Anyone that follows the Orlando Magic - even casually - understands where the organization currently rests at the moment.
With developing their abundant collection of young players being the primary focus of the front office and entire coaching staff, the Orlando Magic should be primed to have a relatively busy NBA Trade Deadline this coming February 10th. At 9-40, the Orlando Magic own the worst record in the NBA (or lead the race to grab top lottery odds at season’s end, depending on how you look at things). What that means is, at least over the next 14 days or so, that competing teams around the league will be checking-in with the Magic to gauge their interest in moving players that don’t project to be a part of the organization’s long-term plans.
Buyers looking to add some help to their rotation(s) down the stretch and into the 2022 NBA Playoffs could do a lot worse than potentially acquiring one of Orlando’s veteran players prior to next Thursday. And according to multiple reports, the Magic may even be open to adding an undesirable contract in the right deal this deadline, depending on the asset (or two) they could acquire in the trade.
Orlando is not expected to be a team heavily involved in free agency this summer. The organization may appear to possess some financial flexibility moving forward, but the timing doesn’t seem to be right to chase top tier free agents (not to mention, free agency is a two-way street - and who voluntarily is looking to sign-up for a rebuild?). So conditions seem ripe for the Magic to take on some ‘bad’ salary in a deal this deadline, even if the acquired player’s deal stretches into next season (I wouldn’t be crazy about contracts that extend beyond 2023), if acquiring teams are willing to part with a future first round pick.
Netting a first round pick this deadline seems like a big ask (remember what the Magic got for Evan Fournier last year). But you never know if you don’t ask, and again - I’m confident Orlando will be in contact with a multitude of teams in the coming days.
Over the next two weeks, Orlando Pinstriped Post will be putting out a series of Trade Deadline pieces priming potential deals, outlooks, assets, etc.
I begin this series with Terrence Ross because I think he is the most likely Magic player to be dealt by the deadline. I realize that opinion may be something many Magic fans choose not to want to hear. A staple of Orlando’s rotation over the last six seasons, Ross has played nearly 8,000 minutes, scored over 4,000 points, and has made over 600 three-point field goals while wearing pinstripes. Orlando made back-to-back playoff appearances in the Eastern Conference from 2018-2020, breaking a six-year postseason drought, and Ross played an integral role in helping achieve those bids.
But the fact of the matter is, regardless of how beloved “The Human Torch” may be in Central Florida, the Magic currently hold the worst record in the NBA. Management has clearly shifted their focus towards the future, and at nearly 31 years-old – Ross likely doesn’t factor into those plans. This is what teams out of contention do at the deadline, they shop their veteran players to playoff-bound teams in an attempt to flip them for a future asset or two.
And I think Ross is Orlando’s most marketable asset at this year’s deadline because he’s the type of player that is regularly targeted (and valued) by any/all contending teams. Who doesn’t need another veteran wing (with prior playoff experience) who can shoot/score the basketball? A player like Ross can ‘get hot’ on any given night and drag a team to a playoff win, potentially creating an advantage or difference in an entire series. And teams know this.
Even in a somewhat down year shooting the basketball, Ross has managed to score 18 or more points off Orlando’s bench ten times, twice exceeding 30 points in a game (both occasions since January 1st). The 10-year veteran wing has played in 41 career playoff games (881 minutes played, 21.5 minutes per game).
Ross has this season and next year left on his current deal (2021-22: $12.5M, 2022-23: $11.5M), but I still think his contract will prove easier to move by February 10th than the Harris contract. Furthermore, an acquiring team would be getting a rotational piece at a decent price for next season if they were to trade for Orlando’s sixth-man as well.
I realize that moving Ross will officially bring to a close the previous era of Magic basketball (Fournier, Vucevic, Gordon, Ross), but it’s a trade that likely needs to happen nonetheless.
Five Ross trades that I could potentially see happening...
Cleveland receives: Terrence Ross, E’Twaun Moore, 2022 Orlando 2nd round pick
Orlando receives: Ricky Rubio, 2022 Cleveland 1st round pick (protected)
After losing starting guard Collin Sexton to a meniscus tear in his left knee back in November, Cleveland has been scrambling to shore up more depth in their backcourt. To make matters worse, veteran guard Rubio went down with an ACL injury in late December. The Cavs currently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, with teams like Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Toronto, New York, Washington, and Boston lurking not too far behind.
