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Should the Magic be buyers at the trade deadline?

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With Orlando sliding, and on the verge of slipping out of the eight-seed, is it time for a trade?

Orlando Magic head coach Scott Skiles yells to a referee during the second half during the January 9 game against the Washington Wizards.
Orlando Magic head coach Scott Skiles yells to a referee during the second half during the January 9 game against the Washington Wizards.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

With Tuesday’s favor trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Orlando Magic dipped their toes into the roster movement waters, prompting some to wonder whether, at any point in the next month, they’ll dive in.

The trade deadline is February 18, and Orlando, in the middle of a demoralizing 1-6 slide, is far from perfect. Before leaving for London, Scott Skiles stopped short of calling the game that the Magic would eventually lose a must-win, but the recent defeats are certainly adding up.

The losing streak has only served to compound pressure on the front office. Now, with the Magic slipping, the front office needs to look at the roster, then weigh the present and the future. How important is making the playoffs this season? Because making a move before the deadline – assuming there’s one Orlando could realistically make – could be the difference between finishing sixth in the Eastern Conference and finishing 11th.

With a few exceptions, Orlando has a young roster across the board, which can present two different approaches. Exchanging some younger players for veterans and a playoff berth could result in a valuable experience for the team’s remaining young core. On the other hand, the Magic’s green roster could have you thinking, "What’s the rush?"

If you’re leaning toward the latter, ride out this losing streak, and see what happens the rest of the way before making some tweaks in the summer.

But if you’re leaning toward the former train of thought, making a deal before the trade deadline may be crucial in shaking things up and securing a playoff spot. By the way, the Toronto Raptors, whom the Magic just took to overtime, are in second place in the East, so don’t dismiss what getting the six or seven-seed could mean. It’s not hard to imagine a Magic team with another bullet in the chamber advancing to the second round this postseason.

With that in mind, what are Orlando’s options? It’s not entirely clear who’s up for grabs, but the New Orleans Pelicans are reportedly willing to throw in the towel on this season and part ways with some veterans.

Perhaps the Magic’s biggest problem, certainly during its recent woes, is getting baskets. Of late, it’s been a real struggle for the team to create offense. (Part of that can be attributed to Elfrid Payton’s absence, but isn’t this something that was at least somewhat expected going into the season?) As I wrote last month, Orlando has made progress from beyond the arc this year, but surely adding a reliable perimeter shooter or two would open things up for other guys on the team to do what they do best: attack the basket.

Here’s where the Pelicans could be interesting trade partners. Former Magic forward Ryan Anderson is reportedly on the block, and would be an upgrade to Channing Frye for about the same price. He is in the last year of his contract, though, so he’d be making much more than Frye in subsequent seasons.

Reports also suggest Anderson’s teammate Eric Gordon is up for grabs. Gordon, too, is in the final year of his contract. Both he and Anderson, shooting over 37 percent on 251 and 191 attempts, respectively, are comfortable and productive from deep. (Orlando’s most prolific three-point shooter is Evan Fournier, who has 197 three-point attempts this season.) Gordon can score in other ways, too. He averages more than 15 points per game (more than anyone on the Magic besides Nikola Vucevic), and has put up 20 or more points in 11 games this season.

But here comes the catch. To get a veteran the likes of Gordon or Anderson, Orlando will have to part with young talent (think Aaron Gordon). Even if they decide to do that, the Magic’s youthful roster is a double-edged sword in trade talks. Players with potential are enticing, in part because they usually come with a low price tag. Orlando, well-stocked with guys like that, has the fifth-lowest salary in the league. While players on rookie contracts have some extra allure, having so many of them may complicate things when trying to trade for veterans with big salaries (like Eric Gordon).

Ultimately, these are all things that need to be considered in the coming weeks, as the playoffs draw nearer.

Orlando very well may need to pull the trigger on such a move to make the 2016 postseason, but, with the potential effect it could have on the team’s future, is it worth it?