On the surface, the Orlando Magic's reported trade of Arron Afflalo to the Denver Nuggets for Evan Fournier and the 56th overall pick in Thursday's NBA Draft may not seem to make sense. In exchange for a productive, efficient veteran two-guard in the prime years of his career, coming off his best season, the Magic's net return will be two low-tier assets.
But the deal isn't simply for Fournier and the pick. Though the Magic certainly value those assets--if nothing else, Fournier can score and handle the ball a bit, and provide Doron Lamb with some competition for the right to serve as Victor Oladipo's backup--what they value above all else is flexibility. And that's the real beauty of this trade.
In exchanging Afflalo's $7.5 million salary for Fournier's $1.48 million one, Orlando realizes approximately $6 million in salary-cap savings. The Magic can use that money, in turn, to meet several of their long-term goals.
One option is to hoard it so they can offer Nik Vučević and Tobias Harris contract extensions before the October 31st deadline. Those two players aren't stars by any means, but they are part of the young core Rob Hennigan has assembled in Orlando, and they're due to become restricted free agents in 2015 if the Magic don't extend them by Halloween.
Another is to use the resulting space to absorb a bloated salary in a separate salary dump. Such a move could in turn enable them to acquire more assets as a sort of fee for renting the cap space. For one recent example, consider the Utah Jazz: in 2013 they took on more than $20 million of the Golden State Warriors' dead money in exchange for two future first-round picks and two future second-rounders. At the time, some Magic fans wondered why their team couldn't have made a similar move. Once the Afflalo deal becomes official, it can.
They can also take a third, and significantly less likely, approach by spending the money on a high-dollar free agent.
In short, Orlando valued the flexibility this deal will create more than it valued what Afflalo might ultimately have contributed in the 2014/15 season. For a rebuilding team in asset-collection mode, it's the right deal to make.