Acquiring Ross would add some much-needed offensive firepower to Cleveland’s rotation. If they were to hold onto their current position in the Eastern Conference (or close to it), the first-round pick coming back to Orlando in this potential deal would only be in the late teens (or early 20’s). To sweeten the deal a bit for Cleveland, I added Orlando’s own second round pick (which is essentially a late first, likely to fall in the 31-33 range). Moore would need to be included in this deal to make the money work, which helps Orlando free up a roster spot for the remainder of the season (to get a look at a younger player). Of course, Rubio is out for the season, but his current deal expires at the end of this season anyway. He would be a potential ‘waive’ candidate in this hypothetical, essentially opening yet another roster spot.
It remains to be seen if Orlando can ultimately get a first-round pick for Ross. I seriously have my doubts, but I don’t think a deal like this would be too much of a reach (Cleveland fans probably disagree). Adding protections to the pick on Cleveland’s end could help ease their hesitations with this kind of deal (should they plummet in the standings in the second half of the season).
Toronto receives: Terrence Ross, Michael Carter-Williams
Orlando receives: Goran Dragic, 2022 Toronto 1st round pick (protected)
There’s a little bit of nostalgia connected to this deal, as Ross began his career playing his first five seasons with the Toronto Raptors. And Weltman served various roles within Toronto’s front office (including general manager) from 2013 through 2017, coinciding with most of the time Ross spent north of the border. Ross was traded to Orlando in February of 2017 (by Weltman) for big man Serge Ibaka, one of the last Magic transactions involving then general manager Rob Hennigan before he was dismissed later that year. Ross played 363 games (23.3 minutes per game) with Toronto from 2012-17, averaging 9.5 points on 37.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
The Raptors currently sit eighth in the Eastern Conference standings, so it’s not exactly a sure thing that their front office would be open to making a deal like this. Including a future first round pick in a deal for Ross could be viewed as too costly of an asset to give up for a deal that potentially improves their team only slightly. It truly is an interesting position to currently be in, behind the fifth-seed Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference by only two games in the loss column, but also ahead of the eleventh-seeded New York Knicks by only two games. Who knows what Raptors president Masai Ujiri has an appetite for as far as improving his team at the deadline. But what we do know is that Ujiri and Weltman know each other extremely well, so communication on either of their ends shouldn’t be a problem.
On the surface, Ross could provide this current Raptors team with some proven scoring punch off their bench and additional depth in the backcourt behind Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr.. Dragic has only played in five games for Toronto this season, so he wouldn’t be missed (he is only included in this deal to make the salaries match). Orlando would likely waive the 14th-year veteran in this kind of move, allowing him to latch on to a contending team down the stretch of this current season (his deal is expiring in ‘22). If/when Carter-Williams comes back this season from his ankle injury, he could theoretically serve as an end of the bench veteran for the Raptors in postseason play as well (his contract expires at the end of the season). Like I mentioned above, I’m not entirely convinced that Orlando can fetch a first round pick for Ross, but that’s where they are probably beginning conversations surrounding the veteran wing.
Chicago receives: Terrence Ross
Orlando receives: Derrick Jones Jr. and a future first round pick
I played around with this deal, and there is an opportunity to expand it some, perhaps by including Robin Lopez heading to Chicago (and adding Troy Brown Jr., or a similar type expiring contract). The Bulls likely wouldn’t mind some additional depth at the center position behind former Magic All-Star Nikola Vucevic and fifth-year big Tony Bradley.
But for now - to keep things simple - it’s Ross for Jones Jr. and a pick. Jones Jr. is currently out with a deep knee bruise, and his current contract expires this upcoming summer. So the prize in this potential deal for the Magic would be another future pick coming their way via Chicago. Of course, I say another pick because the Bulls sent Orlando their first round pick this past draft (Frank Wagner, and thank you), and they still owe the Magic another first round pick in 2023 - all part of the Vucevic deal. Considering Chicago owes San Antonio their first round pick two years following when the likely ‘23 pick conveys to the Magic, we could potentially be talking about a pick a half decade into the future (or more).
