This is a bit surreal for me.
Just twenty-four months ago, I was sitting here at this exact time of the NBA calendar year writing a piece about Serge Ibaka. Of course, the Magic had infamously traded for Ibaka the previous June (‘16), sending Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, and Ersan Ilyasova to the Oklahoma City Thunder in return on draft night.
Ibaka was in the last year of his contract (still makes me sick thinking about trading for an UFA) and the Magic were suffering through their normal January swoon. It was crystal-clear that Ibaka wanted no part of re-signing in Orlando, so it was time to move the veteran big-man for the best offer the Magic could get.
I suggested four potential Ibaka trades in my article, and somewhat surprisingly, one of the deals hit. By the way, some of you all make cameo appearances in the comments section, it’s a nice trip down memory lane.
The Magic acquired Terrence Ross and a ‘17 1st round pick (which the Magic ultimately traded to Philadelphia) for Ibaka, and that was pretty much what I suggested (below).
Things have come pretty fully circle. Two years ago (seems like yesterday), I wrote a piece proposing four possible Ibaka deals. I somehow nailed the Toronto proposition spot on...— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) January 30, 2019
Today, I put together destinations for Ross
The show must go on...
And here we are, just two years later. Terrence Ross gave the Magic eighteen months of relatively cold shooting, up-and-down play, and injury misfortune (obviously not his fault, it happens).
He’s also given the Magic an absolutely superb last six months. In a contract year, Ross has played as well as any reserve in the NBA coming off the bench for Steve Clifford’s team. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think there’s a player in the league that shoulders as much scoring burden when on the floor as Ross does (have you seen Orlando’s bench?).
Ross worked incredibly hard in the off-season to get himself into shape (and ready to score) for the ‘18-’19 season. He’s a fan favorite, he’s been one of Orlando’s most consistent players, and it’s time he plays for a team that has a chance to win.
Ross is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July. It’s pretty clear at this point that the Magic will be in the lottery once again, missing out on the playoffs for a seventh consecutive year. Jeff Weltman and John Hammond should be on the phone with teams around the league (and I’m sure they are) gauging interest regarding Ross.
Sure, the Oregon-native could always re-sign with the Magic in the off-season. But the organization shouldn’t risk such an uncertain outcome. His value is relatively high at the moment, and...and...AND I WANT TO SEE ROSS IN THE PLAYOFFS.
Sorry about that. Anyhow, these are some Ross trade suggestions I came up with. I even (maybe) like a couple of them.
Oklahoma City receives: Terrence Ross, Wes Iwundu, and a future Orlando 2nd round pick
Orlando receives: Terrance Ferguson, Andre Roberson
I’m mentioning this trade proposition first in the piece because it’s my favorite of the bunch. I really like the deal for both parties involved. I’ll admit, there are a lot of “if’s” to this deal; ifs that would cause the trade to fall through were Oklahoma City or Orlando to feel differently about some of the players involved in the proposition.
Oklahoma City, at 32-18, currently sits third in the Western Conference standings. Trading for Ross would be a move made by the Thunder in the short-term to maintain their standing in a very difficult conference. I think Ross would slide-in seamlessly next to Russell Westbrook and Paul George, providing Oklahoma City’s two superstars with space to operate (and more scoring on the floor). Similar to his role in Orlando, Ross could come off the bench for the Thunder, while also giving Billy Donovan a veteran option on the floor to close-out games. In Ross (as we all know), Oklahoma City would be trading for a guy that can get hot and win his team a playoff game on any given night.
The prize in this deal for the Magic would be Terrance Ferguson. Ferguson is the exact type of player the Magic should be targeting in a trade for Ross (or Vucevic for that matter). He’s only 20 years-old and has improved considerably in his second NBA season (shooting 38.9% from three). Ferguson is a tall and long wing who could provide the Magic with some shooting, a skill lacking on the roster as currently constructed. The former 21st pick in the ’17 draft is also an exceptional athlete who runs the floor with ease (serious run & jump ability). Ferguson is an Oklahoma kid (born in Tulsa, OK), I’m not quite sure the Thunder would be ready to move the young wing. My target here may be a little too high in a deal for an expiring contract.
Another possibly unlikely part of this deal is that Oklahoma City would have to include Andre Roberson in the trade to make the money work. Not only is Roberson an organization and fan favorite, but he’s a guy that’s been working his way back from a knee injury that has caused him to miss the entire season. Optics-wise, it would probably be a really bad look to trade away someone who has been injured. But in some cases, teams have to make difficult decisions to get better. George is having a career year, Westbrook is in his late-prime. The Thunder should absolutely be in win-now mode, and Ross makes Oklahoma City better today.
Some of the defensive contributions the Thunder counted on from Roberson can be covered in a couple of ways. First of all, with the emergence of Jerami Grant this season, the Thunder already have an athletic/long cog in their rotation willing to do some of the things for the team Roberson was willing to do. Also, to again cover-up some of the defensive contributions the Thunder lose (from trading Roberson) next season, I’ve included Wes Iwundu in this deal. If Iwundu ends up sticking in the NBA (in Oklahoma City), he’s a guy that will do so by providing the team with defensive aptitude, defensive versatility, and (of course) length.
