Despite being one of the most active teams in talks over the past week, the Orlando Magic were rather quiet during Thursday’s NBA trading deadline.
The Magic made one small move, sending point guard Elfrid Payton to the Phoenix Suns for a second round draft pick. The pick, which will be the best of Charlotte, Miami and Memphis’ pick, will come in this summers draft.
Moving on from Payton was seemingly inevitable for the Magic, given the fact that John Hammond and Jeff Weltman had no true ties to Payton, and the fact that the team had clearly reached it’s maximum point with Payton as their shot caller. With that in mind, they got something for the soon-to-be free agent while they still could. Add in his continued struggles on the defensive end — he’s one of the worst defensive players in the league by some metrics — and inconsistencies shooting, and moving on from him made sense.
In the bigger picture, it also signifies two things.
One, the new front office knows they’re entering yet another multi-year rebuild. They’re replenishing draft assets, and moving on from one of the players that, quite frankly, has held the Magic back the last two seasons.
The team did have talks with the New York Knicks, but their asking price was too high. The team wanted rookie point guard Frank Nitilikina, but former Magic assistant general manager Scott Perry, who had the interest in Payton, was reluctant to give up the former top-10 pick.
It also shows that the team knows that most of the heavy lifting with roster movement will come this summer. No team was looking to take on salary cap, in fact most teams were attempting to get off of their bad contracts, which ultimately bogged down the market — unless you’re in Cleveland who had to blow it up after their disastrous performance in Orlando Tuesday night.
Moving the likes of Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic were never real options for the Magic at this time. Vucevic, who is nearing a return from a broken hand, only has one year left on his contract after this season, a very affordable $12.5 million, but has been out since late December. A team who might be looking to make an addition for a playoff run couldn’t afford to take on someone who’s going to need time to get back into game shape, and knock off the rust.
Fournier, and Bismack Biyombo for that matter, are trickier.
With both holding multiple years left on their deals at around $17 million per season, finding someone to take that mid season was going to be nearly impossible. Come July 1st, when the new league year starts, however, it’ll be easier to sell a team on taking on a player like Biyombo for one, possibly two seasons.
Trading Payton was the first step that the Magic have in their latest rebuild. The rest of the season will be about the continued growth of the players on the roster, and figuring out who, if anyone, they can hold onto for the long run.
Come the offseason, business will pick up for Hammond, Weltman and the Magic.