Welcome to Five Magic Observations. Last week was a rough one, but don’t worry, there’s a long road trip coming that starts against the San Antonio Spurs, so I’m sure everything will be just fine.
Let’s get started.
Breaking out the ‘ol Trade Machine
WARNING #1 - None of these trades are based on any facts, rumors, or other vague elements of truth. I am but a lowly blogger, so if any of you fancy content aggregators think you’re getting a hot scoop here, please look elsewhere. The basketball blogosphere has already gotten in enough trouble with the whole Klay Thompson thing.
WARNING #2 - These proposed trades are Trade Machine legal (as of December 15, when recent free agent signees are eligible for trades), but it’s entirely possible I’m violating some other arcane trade rules in the process.
WARNING #3 - These trades are very silly.
I’m going to break these down into a few categories, so let’s start with...
Plausible deals that’ll never happen anyway
Orlando sends: Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, 2017 1st round pick, 2018 1st round pick via L.A.
Sacramento sends: DeMarcus Cousins, Omri Casspi
Boogie, of course, has been the league’s most popular hypothetical trade target for two years running, and rumor has it that the Kings are getting close to moving on from the Cousins-era. This deal gets them the the four things you’d want when you move on from your star player: a decent replacement, a young guy with loads of potential, a first-round pick, and the chance to dump some extra salary. Throw in the L.A. pick to sweeten the pot, which could range from very good if the Lakers are good this year and terrible next year, or very bad if the Lakers fall in the bottom 3 this year and keep their pick, sending some second-rounders instead.
Orlando gets “the guy” that they’ve been searching for since their own rebuild started. Whether they have the environment and culture to tame Cousins’s attitude is another matter, but this could be the sort of swing-for-the-fences deal Rob Hennigan might make if his job was in danger.
Orlando sends: Serge Ibaka, Elfrid Payton, Mario Hezonja
Indiana sends: Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young
A less flashy trade, but one with some reasonable arguments to be made for both teams. From Orlando’s side, this is a clear signal that you’re giving up on Hezonja’s development. This is all about picking up a point guard who, in theory, should be able to space the floor better than Payton or Augustin, and who’s a veteran with playoff experience. Thad Young offers the Magic some scoring, and should be a better scorer from the places Ibaka’s taken his shots. This also represents an opportunity to make something out of Ibaka’s one-year deal, albeit while receiving another player (Teague) with only one year on his contract.
Indiana, on the other hand, might be willing to take a flier on Hezonja if they just think he’s been misused under a couple less-than-forgiving coaches. They might already be tired of the Jeff Teague experience, and may be looking for a way to shake things up after a rough start. Perhaps they imagine Ibaka offers some defensive intensity that they lack right now, or maybe they’re just happy to get out from the three years left on Young’s contract.
I don’t really like this deal for Orlando at all, but again, it fits the category of moves that Hennigan might make. Moving on from Payton seems like a plausible decision, and getting vets that make Vogel happy and lead to short term wins might be something the Magic GM would go for in a desperate search for a playoff berth.
Orlando sends: D.J. Augustin, C.J. Watson, Stephen Zimmerman, 2018 1st round pick
Miami sends: Goran Dragic
One more deal to get a capable point guard for Orlando. This trade probably doesn’t happen unless Miami is firmly in tank mode, and by that point it might be too late to salvage Orlando’s season, too, at their current rate of play. Dragic is the only player listed at point guard right now for Miami, so I figured they probably didn’t mind getting two back. Augustin’s contract might be too big a pill to swallow though, or it might take the 2017 pick instead.
I could also see a version of this deal that includes Payton instead of one of the vets, if Miami thinks they can develop him. I could also see a version that uses Gordon to make it work, and, well, I’d rather not think about that scenario too much.
Trades so laughably bad that the other team thinks they’re getting prank-called
Orlando sends: Nikola Vucevic, Jodie Meeks
Portland sends: C.J. McCollum, Evan Turner
This one comes courtesy of some random dude on Twitter, like most truly inspired trades do. Dumping Turner’s salary isn’t nearly enough incentive for Portland to give up one of the league’s best young shooting guards, and frankly it’s not even clear that this makes Orlando that much better, especially if Turner gets Jeff Green-levels of playing time.
Orlando sends: Nikola Vucevic
Utah sends: Gordon Hayward
“Yeah, hey, look, you’ve got some injuries right now, Derrick Favors is out, you’re clearly just not as good as you thought you were going to be. Maybe it’s time to hit the reset button, and lock up a center on a good—wait, hello? Hello? They must be going through a tunnel or something. I’ll call back in a minute.”
Orlando sends: Elfrid Payton, Mario Hezonja, Jodie Meeks
Cleveland sends: Kyrie Irving
Clearly, having fulfilled
LeBron’s Kyrie Irving’s lifelong dream of bringing a championship to Cleveland, he’s ready to move onto the next big thing, and that’s his other lifelong dream of bringing a championship to Orlando.
And finally, an insane trade to get the band back together
Detroit receives: Jodie Meeks, Alex Abrines, Anthony Morrow
Portland receives: Jeff Green, C.J. Watson
Oklahoma City receives: Serge Ibaka, Ed Davis
Orlando receives: Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless
Ok, I’ll admit, I don’t 100% know if this works since the Trade Machine won’t let me include all those recently signed players, but it should be pretty close to legal based on some similar-looking ones I was able to make work (e.g. Vucevic instead of Green and Aminu instead of Davis). I tend to think that everyone’s overreacting to the performance of those former Magic players now that they’ve left Orlando, but the fact that Orlando’s the only one that would take this deal seriously probably says just a little bit about letting those guys go the way they did.