I don’t know if the Thunder would part with Ferguson (maybe the Magic would take Hamidou Diallo instead); I don’t know if they would trade a currently-injured Roberson either. I’m not even sure the Magic would be willing to pay Roberson $10.7 million next season, even if it’s just for one year (contract expires in ’19-’20). But I think Ferguson would be worth it, no question.
Milwaukee receives: Terrence Ross and a future Orlando 2nd round pick
Orlando receives: Donte DiVincenzo, Jason Smith
The Milwaukee Bucks, the current owners of the best record in the NBA, are legitimate title contenders. With MVP-candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo in place as the franchise's cornerstone, alongside Bledsoe, Brogdon, Middleton, and Lopez, Milwaukee’s starting lineup is as strong as any organization's in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks also have some playoff-tested veterans on their bench in George Hill and Ersan Ilyasova.
Milwaukee is real. They’re well-coached and they’ve put themselves in a great position to make a deep run in the playoffs. But teams can always improve, and I think Terrence Ross coming off the bench in Milwaukee would be a huge improvement to their overall roster. Ross would be yet another shooter/scorer who could provide space for Antetokounmpo to work in the lane. I love the idea of Ross on the Bucks.
Similar to what I wrote above regarding Ferguson, you never know how hesitant (or willing) an organization might be to move on from a former-first round draft pick. Milwaukee drafted Villanova star guard Donte DiVincenzo in the first round of last year’s NBA Draft (17th overall selection). DiVincenzo has some serious talent, the basketball-world saw that during last year’s NCAA National Championship Game. He was an efficient shooter/scorer in college, playing in one of the few collegiate systems that mirrors an NBA style of play. The Delaware-native is comfortable with the ball in his hands making plays for both himself and his teammates. He just hasn’t received a lot of time on the floor in his rookie season (358 total minutes) to show what he can do.
DiVincenzo is a project. His body needs a lot of work; he needs to add weight (muscle, girth) in order to handle the grind of an NBA season. The Bucks are ready to compete right now, perhaps they can afford to part with a talented but very young guard who is a couple years away from being ready.
Jason Smith’s expiring contract would need to be added to the deal to make the salaries match. Smith has a trade restriction (cannot be traded in combination with another player) that expires February 6th - just in time.
If the Bucks balk on including DiVincenzo, then maybe the Magic would ask for Thon Maker (ducks). It doesn’t change the money in the deal much, and we know John Hammond already drafted Maker before (while serving as Milwaukee’s GM).
Philadelphia receives: Terrence Ross, Cleveland’s ‘19 2nd round pick (owned by Orlando), and/or Oklahoma City’s ‘20 1st round pick (Top-20 protected)
Orlando receives: Markelle Fultz
I’m not crazy about this one, pretty skeptical in fact. This deal is for the fans, and deservedly so. I know a lot of Magic fans are out there suffering, roaming the wastelands of NBA twitter just looking for something to be hopeful about. A good amount of them want Fultz.
So yeah, I’ll take us down this rabbit-hole together.
I highly doubt that Philadelphia is ready to cut-bait on Fultz right now. His value couldn’t possibly be lower; he’s living in Anthony Bennett territory as a former first overall pick. Trading Fultz less than two years after trading-up to select him would be swallowing a massive amount of crow. The team is already good without him, I think they wait to see in Year 3 if he can figure it out.
I also don’t really know what to think of Fultz at the moment (as a prospect). I do a lot of writing from March through June, the time of year leading up to the NBA Draft. I cannot tell you how excited I was about Fultz as an NBA prospect. I didn’t see his tenure in Philadelphia going anything like this for Fultz, no one did.
While constructing this hypothetical deal (mind you - doubting this is feasible all the while), I kept asking myself: Do the Magic have enough to pry Fultz away from Philadelphia, even with his stock so low?
On the court, Ross would help Philadelphia significantly this season. The Sixth-Man of the Year candidate would help the Sixers replace some of the scoring/shooting they lost when Marco Belinelli signed with San Antonio. Landry Shamet has been one of the better rookie finds in this season’s class. Believe or not, Shamet has actually played the fourth most minutes on the roster for Philadelphia this year. Shamet is a prototypical floor-spacer, but he’s also a rookie. Everything tightens up in the playoffs, and acquiring a proven wing-scorer like Ross would solidify some of Philadelphia's outside shooting concerns on their roster.
For me, to make an offer for Fultz even close to worthwhile for the Sixers, the Magic are going to have to overpay. I know that sounds strange, why overpay for a player who has achieved very little in the NBA up to this point. Basically, you are overpaying the Sixers to pressure the organization into “getting over” Fultz faster.
