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NBA Draft 2017: Why did Orlando Magic trade the 25th pick?

Orlando’s return for their 25th pick was confusing, confounding, and perhaps troubling.

NBA: Draft Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In principle, for the Orlando Magic, turning some of their current picks for future assets makes sense. They couldn’t support four new rookie draftees, even if they took advantage of their new Lakeland Magic GLeague team. Turning those picks into something a little bit better in another draft is a good way to slowly build up value.

The troubling part of the Magic’s draft night trades wasn’t so much the intent behind them, but the execution of those deals. The deal to move the 35th pick for Brooklyn’s second round pick next year was...meh. Fine, I guess. They’ll have basically the same pick next year, barring a miracle improvement by the Nets. That’s the minimum return you expect when dealing for future picks.

The trade of the 25th pick, however, was downright baffling, for a lot of reasons. After doing some research and asking a lot of questions, I think I have a handle on how exactly the pick works, and it’s still hard to understand why Orlando made the deal they did.

Here’s the full explanation. If you want, you can skip ahead to the short version below. Shoutouts to Keith Smith of RealGM and the future draft obligations page for helping me sort this out.

OKC owes a 2018 pick to Utah from the Enes Kanter trade, protected 1-14. If the pick lands in that range, then it rolls forward to 2019, and again to 2020, all with the same 1-14 protection. If it still hasn’t conveyed at that point, they’ll send a couple seconds to Utah.

Two years after they resolve that trade, whatever year that happens, they send a first rounder to Philly, protected 1-20. Like the pick to Utah, that 1-20 protection rolls forward the next two years depending on whether that OKC-to-Utah pick got sent. If the Thunder’s pick falls within this range whenever the pick to Philly would convey, they’ll send their 2022 and 2023 second rounders instead. This is the pick that the Magic now own.

So, to list the possibilities, the Magic could get a pick from 21-30 in 2020, 2021, or 2022, depending on when the Utah pick gets sent. If the Thunder don’t fall within that range during the season two years after the Utah pick, the Magic will get OKC’s 2022 and 2023 second rounders.

Also, Philly is giving them the worse of Brooklyn’s or New York’s 2020 second round picks.

Short Version: The best the Magic can hope for is to get the 21st pick in 2020. The worst result is getting OKCs second rounders in 2022 and 2023. They also get a 2020 second rounder, probably in the 35-45 range.

This is the problem with the trade. In the very best case scenario, the Magic have traded the 25th pick in 2017 for the 21st and 31st picks in 2020. You could maybe make the case that this is ok if the assets are coming next year, but that’s not nearly an equal value trade for picks coming three years from now.

That’s just considering the best case scenario. If the Thunder aren’t a top-10 team in 2020 (or 2021 or 2022, if they somehow miss the playoffs in 2018 or 2019), the Magic get second round picks five and six years from now. This would be a colossally bad return for this year’s pick.

One of the criticisms of the previous regime was that they did a poor job managing assets. The 2014 draft stands out, when Philly wrung a free pick out of Orlando, who feared they were going to lose the chance to draft Elfrid Payton. Turning Tobias Harris into cap space in the form of Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova was another inefficient use of resources.

I understand and agree with the intent of the trades, but based on the execution after the first draft, I’m concerned that the new management is carrying over some of the same problems of the old one. For a team that needs to build itself back up, giving away value for no reason is only going to make things harder.