Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross will remain with the Orlando Magic...until the summer, at the very least.
After months of speculation and rumors, the Orlando Magic’s most sought-after unrestricted-free-agents-to-be both survived the trade deadline. Their futures in Orlando will now be decided in July when they hit the open market.
The risk, of course, is that the Magic could lose them without receiving any compensation. With the Magic sitting four games back of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and with a somewhat favorable schedule in the second half of the season, that seemed to be a risk the Magic brass was willing to take.
Ross, a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, seemed most likely to be dealt, given the circumstances. Averaging a career-best 14.4 points per game while providing instant offense off the bench for the Magic, Ross could have been a valuable 3-and-D specialist for a contending team. Ross added fuel to the trade deadline fire Thursday morning by posting this...
If you wanna read deep into the @NBA trade rumors: here’s Magic Guard Terrence Ross posting a Fresh Prince (Philadelphia) filter on Instagram.— Adam Shadoff (@FOX35Adam) February 7, 2019
76’ers Markelle Fultz has been rumored to be a target for Orlando.
Maybe this is a thing, or maybe I’m sleep deprived & up too early. pic.twitter.com/9cyvjvRqZ3
But it turned out to be Jonathon Simmons, long reported to be the player the Magic preferred to move, that headed to Philadelphia in return for point guard and former top overall pick Markelle Fultz.
New beginning for Markelle. pic.twitter.com/VpAKOdDAZ1— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 7, 2019
With Vucevic having made the All-Star team for the first time in his eight-year career, and with Mo Bamba having suffered a potential season-ending leg injury, it was unlikely the Magic would have received an offer lucrative enough to warrant trading away their best player.
So Vucevic and Ross will both take the court for the Magic on Thursday against the Timberwolves.
By not selling off some of their veteran pieces the way the Washington Wizards did, the Magic proved that they are indeed aiming for the playoffs this season and not another lottery pick. With the Wizards likely to drop from the playoff race after their mini firesale, that leaves only the Detroit Pistons standing between the Magic and eighth-seeded Heat. Orlando has one game remaining against both the Heat and Pistons (with Orlando holding a 2-1 series advantage over Miami and the Pistons owning a 2-1 lead over the Magic).
With the Magic holding on to Vucevic and Ross to remain in win-now mode, the worst case scenario would have the Magic winning enough games to just miss out on the postseason and, as a result, eliminate nearly any chance they may have of obtaining one of the top picks in the draft.
So, keeping them comes with risk in more ways than one.
The question now shifts to whether Vucevic and Ross will be part of the Magic’s long-term plans come summer. The market - and in Vucevic’s case, the health of Mo Bamba - will dictate that.
Did Orlando make the right move in holding on to Vooch and T-Ross? Join the conversation below...