 36 minutes, 6.4 assists per 36 minutes, 52.3 percent True Shooting
My Take: Earning $3.5 million this year, Duhon's probably the most handsomely paid third-string point guard in the NBA. Initially signed to back up Jameer Nelson, the Magic's trade for Arenas bumped Duhon, struggling mightily all over the floor, to mop-up duty.
Duhon's per-year salary isn't really an issue, I don't think, as it's well below the league average, and he's a well below-average player, all things considered. No, the problem is the length. Few teams, if any, want to pay Duhon neary $11 million until 2013.
The only way I can envision Orlando finding a taker for Duhon is if it agrees to take back another unfriendly contract, just for a player who fills a different position. Point guard help is hard to come by in this league, and it's possible--even probable--that Duhon will improve in a different offense or with another year in Van Gundy's system. But his poor play has submarined his trade value.
Age: 20; Position: Center
Contract details: On a rookie scale contract; signed through 2011/12 for $1.105 million, with team options for 2012/13 ($1.182 million) and 2013/14 ($2.134 million)
Key career stats: None
My Take: The 29th pick in last June's NBA Draft, Orton has yet to log a minute in the NBA and spent just two games in the D-League before aggravating a prior injury to his left knee. He underwent surgery upon returning to Orlando from the New Mexico Thunderbirds and will continue to work out this season, hoping to debut next year; indeed, Zach McCann reported Monday afternoon Orton will not play or practice with the Magic the rest of the year, and it's unknown when he'll return to the court again.
The Magic drafted Orton after one season at Kentucky, during which he averaged 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds, which hardly inspires confidence in the youngster, especially when considered in conjunction with his recurring knee issues. Still, he showed some flashes of skill at Kentucky and in high school, and some scouts I've spoken to believe he would have become a lottery pick had he stayed in school.
Futher, he plays center, a position in short supply in today's NBA. With his back-to-basket game, respectable athleticism, and shot-blocking skills, he could turn into a solid contributor one day. It's likely Orlando will hang onto him, hoping to groom him as Howard's backup of the future. But he's years--really, seriously, years--away from developing into a rotation-caliber NBA hoopster.
Age: 30; Position: "The Wing Is The Wing"
Contract details: On a mid-level contract; signed through 2013/14 at an average annual salary of $2.536 million, with a player option for 2013/14 worth $2.808 million. Contract contains a 15-percent trade kicker
Key career stats: 13.2 Player Efficiency Rating, 14.2 points per 36 minutes, 6.4 rebounds per 36 minutes, 50.4 percent True Shooting, 35.6 percent three-point shooting
My Take: I think Van Gundy and the Magic lost confidence in Richardson too early this season, though it's easy to understand why they'd rather play Hedo Turkoglu, Redick, and Jason Richardson ahead of the former high-flyer. Hired as a floor-spreading three-point gunner this summer, Richardson's responded by shooting a career-low 29.7 percent outside the arc while taking 59.3 percent of his shots from that distance. He doesn't shoot free throws and, though he's a willing passer, doesn't create a lot of offense for his teammates. About all he's done reliably is accept tough defensive challenges on a nightly basis, as well as demonstratively support his teammates from the sidelines.
Similar to Duhon, the length and overall value of his contract make him difficult to trade, even if the per-year salary makes sense for a player of his caliber. I'd have to say about the only way Orlando deals him is if it agrees to accept a similarly bad contract in return. Those factors, his trade kicker, and the fact that he's still the Magic's best perimeter defender--in a conference which includes LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce--make him likely to stay in Orlando past the deadline.
Value: $6,322,320; Expires: December 18th, 2011
My Take: Trade exceptions can be valuable in this league, but more often than not, teams simply keep them in their proverbial back pocket and let them expire rather than using them. That's likely going to be the case with Orlando, which previously let a trade exception worth almost exactly this amount simply expire last July.
A common misconception is teams can package players and exceptions together for salary purposes. That's not the case. Exceptions may be "filled" with the salary of a player whose contract is worth up to the value of the exception. The team still has to pay the player's salary, obviously, and it'll count against the cap.
But exceptions are attractive to some teams because they can facilitate salary dumps with teams who want to cut costs. In the most famous recent example, the Oklahoma City Thunder used a trade exception to absorb Matt Harpring's contract from the Utah Jazz, easing Utah's luxury-tax bill. However, they also nabbed young point guard Eric Maynor, then a rookie, in the bargain. Oklahoma City, we should note, wasn't above the luxury-tax line then, so they weren't exactly in Orlando's boat there.
Draft Rights to Fran Vazquez
Value: None; Expires: Never
My Take: strictly speaking, draft rights have no trade value insofar as they don't count for salary-matching purposes. But teams might be interested in Vazquez, who'll turn 27 prior to the start of next season, now that he's become the best center in Europe.
Smith infamously selected the young Vazquez 11th overall in the 2005 NBA Draft, but wound up looking a bit silly when Vazquez spurned the Magic in favor of playing in Europe. Nearly six years later, he's reportedly interested in joining the NBA, as his contract with FC Barcelona expires this summer. Orlando has reportedly met with Vazquez's agent to discuss a contract offer, or what one might look like, for later down the line. If he's amenable to finally coming over, and if word spreads throughout the league that that's the case, the Magic will have to beat away trade suitors with a stick.
No, really. Magic fans clown on him for his choice in 2005, but there's no arguing that Vazquez can play. He's a rotation-caliber NBA big man right now and can probably be signed at a fair price. The issue is convincing him to come stateside, which is admittedly no small task. Still, Vazquez probably has the second-most sought after draft rights in the entire league--teammate Ricky Rubio, whose rights belong to the Minnesota Timberwolves, assuredly has the most--which means the Magic could have one helluva deal sweetener on their hands.