The wheels of the offseason have officially been in motion for a little over 24 hours, and already they’re careening off the track. With the moratorium on trades lifted and options across the league being both activated and declined, teams are operating at light speed as they’re asked to pack what would normally play out over a month or so into the better part of a week. Add to that the annual chaos of the NBA Draft, scheduled to kick off on Wednesday evening, and you’ve got all the necessary ingredients for a transactional flurry unlike any other the league has ever seen.
Let’s take stock. Already, we’ve been Woj bombed and shaken by Shams in regards to the following names: Chris Paul, Jrue Holiday, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Eric Bledsoe, Dennis Schroder, Kelly Oubre, Ricky Rubio and Robert Covington, as well as a series of smaller names deeper down rotations. Oh, and we’ve also heard rumblings connected to stars like James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Victor Oladipo and Bradley Beal. Good grief!
For the Magic, the coming weeks present an opportunity to get in on the action and shape the future of the franchise. Rising from the doldrums of an extended period of irrelevance to secure back-to-back playoff appearances makes for a heartwarming narrative, but what it doesn’t do is make clear how the team will take the next step. With middling draft picks, limited cap space, a veteran core with a clear ceiling, and few prospects with the potential for genuine superstardom already on the roster, it’s a difficult route forward. As such, could it be that the bustling trade market is Orlando’s best option for long-term improvement?
What’s apparent is that the Magic need — at the very least — a roster realignment, if not something more closely resembling a soft reset. A look around the league reveals a number of teams that could potentially make for willing and intriguing dance partners when the push of this roster-building process comes to shove. With solid pieces that make sense for teams looking to win now, Orlando’s front office has an opportunity to extract value from players with a Floridian shelf-life and chart a new course forward.
Let’s get a feel for what might be out there should the Magic prove willing to deal.
The Warriors are in the unique position of looking to extend a dynasty window whilst simultaneously possessing incredible draft assets. The Magic, on the other hand, possess a series of above-average veterans who would be great as third or fourth options on a genuine contender whilst lacking the type of draft equity that returns the type of talent that eventually saves a franchise from irrelevancy. Could this be a match made in heaven?
As enticing as this looks from the perspective of an Orlando fan, it ever happening would seem to be long odds. Golden State figures to have a variety of options on the table should they choose to part with the second overall pick, and it’s likely that a team out there trumps what the Magic can offer. Neither the roster fit or depth of talent offered by Orlando is a home run scenario for the Dubs.
Still, permutations of a potential trade are evident even in a cursory glance. The decision to opt in could result in Evan Fournier being shipped out: with the Frenchman, Orlando’s own first-rounder, and some selection of future picks perhaps being a starting point for negotiations regarding the number two selection. Golden State’s sizable trade exception also makes possible the expansion of any prospective deal; if the Magic were willing to eat the contract of Andrew Wiggins it would theoretically allow them to offer the Warriors two selections from the triumvirate of Fournier, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic, as well as the requisite draft sweeteners.
However, it’s unclear that any of this would be enough to seriously get the gears on a deal turning towards completion. The number two pick in any draft offers both potential and promise, and so will not be given away lightly. Any hopes of Orlando finding a dance partner in the Bay probably rest with a perceived paucity of attractive options elsewhere.
The fact that, like in San Francisco, a win-now mandate is also in effect in Georgia is something that could grease the wheels of a potential transaction. Atlanta’s front office is known to be searching for veterans they can place alongside their young star, Trae Young, with the backcourt and wing — as well as shooting and defense, specifically — identified as the priorities. Given that, would Fournier and fifteen be enough for the Magic to get their hands on pick six? Might the Hawks have some interest in Terrence Ross? Outside of their lottery pick do Atlanta have anything of real interest for Orlando?
The Kings are a team oft-mentioned in trade rumors, primarily because of the fact that they have an obvious combination of positional log-jams, unhappy players, and distressed assets. One player who, to varying degrees, fits all three of those designations is Buddy Hield. While it’s not clear that he’d be a strict upgrade over Fournier, he is slightly younger, under team control for longer (on a sizable yet declining contract), and a better shooter from deep. Those are three factors that have to be enticing to the Magic’s brass.
