After starting the 2020-21 season 15-29 and recognizing a playoff berth was no longer an attainable goal, the Orlando Magic offloaded some of their established players.
Nikola Vučević was traded to the Chicago Bulls, Aaron Gordon was shipped off to Denver and Evan Fournier landed with the Boston Celtics.
In return, Orlando acquired draft capital and a myriad of promising young players, favorable hauls for a team commencing a rebuild. But what left NBA pundits puzzled was the franchise’s decision to maintain the services of Terrence Ross.
Five years after the Toronto Raptors made him a lottery pick in 2012, Ross was traded to the Magic in exchange for Serge Ibaka. And despite being a relatively positive contributor to the team for the past six seasons, many believe, including Ross himself, he is not an intrinsic part of the new era of Magic basketball.
I will preface these potential trades by saying this: I dislike theoretical NBA trades, such as this one:
Salt Lake City Tribune trade idea:— Heat Nation (@HeatNationCom) June 1, 2022
Heat get: Donovan Mitchell
Jazz get: Tyler Herro, Max Strus, Duncan
Robinson, P.J. Tucker, Omer Yurtseven, No. 27
pick in 2022 draft, 2024 first-round pick, 2027
first-round pick pic.twitter.com/9Hjr3EvsTQ
They exist simply to stir conversation and rile up fanbases (this specific trade could not happen because of the Stepien Rule). In reality, not only do negotiating front offices want equal compensation; team fit and the financial aspects of a deal are paramount.
That said, after scouting the league for potential trade partners and working the phones, here are two trades the Magic should consider prior to the start of next season.
Disclaimer: Since it is so early in the offseason, these hypothetical trades could become futile based on who Orlando pursues during the draft and free agency. That said, what these trades ultimately intend to provide is the type of players the Magic should target. And although these specific players may not move the needle much, taking a swing on either of these deals could pay dividends down the road.
Trade No. 1:
Orlando Magic Receive: Justin Holiday
Sacramento Kings Receive: Terrence Ross, 2024 second-round pick
This past season, the Sacramento Kings set a new record for the longest playoff drought in NBA history (16 seasons).
And despite moving up three spots during this year’s NBA Draft Lottery, Sacramento’s front office must feel a sense of urgency. Not only do they have a budding star in De’Aaron Fox, the ballclub also traded for two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis this past February in hopes of ending their misfortune.
With that in mind, Orlando could capitalize on the Kings’ dire situation by stealing away one of their more underappreciated role players.
Already this offseason, emphasis has been placed on Orlando to address their putrid three-point shooting from this past season. Despite ranking 13th in 3PAr, the Magic finished as the third-worst three-point shooting team in the league last year.
And while Justin Holiday is not a light-out shooter per se, he would undoubtedly be an upgrade over just about everyone on Orlando’s current roster.
This past season, Holiday was one of 18 players to take five or more catch-and-shoot threes per game and converted 36.9 percent of those shots, a higher mark than Miami’s Duncan Robinson.
In spot up situations, Holiday posted a relatively modest 50.8 effective field goal percentage. That said, where Holiday shines offensively is as a movement shooter rather than a standstill one.
During his 25 games with the Kings, Holiday ranked fourth in the league in effective field goal percentage coming off a screen (min. one possession per game).
On top of that, during his 49 contests with the Indiana Pacers, Holiday’s effective field goal percentage ranked 18th in the league in handoff situations (min. 1.5 possessions per game).
Statistics only tell part of the story though, watch his game against the Philadelphia 76ers to better understand how Holiday operates as an off-ball scorer.
Whether it be a designed inbound play, slipping screens above the break or navigating defenses in the half court, Holiday is excellent at moving without the ball and launching open threes. This past season, 59.1 percent of Holiday’s three-point attempts were either “open” or “wide open.”
For frame of reference, only Chuma Okeke posted a better percentage of open and wide open threes last year (60.5); the difference being Okeke shot just 30.7 and 32.8 percent, respectively, on those shots.
