The Orlando Magic had a relatively quiet 2018 offseason.
After drafting Mo Bamba and Melvin Frazier in June’s draft, the Magic were one of the quietest teams in free agency, signing only one player — Isaiah Briscoe. Despite signing only one player, the Magic did find themselves busy elsewhere, most notably in the trade market.
The Magic made a handful of trades, including two that brought in players with a lot to gain.
Holding Bismack Biyombo’s bloated contract, the Magic did what many thought was impossible: trade him. Biyombo was shipped back to Charlotte, the team that he played for his first four years in the league in exchange for Timofey Mozgov, and Jerian Grant. In a separate deal, the Magic acquired Jarell Martin from the Memphis Grizzlies for Dakari Johnson — whom the team acquired days earlier from Oklahoma City — and the draft rights to former second-round pick Tyler Harvey.
While none of the trades the Magic made were “blockbusters” by any means, they were smart, and calculated moves not only for this season, but moving forward.
“We looked for young players who have yet to have their books written,” said Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman at media day.
Both Grant and Martin have struggled to gain much traction in the league, and truly show off what they can bring to a team. Grant’s move to Orlando was the third time he’s been traded since the Washington Wizards selected him with the 19th pick in the 2015 Draft. In his three years in the league, he’s put up lack-luster numbers with the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls.
Contrary to Grant, Martin has struggled with injuries in his young career. Coming into training camp this year, Martin had only had one full, healthy camp to get prepared for the season, which was last season when Martin put up career-highs in seemingly every single category.
Why the Magic went out and got both Grant and Martin, who are fighting for their NBA lives, is the intriguing part.
With a roster chalked full of uncertainty when it comes to fit and how it can play in the modern NBA, taking a chance on guys with their backs against the wall is worth it. Both Grant and Martin are on cheap, expiring contracts — Grant makes $2.6 million, while Martin sits at $2.4 million — and don’t muddy up the Magic’s long-term cap space. With the likes of Nikola Vucevic, Terrance Ross, Jonathon Simmons, D.J. Augustin, and Mozgov all coming off the books following this year, or next year, the Magic are positioned to be in a position to try and make a splash in free agency sooner, rather than later.
Add in the fact that Grant filled a gaping hole at the back up point guard spot, and can, in some scenarios, play off the ball, giving the Magic even more versatility, and the move makes more sense.
“With D.J. [Augustin] at the one, Jerian presents a good foil with his length and his size,” said Weltman. “We feel like they could be a good one-two punch, and both could help in different lineups.”
Martin, a high energy big with strong defensive instincts, fills a need coming off the bench should Aaron Gordon, or Jonathan Isaac miss any time with injury, or fall into foul trouble in a game. Like Grant, Martin also offers some versatility, with the ability to slide down and play small forward in some lineups.
“Jarell is a talented kid,” said Weltman when asked about the intangibles he brings on the floor. “He’s been a plus defender the last two seasons, and he’s got size and skill. He can run. He’s a very talented young guy. Obviously he’s looking for a reset button. As I always say, it’s not always who, but sometimes when. Hopefully this provides him a good platform to get to another level.”
While Grant and Martin might not be big household names, they have a chance to put their stamp on the team. Both are going to fill into much needed rolls, and have the chance to show the league what they really can be.
If they’re both able to reach into their untapped potential, the Magic could’ve gotten two steals this summer.