So, I’m trying something new.
I’ve done progress reports galore in the past for OPP, I’ve profiled half of the guys that have come into the league in the last three years over the summer (before the draft). I usually explore some possible trade scenarios leading up to the deadline (I actually predicted that the Magic would in fact trade for Fultz before it happened).
However, I’ve been looking for a different way to communicate with readers; something that was new for me. I think I’ve found it with this “Four Corners” piece, a series that I hope to continue as the season progresses (if it’s well received that is). I promise, this article will not be the equivalent of the pre-shot-clock era stalling offense Dean Smith made famous at North Carolina like the name implies. So please, tell me in the comments section below if this is something that you enjoyed!
If you missed my first edition of “Four Corners” from the end of January, you can read it here.
Today’s piece is focused entirely on the upcoming NBA Trade Deadline (Thursday, 3:00 PM EST). Would Orlando be willing to part with their first round pick in next year’s draft? What’s up with the Aaron Gordon rumors? Who would I target if I were the general manager of the Magic? Read on and find out...
1) Orlando should be willing to part with their 2020 first round pick
This may be an unpopular opinion, and I will admit - I don’t usually advocate for middling teams to mortgage away their future.
But I’m coming at this idea from a few different angles. First of all, the ‘20 draft class is regarded by many draft experts as one of the weaker and more frustrating classes in some time. Coming up with a consistent top-ten grouping of prospects in this class is strenuous enough, let alone projecting who could be available in the middle of the first round.
I’m just not sure how valuable Orlando’s pick will be. I think when you market a first round pick in February, that asset is usually considered a valuable one by most organizations. Yet with this class, that could be a pick that depreciates the closer we move to the end of June. Perhaps a team would be interested now?
Secondly, the Magic still hold the draft rights to Chuma Okeke, who presumably will be healthy and ready to play next season. The versatile forward will be effectively filling the role of Orlando’s “rookie draft pick” in ‘20. I’m at least a little skeptical that the Magic brass would want to develop another young player on a roster that already includes Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac, and Mohamed Bamba.
And lastly, I think Orlando should at least consider dealing their first round pick now because it’s probably the best thing they can offer at the deadline (outside of a young core piece of course, and I think we all are on the same page there - Fultz, Isaac, and Bamba are off the table). Look, I’m not advocating that they should be actively selling the pick to the first buyer. All I’m saying is that moving the pick should at least be entertained if it’s the difference between making a transaction with another team the Magic are really enthused about or not.
Deviating from the makeup of the current roster, by trading an Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, or Nikola Vucevic, is not really what I’m talking about here. The team may ultimately opt to go down a path like that, who knows. But if Jeff Weltman and John Hammond are just looking to add a piece or two to the rotation (without making a major move to change the overall team roster), then including their 2020 first round pick may be the best way to go about it.
What else do they have to offer a team? End of the bench fringe-NBA players on minimum contracts? Those kind of bargaining chips aren’t going to move the needle.
2) I’d like to report a crime, I’ve witnessed theft
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the Orlando Magic acquiring point guard Markelle Fultz from the Philadelphia 76ers.
The official deal between Orlando and Philadelphia, made moments before the league’s mandated 3:00 PM deadline, involved the Magic sending out swing-man Jonathon Simmons, a 2020 protected first round pick (Oklahoma City), and a 2019 second round pick to the Sixers in exchange for the former number one overall pick (‘17 NBA Draft).
Simmons appeared in 15 regular season games for Philadelphia (14.6 MPG, 5.5 PTS, 45% FG%), and logged reserve minutes in seven playoff games as well (7.4 MPG, 3.6 PTS, 33% FG%). The 30 year-old Houston native is not on an NBA roster this season.
The ‘19 second round pick Orlando sent to Philadelphia (Cleveland’s pick, 33rd overall) proved to be useful for the Sixers. Philadelphia drafted Carsen Edwards, and then packaged the lead guard in a deal with the Boston Celtics in order to acquire Matisse Thybulle.
The ‘20 pick that Orlando acquired from Philadelphia in a draft-day trade back in 2017 is Oklahoma City’s top-20 protected selection. The Magic sent this pick back to the Sixers for Fultz, and it’s unclear whether the pick will be conveyed this season or not (depending upon how the Thunder finish).
