The Orlando Magic have quite the trade deadline conundrum.
They are 3.5 games behind the Miami Heat for the eighth spot in the East. They are 3.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the fifth worst record in the league.
To buy, or not to buy, that is the question.
If the Magic front office is truly hellbent on making the playoffs, there are areas of need the Magic could address at the deadline (point guard depth, perimeter shooting). If Jeff Weltman and John Hammond decide that the Magic are better off as sellers than buyers, they have valuable commodities they could dangle in front of contending teams interested in a potential rental.
If I were Magic GM, I’d be in all-out sell mode, and that includes All-Star Nikola Vucevic if something of long-term value came back in return. If I were a betting man, I’d wager on the Magic remaining somewhere between very quiet and silent at the deadline.
They’ll likely attempt to make the playoffs with what they have (with hope of closing the gap thanks in part to owning one of the league’s easiest remaining schedules), and deal with their free agents and flaws come summer.
Nevertheless, here is one man’s opinion on admittedly random odds of each member of the Magic being traded before Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline. We did this last season too, with Evan Fournier getting best odds and Elfrid Payton, who ultimately was traded, coming in at 8-1 odds.
Let’s see who takes top honors this season...
Jonathan Isaac: 100 to 1 odds
More so than Aaron Gordon, who was drafted years prior to him, or Mo Bamba, who was drafted the year after him, Jonathan Isaac seems the most secure player of the Magic’s young core. He’s under team control for another two seasons, he is currently in the midst of his best stretch of his young career, having scored in double-figures in four straight games for the first time (12.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.3 blocks in that span). Most importantly, he is healthy, having played in every game since mid-November.
Timofey Mozgov’s contract: 95 to 1
The only way Timofey Mozgov is moved is if it is to make salaries match in a mega multi-player deal or for an exchange of a similarly awful contract, similar to how he came to Orlando for Bismack Biyombo. He’s due $16.72 million next season. His locker at Amway Center will not be emptied this season.
Jerian Grant, Isaiah Briscoe: 80 to 1
I just don’t see there being any market for Jerian Grant, a point guard shooting 39.2 percent from the field who was recently demoted to third-string on a team that has such a severe lack of depth at the position. As for Isaiah Briscoe, he’s produced a better offensive rating than the veteran Grant, and he has a non-guaranteed contract, but there is little incentive for the Magic to move him and again, probably not much of a market with teams who, you know, have actual NBA-caliber point guards.
Mo Bamba: 75 to 1
Had it not been for the stress fracture in his leg, Mo Bamba’s odds would have been slightly higher. The likelihood of Bamba being included in any trade talks is tied directly to Nikola Vucevic’s future with the Magic (more on that later). Bamba, per 36 minutes, is averaging 13.7 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. Not horrible for a 20-year-old without an NBA-ready body. Bamba’s rookie season may very well be over, possibly removing him from any potential trade talks. It may seem strange that the Magic would even consider dealing a player they just selected with the sixth overall pick a few short months ago, but...
Khem Birch, Wesley Iwundu, Jarell Martin: 50 to 1
All could fill a specific need for a contender, and all are in the final year of their deals.
Evan Fournier: 45 to 1
It’s not good when the only contract on the team more immovable than yours is Timofey Mozgov’s. But that is the case for Evan Fournier, who is owed $17 million a season through 2020-2021. Fournier is shooting 42.9 percent from the field, his worst percentage during his five seasons in Orlando, and a career-low 33.9 percent from three. With those percentages, the list of teams willing to pay $17 million a season will be a very short one.
D.J. Augustin: 40 to 1
As a capable starting point for the Magic this season, D.J. Augustin has proved that he would be a highly valuable back-up point guard for a contender in need of a game manager on a manageable contract. But with the Magic’s offensive rating dropping about 10 points per 100 possessions when Augustin is off the court, they had better be getting a starting-caliber point guard from somewhere in return.
Aaron Gordon: 30 to 1
When dissecting Aaron Gordon’s trade value, the media always highlight how attractive Gordon’s descending contract is to potential trade partners. They also seem to regularly point out how misused he is in Orlando with the Magic’s endless turnover at head coach, frontcourt logjam and lack of shooters. Zach Lowe of ESPN seems to be the leader of the “Free Aaron Gordon” fan club. The Ringer proposed Gordon for CJ McCollum straight up. Gordon is in no way untouchable, but in the wake of Orlando’s Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris trades, it would probably take a lot for the Magic to ship him out of town.
Nikola Vucevic: 25 to 1
Imagine you just bought a brand new car. You drive it home, and all of a sudden your old car is looking and running better than it ever has before. Better than your new car possibly ever will. This is the conundrum the Magic face with Nikola Vucevic (old car) and Mo Bamba (new car). Entering the season, with Bamba expected to be the successor to the unrestricted-free-agent-to-be Vucevic, Vooch would have had the best odds to be traded during the season. But Vucevic’s All-Star season, and now Bamba’s injury, have created more questions than answers for the future of the center position in Orlando. The first of those that will be answered is whether or not the Magic will trade Vooch instead of potentially losing him for nothing. If the Magic’s goal is to make the playoffs, trading your best player for what will be a quarter of his value makes little sense. And it’s unlikely the Magic would be so willing to watch their first All-Star since 2012 representing another team on All-Star Weekend. Unless they can get a first-round pick haul similar to what the Clippers just received for Tobias Harris, the return the Magic would receive likely won’t be enough to sway the Magic front office. Next question will be whether or not the Magic will re-sign the 28-year-old Vucevic, given their commitment to Bamba. Replacing 20.6 points and 11.9 rebounds per game isn’t so easy to do.
Jonathon Simmons: 15 to 1
After a mostly successful debut season with Orlando last year, Jonathon Simmons has been a disappointment in year two. There was an odd stretch where he went from receiving DNPs to becoming the back-up point guard by default. His traditional numbers (albeit in nine fewer minutes per game) are all down, and they are down drastically: from 13.9 points per game to 6.9, 3.5 rebounds to 2.4, 2.5 assists to 2.3, 46.5 field goal percentage to 36.4 percent, 33.8 percent from three to 22.9 percent. Simmons could be attractive to a contender in need of a perimeter defender and player who can create off the dribble (as long as they don’t mind turnovers). Simmons’ contract is also easily moveable with only $1 million of his $5.7 million guaranteed.
Terrence Ross: 10 to 1
Many Magic fans want Orlando to keep Terrence Ross:
TERRENCE ROSS LIFETIME CONTRACT ALERT— Be Magic Or Be Gone! (@BeORLMagic) January 14, 2019
He’s in the midst of a career year, averaging a personal-best 14.4 points per game and connecting on 37.7 percent of his 6.3 three-point attempts a game. But, as we all know, he is in the final year of a contract that is paying him $10.5 million this season. A 3-and-D specialist like Ross is highly valued in the NBA, and Ross could command a deal in the offseason that the Magic would not be willing to commit to. Having just turned 28 years old on Tuesday, Ross on a three or four year deal could still fit in timing wise with the Magic rebuild. Will the Magic be willing to make a financial commitment of that magnitude? If not, it’s time to start making/taking phone calls for T-Ross before it’s too late. Our Aaron Goldstone already provided some Terrence Ross trade proposals.