Fournier is a natural starting point when looking at deals, but Sacramento are also a side that have long been purported to have some interest in Aaron Gordon. This again allows one to entertain ideas of a mammoth trade, stretched to include names like Harrison Barnes and Nemanja Bjelica. The main problem with such a line of thought — beyond the logistics — is that in some regards it’s more of a neutral move, replacing many of the problems with the current veteran core with an eerily similar set attached to new names and faces. The Magic must position themselves for future success, which requires more than a rearrangement of deck chairs.
The Nets look to have bigger fish to fry on the trade market, but it’s easy to peruse Brooklyn’s roster and see a lineup that would genuinely benefit from the addition of Fournier or Gordon (or even both). The problem comes in constructing a deal that is palatable for both sides. The Magic crave shooting, and neither Spencer Dinwiddie or Caris LaVert (should they even be convinced to part with him) provide enough of that to make for a comfortable pairing with Markelle Fultz and (eventually) Jonathan Isaac. Joe Harris is no longer on the Brooklyn books, and neither Taurean Prince nor Wilson Chandler are going to get Orlando to bite. Although there are pieces in play, it’s almost certain they can’t be combined in such a way to complete this puzzle.
The Blazers are another team that have been attached to AG in the trade season rumor mill for some time now, a fact that is easily understood when one considers they leaned heavily last year on a resuscitated Carmelo Anthony. Even with the recently consummated deal that’s bringing in Robert Covington, Portland remains a little thin at the forward position. Theirs is also a roster that features an obvious component that is incredibly attractive to the decision makers in Orlando: the shot creation and outside shooting of CJ McCollum. That gives us the starting point for any potential trade, right?
Such thinking is, in fact, almost certainly wrong. It’s basically impossible to envision a scenario in which Portland considers themselves improved by moving off McCollum for less than an absolute star, a designation which AG has not achieved. As such, the Magic would likely be looking at other roster components to facilitate any such trade, and those components are significantly less appealing. How do you feel about a sign-and-trade for Hassan Whiteside? What about another PF in Zach Collins? Does Anfernee Simons get you juiced up? How about Gary Trent Jr? Each of these are a far cry from the star power of McCollum, and would necessitate the building of a more complex transaction to complete.
The Aaron Gordon-related buzz continues here, with Minnesota identified as another team that apparently holds interest in Orlando’s dunking machine. However, like many of the other options on this list, none of the potential trades sound terribly appealing. It’s safe to say that the Magic aren’t prying the number one overall pick from the hands of the Timberwolves, nor is an appealing young player like Malik Beasley going to be made available. Instead, any deal would essentially be functioning as a dump with the express aim of moving on, meaning that Orlando would have to make do with a return built around someone like Evan Turner (oof) or James Johnson (double oof).
The Celtics are a team on the cusp of true championship contention, headlined by their young stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and ably supported by valuable veterans like Kemba Walker. What’s evident, though, is the fact that they still need a little more firepower, particularly in the frontcourt where they relied upon a motley collection of lesser talents. Although he might not be the best fit from a system perspective, one almost has to believe that Boston’s coaching staff would figure out how to maximize a player of Vucevic’s talents. Could Orlando’s big man be the piece that puts them over the edge?
While there’s no certain answer to that question, it’s undeniable that the outline of a trade takes shape if one looks close enough at the two rosters. Gordon Hayward is a large and relatively soon expiring contract that could be used to match salaries, with some combination of the three first round picks the Celtics currently possess the key to the return from such a transaction. There’s also the intriguing presence of Marcus Smart, who probably can’t be had in any deal but who is certainly worth asking about for an Orlando side with some obvious holes in the backcourt. This is a trading partner that has seemed to make some sense for quite some time now, but there’s no real indication that such talks have ever even got off the ground. Could that change in the coming days?
When Shams tweeted out “The Orlando” in the midst of wild speculation about the future of both James Harden and Russell Westbrook, I immediately began hyperventilating. When minutes later he corrected and clarified that the Magic had formally signed Chuma Okeke to his rookie deal, I settled back into the familiar sense of resignation that we all experience as Magic fans. Life went back to normal.
‘The Orlando’ will not be getting their hands on Harden, nor will they be accepting the dubious honor of paying Westbrook for the next 3 years. Instead, they’ll be looking to catch smaller fish. Any fish, really. Still, for a moment it was nice to dream…
The NBA offseason is always a wild time, but the 2020 version genuinely has the potential to be one for the ages. Whether Orlando is a featured star, a minor character, or a spectator watching from the sidelines, however, remains to be seen.