Having examined the Orlando Magic’s goals and trade bait in Part I, let’s look at some players that they should inquire about before the trade deadline...
A factor complicating things as we head towards the deadline is the relative lack of difference-makers available. While there are a mountain of players who would theoretically help the Magic if they were on the roster, the number of these who are legitimately available is significantly smaller. Still, let’s see who out there might make for a good fit in pinstripes.
It’s certainly no secret to say that Beasley’s season hasn’t played out how he would have hoped. Unfortunately he has barely gotten on the court for a deep Denver side, despite the scoring touch he demonstrated last season. He’s largely out of the rotation, being called on only in spot duty or as an insurance policy - a devastating blow for the pending free agent who would have been hoping to cash in.
If he were in Orlando he still potentially could. What Beasley offers is a nice fit for the Magic both now and into the future. Although he has admittedly been down this season, what he has demonstrated when given the chance is enough to suggest that he can be an effective scorer in this league. He’s proven himself to be a very good outside shooter (38.8% for his career) with above-average finishing skills at the hoop for a player of his size and style (67.3%). He doesn’t really get to the free-throw line or find teammates in scoring position, but he largely looks after the ball and has proven he can be a trusted cog in an efficient offense.
Beasley is on a small contract, counting for a shade under $3 million against the cap. This makes constructing a one-for-one deal difficult, as does the fact that the Nuggets aren’t really hurting at any one position. Still, they’ll want to bolster the deeper end of their rotation, while also securing something for a player they’re likely losing to free agency anyway. This feels like one that’s worth sniffing around.
Like Beasley, admittedly Burks isn’t the flashiest of names to put on a trade targets board. However, also like Beasley, his recent production reflects something that the Magic would like to have more of on the roster: scoring and outside shooting.
Burks is playing more this season than anyone could have reasonably expected, and he’s making the most of it. His raw averages of 16.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists make for nice reading, particularly when you add a 35.6% three-point rate to the mix. He has also been great at getting to the line, racking up 4.6 attempts per game on a free-throw rate of .364 (which would instantly rank among the best in Orlando). Additionally, he’s flashed some nice playmaking ability, assisting on 17.9% of his teammates shot attempts and limiting his turnovers (he coughs the ball up on just 9.5% of possessions). He’s had a tough time finishing at the hoop and in the mid-range, but because of his shot profile and selection he’s still posting a true shooting percentage better than anyone on the Magic bar Fournier.
Burks has a very small contract that expires at season’s end, again making one-for-one trades tricky. However, he genuinely doesn’t have a long term future in Golden State, and could even be out of the rotation entirely before the year ends. As such, one would have to imagine that the possibility of any asset in return could get some traction on a potential deal.
Okay, time for us to consider a pure point guard. Napier has had a largely underwhelming stint in Orlando before, but in the time since he’s proven himself capable of pinch-hitting when injury strikes. He’s recently been pressed into larger duty in Minnesota, but considering the current trajectory of their campaign the Wolves might be hosting a fire sale sooner rather than later. Napier doesn’t figure to be in their future core, which means he could be on the move.
This season he’s averaging 9.1 points and 4.6 assists per contest in a shade over 22 minutes of court time. Most intriguing about his numbers is the assist percentage of 30.1% that he’s currently sporting; this figure is easily a career-best mark, and he’s doing it both while shouldering a decent chunk of the team’s usage (20.1%) and while keeping his turnovers relatively constant (a rate of 18.3%). His shooting has largely been dreadful both inside the arc and from deep, although it’s worth keeping in mind that historically he’s been better; this means there’s a good chance he bounces back.
A Napier deal wouldn’t get fans pumping their fists in the street. But it would shore up the point guard rotation for the Magic, without costing too much in return. The biggest question would be what the Wolves would need to consider such a move.
The Morris Twins
Both Marcus and Markieff Morris are known quantities at this point, and it’s fair to say that what the pair of them bring to the table would definitely help the Magic right now. Both have reputations as reasonable defenders and rebounders. Both are on contracts that expire at the end of the season (Markieff has a player option, but I’d expect him to opt out). Interestingly, both are also enjoying career years in terms of shooting and scoring the ball: Marcus is averaging 19.0 points on a true shooting percentage of 58.3%, while Markieff is averaging 11.1 points on 58.4% true shooting. Both have also been lights out from behind the arc, with Markieff nailing 40.8% of his 4.2 attempts per game and Marcus an almost unfathomable 45.7% of his 5.8 attempts. Bombs away.