Meanwhile, Fultz has taken firm control of Orlando's starting point guard role, already playing in a career high games (and minutes) through 49 contests this season. The 21 year-old Washington, D.C. native is averaging 11.7 points, 4.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.3 steals for the Magic this year.
“Change of scenery probably does all of us good sometimes,’’ Weltman said in a press conference after the team acquired Fultz last February. “He’s been through a lot. He was the No. 1 pick so there’s that (pressure) associated with what he’s going through. I think that hitting that re-set button of coming to an organization that will put him in the best possible position to succeed, we’re hoping that’s the first step in getting him where he needs to be.”
Weltman and Hammond were willing to gamble on Fultz last year when seemingly very few other executives around the league were open to doing so. They likely found Orlando’s franchise point-guard in the process, and looking back, they gave up very little to nothing in return for him.
Regardless of what happens over the next few days, what moves the team does or doesn’t make, this deadline steal from a year ago should not be forgotten.
3) The Magic don’t have to trade Aaron Gordon (despite what some in the national media may think)
Kevin O’Connor, an NBA staff writer at The Ringer, has been more than open for the last month or so about his desire to see Magic forward Aaron Gordon on another team.
He believes there’s “more to Gordon’s game that the Magic haven’t been able to get out (of him)”.
Aaron Gordon has shades of Blake Griffin and Draymond Green in his game with explosiveness and passing vision. But he's rarely been used as a pick-and-roll screener. Does Gordon need a change of scenery?— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) January 31, 2020
Watch below then read my new article on @ringer: https://t.co/4QzFVUSaCP pic.twitter.com/VNQXVfuCEI
O’Connor thinks the Magic have been using Gordon all wrong. He thinks Gordon is best suited to play in high pick-and-roll situations and should be utilized more as a screener (opposed to a perimeter shot-creator). I can’t say I disagree with anything there.
It’s no secret that Gordon has been moved out of position for a large amount of the minutes he’s played in Orlando, often sharing the floor with ‘bigs’ such as Serge Ibaka, Jonathan Isaac, Khem Birch, and of course Nikola Vucevic. A Gordon/Vucevic pairing works; the problem is, when the Magic have another big forward on the floor at the same time, Orlando’s spacing, driving/cutting lanes, and overall offensive balance is hindered.
It’s nice to know that Gordon is still valued by many around the league. If Magic executives did want to balance their roster a bit more around Fultz, Isaac, and Bamba, perhaps with a young wing shooter/scorer, I certainly couldn’t blame them for trading Gordon to do so. I just don’t think the Magic have to trade Gordon right now. You always listen to offers, sure. But if there’s not one out there that blows you away by Thursday, keep moving along.
Gordon’s contract, which declines every season over the next two years, is extremely team-friendly. The Magic can continue to look for deals involving Gordon that work for the organization over the summer and through next season. I’m thinking his contract will become a border-line bargain by the fourth-year ($16,4 million in 2021-22).
In the meantime, Orlando’s coaching staff should be making a more concerted effort to utilize Gordon has a screener and high pick-and-roll guy, especially with Isaac likely out for the year. And like I’ve said for two seasons, the Magic need to push the ball more in transition - whenever possible.
I also think Gordon and Isaac can coexist long-term. There’s not a lot of variation in Coach Clifford’s system between small and big forwards. I believe you can mix-and-match Gordon and Isaac’s skill sets. Gordon should be the “power forward” on offense, while Isaac should be cutting off the ball and spacing the floor from the corners. Both players can defend either forward position(s).
If Gordon is moved, I get it (but the deal would have to blow me away if I were Weltman). However, If/when Gordon does figure it out, I’d much rather it happen while he’s still wearing a Magic uniform.
4) Players the Magic should be targeting to improve their depth
No blockbusters here. Like I’ve previously mentioned, it’s difficult to predict what Orlando’s management group will choose to do over the course of the next couple of days, so I’m not going to bother cooking-up elaborate deals involving core pieces of Orlando’s roster (however you want to interpret “core”: starters, young players on rookie-scale deals, etc.).