Chicago also owns a future Portland lottery-protected first round pick that could potentially be in play here (lottery protected through 2028), if they were interested in acquiring Ross that is.
The Bulls, who currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference standings, have floundered considerably in January, losing six of eight games from January 9th through January 21st. Chicago is trying to tread water while Zach LaVine (knee) and Lonzo Ball (knee) recover from their respective recent injuries. Coby White, Alex Caruso (now out with a broken right wrist), and rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu are doing an admirable job trying to hold down the fort, but Orlando’s sixth-man would be a much welcomed boon to their rotation.
Chicago ranks 23rd in the NBA in three-point makes (30th in three-point attempts). Ross could be a huge addition to their perimeter attack as the Bulls try to make some noise in the postseason. Not to mention, it would be a happy reunion for Ross with two former teammates - DeMar DeRozan and Vucevic.
Boston receives: Terrence Ross
Orlando receives: Future draft compensation
It goes without saying that this season has not gone according to plans for the Boston Celtics. Currently sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference standings (24-24), the Celtics have a ways to go if they want to get back into the conversation regarding upper-echelon teams in the East. Boston, who ranks 21st in the league in offensive rating, could potentially benefit from acquiring a veteran such as Ross - who would represent an immediate upgrade to their wing rotation. Ranking in the bottom third of the league in both scoring and three-point percentage, the Celtics lack a bench scorer who’s as accomplished as Orlando’s sixth man, capable of winning a game for a team on any given night.
I had originally crafted a deal surrounding Juancho Hernangomez and one of Boston’s young wing prospects (Aaron Nesmith or Romeo Langford) for Ross. However, the Celtics traded Hernangomez last week in a three-team trade that brought Bol Bol and P.J. Dozier back to Boston.
Still, this deal is technically possible without the matching salary on Boston’s end, because of the $17.1 million dollar trade exception the team created when former Magic wing Evan Fournier was traded from the Celtics to the New York Knicks this past offseason. It should be noted, I think a deal like this is highly unlikely because I doubt Boston would want to stomach sinking further into the luxury tax this season (just to acquire Ross). He could/would potentially be helpful, both this season and next. But would the ‘ends justify the means’ taking on Ross at such a lofty cost (adding to Boston’s tax situation)?
As far as compensation coming back to Orlando, Boston owns all of their own first round picks moving forward.
Los Angeles Lakers receive: Terrence Ross
Orlando receives: Talen Horton-Tucker, salary-filler
Los Angeles’ interest in Ross has been reported dating all the way back to last season. Recent rumblings have resurfaced this week, with long-time NBA insider Marc Stein reporting that “some teams regard Ross as a natural target for the Lakers (and the Utah Jazz)”. At an even .500 record on the season (24-24), the ninth-seeded Lakers could use just the kind of shot in the arm Ross would provide their second unit with. Scoring hasn’t been a problem in L.A., on the defensive end is where the Lakers really need to make improvements.
Any potential deal for Ross on L.A.’s end would surely have to include third-year forward Talen Horton-Tucker coming back to Orlando (or sent to a third-team). Horton-Tucker is playing on the first of a new three-year deal he signed with Los Angeles this past off-season, due to make roughly $22 million dollars past this season. The future money owed probably wouldn’t be an issue for Orlando in this kind of deal, but it’s unclear if the Magic would be interested in Horton-Tucker (21) as an additional piece to the young core they’ve already pieced together (just in general).
The Iowa State product has shown flashes over the past three seasons with the Lakers, but he’s never been able to enjoy sustained consistent success for long periods of time (career 43.9% FG%, 26.9 3PT%, 9.2 PTS, 2.8 REB, 2.6 AST in 21.7 minutes per game). Interestingly enough, it was the Orlando Magic who originally drafted Horton-Tucker in 2019 (46th overall, second round), before trading him to the Lakers for a future second round pick and cash. Would the same front office actually trade for him less than three years later?
Aaron Goldstone has been writing for Orlando Pinstriped Post since 2017. You can follow him in Twitter at @AaronGoldstone.