Orlando owns Cleveland’s second round pick this season. The pick will assuredly be either the first or second pick in the second round. A top-33 pick in this year’s draft, to go along with possibly a future protected pick (either the OKC pick, or a protected Magic pick), would certainly sweeten the pot.
Still don’t think it happens.
Charlotte receives: Terrence Ross, ‘20 Oklahoma City protected (top-20) 1st round pick
Orlando receives: Malik Monk, Frank Kaminsky
Someone has to win the Southeast Division, right?
I didn’t originally consider the Charlotte Hornets as a team that would trade for Ross because I don’t consider them to be a franchise that’s going to make a bunch of noise in the playoffs this season. Right now, they’re barely hanging on to their dwindling playoff hopes as it is.
But with Atlanta suffering through a miserable season, Orlando fading fast, and Washington barely treading water, the division is very much Charlotte’s for the taking. Even after a maddeningly inconsistent year thus far, the Hornets (and Heat) are in a position to win the Southeast.
I think it’s unlikely, but if Michael Jordan decides to pull the trigger at the deadline to bring in some more help for Kemba Walker, then second-year guard Malik Monk could be the player the Hornets use as the bait.
In Ross, the Hornets would be trading for a veteran that could provide the team with shooting/scoring off the bench, or could even start in the back-court opposite Walker. Ross would bring stability to Charlotte’s inconsistent wing rotation of Jeremy Lamb and Nicolas Batum.
I seriously doubt that the Hornets would give up on the former 10th overall pick in the ‘18 draft to acquire a veteran with an expiring contract. But stranger things have happened. There have been rumors for weeks that Charlotte would part with Monk and Frank Kaminsky if it meant acquiring a “second star”. Ross isn’t the superstar they are seeking, but he would make the team better. Ross would help Charlotte win the division, perhaps even win the franchise a playoff game or two. Anything the Hornets can do to increase their chances of bringing Walker back next season they should look into.
Kaminsky is out of the Hornets rotation, but his salary is included in this proposed deal to make the money match. Of course, Clifford coached Monk (and Kaminsky) last season, so there’s some familiarity already there between the two. The Magic would get two years to assess Monk (on his rookie deal) before deciding if he should be part of their long-term future (similar timeline to Fournier and Harris when they were acquired by the Magic).
Spurs receive: Terrence Ross, Jonathon Simmons, Khem Birch, Orlando future 1st round pick
Magic receive: Lonnie Walker IV, Pau Gasol
I think this deal is probably the least likely to occur of the five that I’ve suggested.
I just really like the idea of Ross on the Spurs. There’s the DeMar DeRozan connection (both played for years in Toronto); the Spurs are already a team comprised full of battle-tested veterans (Aldridge, Gay, Belinelli, Mills). But I think their wing-depth is rather thin this year behind DeRozan. All things considered, the Spurs have had a really nice season. If anything, they’ve probably overachieved, and now sit in a position to at least get into the second round of the playoffs in the Western Conference.
With Popovich at the helm, and countless veterans in place, San Antonio’s time is right now.
Are the Spurs going to make a bunch of noise in the West, well...no. I just like the roster composition, the fit, the veteran core of San Antonio’s roster for Ross.
The problem is, I had troubling pairing a young player on San Antonio's roster to the Magic coming back in a deal. Dejounte Murray is recovering from a severe knee injury, so he wouldn’t be part of a deal. I’ve always really liked Derrick White (why did the Magic pass on him in ‘17 again? Oh that’s right, the draft flattened out), but he’s coming into his own as the lead guard of the Spurs; the organization is not trading him right now with two years left on his rookie contract.
I zeroed-in on the Spurs as a landing spot for Ross because Pau Gasol’s contract is easy to pair with Ross’ contract. But again, finding the young project on the Spurs roster that San Antonio would be willing to part with was tough.
I settled with Lonnie Walker, and believe me - that’s not a settle whatsoever. Walker’s body is legit; size, length, athleticism. Walker would be a huge get for the Magic. I just don’t foresee the Spurs organization parting with their 18th overall pick from just last year.
I tried to sweeten the pot for the Spurs by including a future first round pick (to makeup for losing Walker), this at least makes the deal a bit more fair. The Spurs would also be freeing themselves of Gasol’s contract next year (expires in ‘19-’20). It’s a hefty deal (only $6.7 of the $16 million is guaranteed), but if acquiring Gasol means getting Walker, that’s a price I would gladly pay.
Simmons is just a throw-in for this proposal. However, he’s shown before that he can be mildly effective in San Antonio’s system. They could use him for depth this season, then likely waive him next year to free up more salary to work with. Including Khem Birch in this deal provides the Spurs with big man depth (since they would be losing Gasol to the Magic) in case Aldridge or Jakob Poeltl go down with an injury at some point this season.
So there you have it Magic fans, five deals that could potentially work for the organization and Terrence Ross. It’s bittersweet to think about him heating-up for another team, but he deserves to play in big games. He’s a big-time player.
Go ahead, yell at me. Tell me what I did wrong in the comments section below. Be nice, if possible. If it’s not possible, well...I understand.