What I am monitoring is the availability of players on lottery-bound teams who could feasibly help the Magic with some of their depth concerns. Namely, I’m considering “wing” players (shooting guards/small forwards that would allow Gordon to play power forward exclusively for the rest of the year) and big forwards (to provide depth in the wake of the Isaac/Aminu injuries) who could provide the team with additional shooting and/or scoring.
I believe the following players a) fit that profile, b) should be available, and c) will not cost the Magic much in return:
Jabari Parker, Atlanta Hawks
It’s hard to believe that Parker, who seems to have been around the league for a long time already, is still only 24 years-old. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Parker’s game, but he can score the basketball (which is why he’s mentioned here). I wouldn’t be trading for Parker to turn him into a primary piece of Orlando’s puzzle this season, but he’s a guy who could potentially win you a game or two on any given night coming off the bench.
Mind you, Parker is recovering from a shoulder injury that has caused him to miss Atlanta’s last 16 games. But he has been cleared by team doctors to participate in non-contact drills, and he’s expected to be back on the floor in the next couple of weeks. Remember, Hammond drafted Parker second overall when he was the general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks in 2014.
Parker is set to make $6.5 million in ‘20-’21, but he also holds a player option for next season. Acquiring the Chicago-native could prove beneficial for all parties. Orlando gets an offensive boost, Parker is able to showcase himself to the rest of the league with the intention of possibly opting out this summer.
Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks, Golden State Warriors
I think either of these two veterans are acquirable for Orlando. They would both provide scoring help, outside shooting, and depth on the wing.
Burks, who averages 16.1 points per game (29 MPG, 37.5% 3PT%), is a big-bodied veteran guard capable of playing alongside either Fourneir or Terrence Ross. The ninth-year guard is on a veteran-minimum expiring contract, workable in any kind of deal.
Robinson III, who averages 12.9 points per game, has started every game for the Warriors this season (48% FG%, 40% 3PT%). The Michigan product has played for five teams in six NBA seasons (career 37.6% 3PT%). He’s making $1.8 million this season and owns a player option for next season ($2.0 million).
Reggie Bullock, Damyean Dotson, and Allonzo Trier, New York Knicks
If you’re noticing a trend, I’m primarily focused on players who can contribute on one-side of the ball. I think these three players can score the basketball, and honestly - who doesn’t deserve a ticket out of New York at the moment?
Bullock (28 years-old - $4.0 million this season, $4.2 million next season - partially guaranteed) is a 38.7% career three-point specialist. More than half of his attempts from the field come from beyond the arc. After missing New York’s first 33 games of the season, Bullock has started 14 of the team’s last 15 games. Are they showcasing him?
Dotson, now in his third NBA season, is a career 36.0% three-point shooter who takes half of his attempts from long-range. The 25 year-old swing-man has played both the shooting guard and small forward positions for the lowly Knicks. He started 40 games last season and is currently playing on an expiring contract ($1.6 million).
After playing 22.8 minutes per game as a rookie last season, Trier (24) has found himself out of New York’s rotation. The young shooting guard takes a lot of bad shots, and he doesn’t have the most sterling reputation as a dialed-in defender either. But his 39.4% mark from beyond the arc (3.3 3PTA’s per/36) last season was not too shabby at all. I don’t know about Trier’s maturity, but to me he seems like a perfect buy-low candidate who could thrive with a more stable organization. Is Orlando that organization, I don’t know? Depends on what the Magic would have to give up, but I would roll the dice on Trier.
Jordan McRae, Washington Wizards
McRae is more of a combo-guard, but he can score the basketball - something that the Magic need regardless of position. The former Tennessee Volunteer is averaging 4.5 assists per/36 minutes this season (18.5% assist percentage), not bad for a wing. McRae could theoretically provide the Magic with some lead guard depth (as an alternative option to Carter-Williams some nights) while also playing some shooting guard (36.4% career three-point shooter, 38% this season).
Markieff Morris, Detroit Pistons
Morris (30) is a veteran that could provide the Magic with some much-needed toughness. He spaces the floor well (39.3% 3PT% this season) and plays adequate enough defense (above-average really).
The Kansas product, now in his ninth NBA season, has played in 24 career playoff games (19 starts). He’s making $3.2 million this season, and he owns a player option for the ‘20-’21 season ($3.3 million, will likely opt-out).
You can follow Aaron Goldstone on Twitter @AaronGoldstone