Still...that’s a very strange world to consider, where all of those guys stuck around. I don’t think it would have worked out, but it’s an interesting thought.
(Sorry, Andrew Nicholson. Couldn’t bring back everyone.)
The best and worst five-man lineups
Since we focused on plus-minus statistics for the Magic’s individual players last week, let’s take a quick look at the full five-man lineups that have played a meaningful amount of time this season. To narrow things down, I only looked at lineups that have played in at least five games. My original cutoff line was going to be 8, to include about half the games, but it turns out only three five-man lineups have appeared in that many games. That’s indicative of how much Frank Vogel’s tweaked the lineup and rotations to find some answers, especially on the offensive end.
There are 12 lineups that have played in five games, per NBA.com. If we sort out the ones that have played at least a total of 20 minutes this season, that cuts us down to 8 five-man groups. The best lineup is Augustin-Watson-Gordon-Rudez-Biyombo, an all-around solid group that both scored and defended well, to the tune of a robust 13.6 net rating.
The worst lineup? The same exact group, except substitute Watson for Fournier. Sound bizarre? Well, that’s because it is, and really this exercise is more of a demonstration of the dangers of small sample sizes than anything. The former, “positive” lineup has played just 42 minutes together, and the latter “negative” lineup a mere 25 minutes. With less than a game’s worth of data for each, it’s virtually impossible to draw conclusions confidently about how good these lineups actually are.
One other problem: that really good lineup hasn’t played at all, recently. Vogel’s used it in none of the last four consecutive losses, mostly because Rudez has fallen back out of the rotation.
The two main starting lineups on the season, which split about halfway with the Gordon-Green swap, also have a lot of contextual problems. The group from the first part of the year was very poor defensively, and the latter very good, but I’m loathe to say Green is a defensive monster who locks down opponents by himself. Instead, it was the rest of the team gelling around them, with all three big men getting more comfortable with the scheme.
In other words, just like the individual plus-minus stats, take these with a heavy grain of salt. We have a lot more season left to go before we can fairly judge these and other lineups.
Some more Jeff Green salt
It’s probably not fair of me to keep piling on Jeff Green, especially after devoting an entire section of my last piece to why he shouldn’t be playing. I’m not gonna lie, though, I was more invested in the results of Sunday’s game against Milwaukee than any other game this season, purely because Green was out nursing a back injury. The Magic finally earning a solid win and breaking their losing streak would have been some nice confirmation of the benefits of benching Green.
Alas, the Magic’s defense didn’t show up, perhaps because of the rest of the lineup changes. They looked completely discombobulated, a lot like how they played on defense at the start of the season. It also doesn’t help that Gordon went 0-12 from the field and got his shots blocked into oblivion the couple times he tried going in the paint.
I just don’t want this to turn into a “Well, now we have to start Jeff Green!” situation. Give it another couple games for the defense to settle and for Gordon to hit, well, at least one shot. In the long run, I still believe that’s the better move for the team’s playoff prospects.
That one time Elfrid Payton won the fastbreak mindgames
Watching this play live, I was sure that Payton had committed a big mistake leaving Jason Terry open in the corner the way he did. Given how fast he reacted, however, Payton was clearly counting on that pass happening, and he snatched it out of there air to start the Magic’s own fastbreak and draw a foul.
I’m not sure it was necessarily the most sound decision, but it’s nice to see Payton use that athleticism and speed that we don’t always get to see. Defense was supposed to be one of his strong points, and while we haven’t yet seen that potential come to fruition, he can still make plays every once in a while.
What’s coming up next?
11/29 - Magic @ Spurs - The Magic’s first game against a really good opponent in quite a while. I really want to believe they can rally together and put on a good show, but this one could get ugly real quick. Gordon v. Kahwi could be fun, though.
12/1 - Magic @ Grizzlies - Vucevic shooting 3’s semi-regularly is a big shift for the Magic big man, but he’s actually behind the curve compared to a lot of the rest of the long-distance centers that have cropped up all of a sudden, including Memphis’s Marc Gasol, who’s hitting almost 42% of his long balls on 3.5 attempts a game, second best on the whole team. One bit of good news: this is one of the very few teams in the league that the Magic could plausibly out-shoot, given that the Grizz are at just 42% on the season.
12/2 - Magic @ Sixers - The Joel Embiid hype train keeps rolling, though it’s not enough to carry his whole team with him. This could very well be a must-win game for Orlando if they lose those first two. Dropping a game in Philadelphia might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, the proverbial camel most likely being Rob Hennigan. My take: Hennigan’s “failures” are more a product of the folks around him in the front office, and of bad luck and circumstance. Let’s not write the obituary yet, though.
12/4 - Magic @ Pistons - The fourth of five ‘@’ games in a row for Orlando. I think the Magic are closer in skill level to the Pistons than their previous blowout loss would indicate, but this could still be a rough one, especially if morale is down from the rest of the road trip going poorly. I’ve seen some people hyping up Tobias Harris’s work in Detroit, but he’s getting about 16 points and 5 rebounds a night, on 48% shooting but under 32% from distance. If that sounds like every other season he’s ever had, it’s because it pretty much is. Not to say Magic got a good deal, of course, and as bad as the offense has been, having someone like Harris around instead of Green would go a long way.