Following the Magic’s big trade on the eve of the All-Star break, arguably the second-biggest move of the trade season, the question was whether they would keep tinkering with the roster. On the contrary, all was quiet on the trade front, with few suggestions the Magic came close to making any more deals.
For a restless fan base looking for signals about the front office’s intentions moving forward—Full on tank mode? All out push for next year’s playoffs? Somewhere in between?—the uneventful deadline might have been frustrating. Would it have been nice to move Jeff Green to a team looking for an expiring contract? Sure. Would it have been nice to swing a first-rounder for someone who loves Mario Hezonja as much as Vivec Ranadive loves Buddy Hield? Absolutely.
Frank Vogel himself might have been in the same boat as a lot of fans. When asked by Josh Robbins if he thought there was a reasonable chance the Magic would make moves, he said, “Yes...I was in [the front office] the whole afternoon, just about. Things got pretty quiet getting towards the deadline.”
Clearly, those deals didn’t materialize, and that’s ok. Orlando Magic management were right not to bend over backwards to make deals out of nothing for the sake of making deals. The biggest risk entering February was that Orlando would try to swing for the fences, that Rob Hennigan would make a move to try to save his job. More likely than not, that kind of move would have left the Magic’s future in an even more precarious position after the last few “win-now” trades have wiped out some of Orlando’s most prized assets.
No, the only reasonable moves after dealing away Ibaka (and, depending on who you ask, after DeMarcus Cousins found his way to New Orleans) would have been on the margins, small moves to save some money or pick up future second rounders.
The thing is, those little moves tend to be available more or less whenever you want them. Maybe there’s a risk that somebody like C.J. Watson or Damjan Rudez gets hurt, rendering their trade value moot, but for the most part the Magic will have opportunities around the draft to reshuffle the deck.
It’s also important for the Magic to figure out what they’ve got so they can plan for the future. Figuring out how well Terrence Ross fits in will be a high priority. Seeing how Nikola Vucevic performs as the solo “traditional” big man on the court will be important. Aaron Gordon’s return to the power forward position has been highly anticipated. Heck, after a solid performance against the Blazers on Thursday night, Mario Hezonja’s career might look salvageable.
Figuring out these dynamics will determine how the Magic want to reshape themselves next season, and adding a whole bunch of extra players right now makes that harder to figure out. There’s value in continuity, even for a lousy team like this one.
Sure, maybe there’s a glass-half-empty perspective. Maybe you think the Magic need to take every opportunity to build up assets, and that certain opportunities that might have been available now won’t be in the future. Maybe you view this as a sign that the front office is in “lame-duck” status, that ownership wouldn’t have signed off on anymore moves.
Still, that’s all small stuff compared to the problems the Magic could have brought onto themselves. “Brandon Knight for Jeff Green” would have been a problem. “Future first-rounder for Taj Gibson” would have been tough to swallow. All things considered, a quiet trade deadline might have been the best possible thing before what could be a big shakeup come summertime.