Less than half a year removed from inking Tobias Harris to a four-year contract extension, the Orlando Magic are reportedly close to moving on from the 23-year-old forward. As Mike Scotto first reported, and as several outlets--including Yahoo! and ESPN--have confirmed, Orlando is progressing in talks with the Detroit Pistons regarding a trade which would send Harris to the Motor City in exchange for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova.
Orlando faces a mandate from its leadership to end its three-year postseason drought, and at present trails the Charlotte Hornets by three games in the loss column for the East's final playoff berth. Given the team's prolonged stretch of uninspiring play--it's won just four times in its last 20 tries--it's fairly easy to understand why making a significant trade would appeal to ownership and management.
Nonetheless, it's disheartening to see Orlando make a potential short-term upgrade while losing out on Harris' long-term potential; it seems unlikely that either Jennings or Ilyasova will figure into the next great Magic team. Had the Magic been more patient, perhaps Harris might have done so.
Harris, whose production has dipped in Scott Skiles' first season as Magic coach, stands as a classic buy-low pickup for Detroit. The Tennessee product is posting career-best rebounding and assist numbers despite a prodigious dip in per-game scoring as he works to find his fit in Skiles' offense. His age and potential are assets for a Pistons team which, like Orlando, is hoping to end a playoff drought while establishing a long-term core.
Jennings figures to give the Magic a small boost at point guard. Elfrid Payton has yet to take a significant step forward in his second pro season, while the backups C.J. Watson and Shabazz Napier have battled injury and ineffectiveness, respectively, all season. Jennings' contract will end in July, making him a free agent, at which point Orlando can decide whether the 26-year-old fits into its future plans.
Jennings is averaging 6.8 points, two rebounds, and three assists per game in 18.7 minutes serving as Reggie Jackson's backup. A season ago he suffered an ACL tear which derailed what would have been his best and most efficient professional season; he went down averaging 15.4 points and 6.6 assists on 52.2 percent True Shooting. The Compton native is known for his aggressiveness and shoot-first mentality.
Ilyasova, 28, has one non-guaranteed season remaining on his contract. He has served as the Pistons' full-time starer at power forward, averaging 11.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while shooting 36.3 percent on three-pointers. As Marc Stein notes, Ilyasova would seem to make Channing Frye, Orlando's incumbent floor-spacing big man, redundant. It seems likely Orlando will unload Frye before the NBA trade deadline is up Thursday at 3 PM Eastern.
Of note, Skiles has coached Jennings and Ilyasova before when they were all part of the Milwaukee Bucks.