Holiday’s offensive role would certainly be limited in Orlando, but there is reason to believe he could be a valuable contributor on that end of the floor.
Defensively speaking, the best word to describe Holiday is active. Standing at 6-foot-6, Holiday’s seven-foot wingspan helps him rack up deflections and deter opponents at the rim as a help side defender.
Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley likely would not deploy Holiday as a point of attack defender, but his active hands and sturdy base allows him to guard most wings and stretch fours.
For the 2022-23 season, Holiday has a cap hit of about $6.3 million before becoming an unrestricted free agent the following offseason. So even if this experiment fails or his play begins to decline (he will be 33-years-old next season), trading for Holiday would be a low-risk, medium-reward gamble for Orlando.
Trade No. 2:
Orlando Magic Receive: Grayson Allen, Jordan Nwora
Milwaukee Bucks Receive: Terrence Ross, 2022 second-round pick (No. 32 overall)
This year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics revealed a concerning lack of perimeter shot creation from the reigning champions.
Granted, All-Star forward Khris Middleton was sidelined with an injury and Milwaukee was facing the league’s second-ranked defense. But if the Bucks wish to continue chasing titles, they will eventually need to address this issue.
Lucky for Orlando, Ross would be a tremendous trade target for a Milwaukee team that has sought after numerous veterans via trade the past two seasons. In return, Orlando would get some much needed reinforcements on the wing.
Regardless of how you feel about Grayson Allen, he was one of the league’s most efficient shooters this past season. His spot up effective field goal percentage ranked 13th in the league (min. 2.5 possessions per game) and his pull up three-point shooting percentage ranked fourth.
And while he is not the movement shooter that Holiday is, on wide open threes this past season Allen shot 43.8 percent, a mark that ranked fifth among players that took three or more per game.
Based on his shooting alone, Allen would be a great addition for the Magic. But what makes this deal even more enticing is the potential of 23-year-old Jordan Nwora.
Funnily enough, the Magic traded the pick that became Nwora during the 2020 NBA Draft. But if Orlando can pry him out of Milwaukee, he could evolve into an integral part of their rotation next year.
In 30 games during his rookie season, Nwora shot 45.2 percent from three on 2.1 attempts per game, a mark that would have ranked fourth in the league had he qualified. And while that number dipped to 34.8 percent this past season, that likely had more to do with his inconsistent role than his ability as a three-point shooter.
Offensively, where Nwora can provide value is in transition and as an occasional pick and roll ballhandler.
The former Louisville product is a threat in transition because of how quickly he gets to his favorite spots on a fastbreak. With opposing defenses already in scramble mode, accounting for a knockdown shooter like Nwora would make Orlando’s transition attack that ranked 12th in the league this year, even more difficult to contain.
And this past season, Nwora totaled 101 possessions as a pick and roll ballhandler, about 19 percent of his overall pie chart, and scored 81 points in those scenarios. While those numbers are pretty unremarkable, considering where he was as a prospect just two years ago indicates that he has expanded his offensive repertoire in that time.
On this play, Nwora calls and navigates a screen from Sandro Mamukelashvili, and the moment he sees Los Angeles’ Amir Coffey and Robert Covington executing a switch, Nwora loads up for a three. And against drop coverage, Nwora has a good enough in-between/floater game to attack opposing big men.
He is far from a perfect player, but Nwora has shown a lot of promise during the first two years of his career and could continue to hone his skills given a larger opportunity.
On top of that, Orlando’s current roster is comprised of players who were overlooked either on draft night or the first few seasons of their careers, yet another reason why Nwora could feel at home in a pinstriped uniform.
Taking a chance on Allen and Nwora would be more in tune with Orlando’s timeline, but potentially more difficult to pull off than a Holiday trade. Regardless of who or what they get in return though, trading Ross has to be high on the list of priorities for the Magic this summer.