The Orlando Magic have until 3 PM Eastern on Thursday to decide whether they'll trade J.J. Redick or let him finish the season with the team. Trading Redick, a free agent-to-be, is not without merit. After all, he can leave Orlando for more money and/or a starting job in July, and given that he'll turn 29 in June, he'll be past his prime by the time the rebuilding Magic are ready to contend for the playoffs again.
But there are risks involved in trading Redick too. We outline them here.
He makes his teammates better
Redick's positive impact on several of Orlando's other players is profound, as the data in the table below show:
|Redick Off||Redick On|
The attention Redick draws from opposing defenses frees Orlando interior players like Ayón, Davis, O'Quinn, and Vučević to score more easily inside. It also boosts the efficiencies of Orlando's outside shooters: Afflalo and Moore shoot only 26.2 percent and 23.5 percent, respectively, on three-pointers with Redick on the bench; with him in the game, they improve to 38.3 percent and 41.7 percent, respectively.
These players aren't inconsequential; Vučević is arguably the Magic's most important building block, while Afflalo and Davis are two established veterans who go from barely replacement-level to solid when teamed with Redick. No, rookie forwards Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson don't appear on this list, but it's not because Redick's impact on them is negative, but rather neutral. DeQuan Jones and Ish Smith are the only two Orlando players on whose production Redick's presence has a profoundly negative effect.
It's fair to point out that Afflalo has enjoyed a solid NBA career to date even before playing alongside Redick; he has scored efficiently before sharing the floor with Redick, and there's reason to believe that he could return to that level even if Redick departs via trade or free agency. But within the confines of coach Jacque Vaughn's system, he hasn't been successful without Redick. He has to create too much offense for himself, leading to pull-up jumpers from mid-range. Playing alongside Redick frees him to play off the ball more frequently, where he can better make use of his deadly corner three-point shot.
Some folks--those who believe Orlando needs to lose as much as possible in order to secure a high draft choice and, in turn, better odds of landing a franchise building block--might argue that Redick's making his teammates better in fact hurts the team. I disagree. If Orlando wants to unlock Vučević's potential offensively, it's clear that pairing him with Redick as often as possible is the way to go. One can debate whether Redick will have a role on this team when it's next ready to contend; that Vučević belongs is of no debate.
He can play alongside Afflalo
If the Magic don't trade Redick on Thursday and instead keep him long-term, some Magic fans believe, then they'll be overpaying for two shooting guards. That statement would be true were it not for the fact that Vaughn has shifted Afflalo to small forward alongside Redick in 2012/13, and that this shift has paid dividends.
In the 1001 minutes Redick and Afflalo have played together in 2012/13, Orlando's only been outscored by 3.4 points per 100 possessions. Given that the Magic's season-long net rating is minus-6, the Redick/Afflalo pairing is an improvement. Further, those two players man the wing positions in Orlando's best lineup.
With those two on the perimeter alongisde Jameer Nelson, Davis, and Vučević, the Magic have outscored their opponents by 6.9 points per 100 possessions. Only 11 other five-man units who've played at least 200 minutes together have a better net rating.
It's true that Afflalo is undersized for small forward, and that Redick's "negative wingspan"--that term is his, not mine--works against him. Those two factors make Orlando a middling-at-best defensive unit with those two together, one which teams with large perimeter players can exploit. But Orlando's offense with that group scores 112.1 points per 100 possessions, a figure which would lead the league over the course of a full season.
There will be other opportunities to trade Redick
Even if Orlando concludes that it cannot afford to keep Redick, it will have other chances to deal him. A sign-and-trade transaction over the summer could net Orlando some assets, albeit not a 2013 draft pick, as the draft will have taken place well before free agency begins. Nonetheless, it's important to note that Thursday won't be the Magic's last opportunity to get value in return for Redick, and that failing to move him does not necessarily signal that he's in the team's long-term plans.
Redick isn't the only player Orlando can trade
Afflalo will have trade value in the years ahead, especially as his contract nears its end. So too will Davis, once he's recovered from the broken foot which has likely ended his 2012/13 season. Nelson has two years remaining on his contract, but the final one is just $2 million guaranteed, which fact makes his deal semi-expiring once free agency starts. Those fans whose concerns with retaining Redick have more to do with money than the game itself might have lost sight of the fact that Orlando might be able to get value for those other players down the line.
NBA.com/stats provided statistical support for this post.