As they usually do this time of year, rumors are swirling around the league, and the Orlando Magic have been swept up in the fervor. The trade deadline is a week away and the Magic roster, which consists of several young and talented players, is overstocked. Despite some recent struggles, the playoffs are within reach, and reports suggest the Magic (like 29 other teams) are exploring their options ahead of the deadline. Is it worth trading youth for experience to attempt a playoff push, or should Orlando be patient and try to make inroads next season?
Time will tell what the front office really thinks. That’s now, though, and they say past behavior is the best predictor of future performance. If that’s the case, maybe we can expect a quiet deadline.
Looking back at the franchise’s last-minute moves, there aren’t very many big ones to choose from. Here’s a look at the standout trade deadline deals – good and bad – from the Magic’s 27-year history.
We’ll start out with a solid deal for the Magic. This one came as Jameer Nelson went under the knife to repair an injured shoulder. That injury put him out for the rest of the season and for most of the playoffs, but Alston proved to be a capable replacement. The former And1 Mixtape star was the floor general on a team that pushed past the Big Three Celtics and the LeBron James-led Cavaliers for a Finals berth.
Alston never matched Nelson’s All-Star output that year, and he certainly wasn’t the focal point of that Finals squad, but you can’t ask for much more from any starting point guard, particularly a replacement, than to manage the offense all the way into June.
Plus, Skip to My Lou gave us all a playoff moment we’ll never forget.
February 19, 2003: Magic trade Mike Miller, Ryan Humphrey to Grizzlies for Drew Gooden, Gordan Giricek
I did some digging, and this is probably the worst deadline-ish trade the Magic ever made. (The suffix is there because, technically, this one happened a day before the deadline.) Drew Gooden was an above average big man, sure, but not much more than that. He only played a season and a half in Orlando before leaving and setting off on a journeyman career that included eight more stops. I guess he helped the Magic take the Pistons to seven games in a first-round loss. So there’s that.
Meanwhile, Mike Miller went on to become a staple of the Grizzlies for years, and one of the best three-point shooters of his era. Ultimately, this was a weird one considering Miller won Rookie of the Year two years prior, and was supposedly Tracy McGrady’s best friend on the team.
February 21, 2013: Magic trade J.J. Redick, Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith to Milwaukee for Tobias Harris, Doron Lamb, Beno Udrih
Orlando cuts ties with Redick, who they drafted 11th out of Duke seven years earlier. It’s also interesting, with the hindsight we have today, that Smith was involved in this deal. At 23 years old, he had already played for three teams before signing with the Magic the year prior to this trade. After signing, he averaged about 10 minutes per game. He didn’t do anything on the Bucks, but he’s gradually gained steam since, and today he’s the best player on the 76ers. (I know that isn’t saying much, but he’s playing great this season!)
Anyway, the most consequential part of this trade for the Magic, though they’d surely want Smith back now, is Harris. He had a quiet year and a half in Milwaukee before exploding onto the scene in Orlando. Per 36 minutes, the second half of the 2012-13 season was the best of Harris’ career. He played his way into a max contract, and while he’s still quite young, it’s unclear whether ponying up that much cash for Harris was a smart move.
As Will Ogburn wrote recently, Harris has been really hot and cold this season. On one hand, he’s the easiest player you could imagine the Magic trading this week, and on the other, he seems like he could be the key that unlocks the potential of the team’s young core.
Love and hate are supposedly different sides of the same coin. As with Harris, so too are frustration and intrigue.
P.S. – The Magic also traded for Hakim Warrick on this day. They gave up Josh McRoberts and cash only to waive the former Syracuse star a day later. I bring this up only because Warrick is one of my all-time misses in the draft. When I watched him play at Syracuse I thought he was going to be the next Amar’e Stoudemire. Someone please tell me I’m not alone.