Neither the Knicks or the Pistons are going anywhere this season, which means that both the Morris brothers can expect to be shopped hard. One should also expect the bidding around the pair to be particularly competitive, with a number of contenders out there who would benefit from the presence of one (or both) in their rotation. It would take a lot for the Magic to get into the mix on either, but if they’re serious about giving this season a shake they’re both moves that would make sense.
Jeremy Lamb has been brutal in Indiana recently and they have Victor Oladipo (*sobs*) on the horizon, so it might make sense for them to see if they can flip him for someone either cheaper or more effective. Buying now on a player likely to bounce back would be a smart bet. Bogdan Bogdanovic is likely the odd man out in Sacramento, and would bring much needed scoring and playmaking to Orlando. It’s worth checking out what this would take. Joe Harris is a dead-eye shooter and solid role player who is apparently surplus to requirements in Brooklyn, according to Kyrie Irving. The more shooting the better. Yogi Ferrell is another combo guard with an affinity for scoring who our Aaron Goldstone has already given some consideration to. He’d be a cheap and attainable stopgap solution for the rest of this season. Jabari Parker is injured and a defensive sieve, but he can score the ball and rebound. Although his contract is reasonable any trade would still require a tough stomach, and it’s hard to see how he would fit with the Magic next year.
THE LONG SHOTS
Let’s deal with these ones relatively quickly, because the likelihood of any of them coming to pass is so small.
After Kawhi’s defection and before the start of the season it seemed like Toronto might blow it up, but they’ve been too good to now seriously consider moving Kyle Lowry; there’s more value for them in defending the title. Similarly, with Zion back and the Pelicans officially frisky there’s no way that New Orleans looks to get off Jrue Holiday. Instead, they’ll be pushing for the playoffs. Finally, the Blazers might be struggling this season amidst an unhealthy diet of Whiteside and Carmelo but there’s no indication that they’ve stopped believing in their backcourt, plus they’re only a couple of games out of the eight; McCollum is staying put.
Elsewhere there are some movable big(ish) names that remain on the market, but the chances of any of them ending up in Orlando is close enough to zero that they’re not really worth unpacking in depth. D’Angelo Russell seems destined for a short stay in the Bay, but there’s no way the Magic can land him and his max contract without completely altering the team’s DNA. I was high on Spencer Dinwiddie as a potential trade target early in the season, but his performance during Kyrie’s absence has probably quashed any chance of him leaving Brooklyn. And although it was a rumor that did the rounds earlier this season, I just don’t see Orlando’s front office deciding to gamble on DeMar DeRozan and his mid-range heavy game. Would you want to add him to a side already choked by a lack of long-distance threats?
The Wild Suggestion
Okay, bear with me for a moment. What if, instead of tinkering around the edges and dealing in low-impact moves, the Magic went wild and decided to (wait for it) …
Let’s say that the front office have reached the conclusion that the team, as currently constructed, is already butting up against their ceiling? The big contracts in place and extensions-in-waiting will essentially lock the team down, limiting the chance of any further improvement and blocking the route to meaningful contention. If that’s the case, the only way out might be a series of transactions designed to gut the core.
Could the Magic find takers for players like Vucevic, Ross and Fournier? Dallas have shown themselves to be willing spenders in the past and should now be all-in with the Doncic and Porzingis duo locked in. Would they be interested in two of the three Orlando veterans to make a run now? The Lakers have a bit of a feel-good center story going on, but could you get them to talk about some combination of Vucevic, Augustin and Ross? The Clippers might find themselves undersized in the playoffs with Harrell at the five; how would they look with Vucevic and Fournier adding their collective talents to their already deep squad? Boston still have a hole at the center position, and with the team now getting fully healthy might want a talent upgrade so as to make a serious run at the Finals. Would Vooch shift their needle?
Deals like this don’t often go down at the deadline. In fact, they don’t often go down at all. But if the Magic feel like they may have already maxed out the ability of the current side — that there’s no way the core could ever get the team to the promised land — shouldn’t they at least be exploring the possibility? A teardown would be an incredibly tough sell to a fanbase recently tortured by a prolonged rebuild. But for those hoping for genuine contention it might be a necessary one.
Unlikely things happen frequently in sports, but the hope of this team being more than first round fodder might be a bridge too far. Maybe it’s time to blow it up.
The trade deadline always generates excitement and enthusiasm within NBA fandom, promising immediate improvement for smart teams as the season careens towards the playoffs. The Magic rarely dominate headlines during this stretch, although recent years have brought positive returns such as Fultz and Ross. Only two weeks until we find out what 2020 has in store.