NBA

The Orlando Magic are looking for scoring help in the trade market

The Orlando Magic started off the year looking like a candidate to be one of the NBA’s worst teams. They couldn’t score, couldn’t defend, and Frank Vogel couldn’t figure out a consistent rotation. However, they’ve managed to turn things around as of late with an incredibly impressive top five defense.

Not everything has gotten better though, with the offense still a complete and total tire fire. Currently, the Magic rank 28th in offensive efficiency and 29th in true shooting percentage. The Magic’s defense has become great, but their offense can’t even get off the ground. A change is necessary and, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, the Magic front office recognizes that.

“The Orlando Magic will sift through the trade market in an effort to add a scorer, a league source with knowledge of the situation told the Orlando Sentinel.”

This is a decision that feels like it should be painfully obvious to anybody that has watched the Magic this season. Their current offensive situation is not one where a rotation change here and there will fix the issues. Vogel can throw out as many different player combinations as he wants the fact of the matter is this roster doesn’t have enough offensive skill. It’s because of this that the Magic are also one of the more interesting trade partners out there right now. Nobody on their roster is off the table as far as trades are concerned. If the offer will improve the team as a whole, then it’s in the realm of possibility.

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However, just because everybody is available doesn’t mean that each player is just as likely to get traded as the other. Certain players have more trade value than others for a variety of reasons such as contract, perceived value by other teams, and ownership.

The Bigs

Right now, the most obvious group on the trading block in Orlando is their bigs. They’re stacked full of them with overlapping skill sets, and they create a minute logjam that’s counterproductive. Aaron Gordon, perhaps the Magic’s most promising prospect, has hardly played any minutes at power forward this season despite the frontcourt being where he thrived in the first two years of his career. These minutes could be opened up for him if Vogel chose to play Serge Ibaka at center, but there aren’t any minutes to spare there with both Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic on the roster. Someone in this group has to be traded to clear up minutes for everybody else.

Biyombo won’t be the player getting moved. He just signed a new four-year contract and that makes him extremely difficult to trade, because teams will not want to hitch themselves to four years on a trade for a position they can likely fill elsewhere. The two more likely to be traded are either Serge Ibaka or Nikola Vucevic. Ibaka is an expiring contract and a contending team looking to make a post All-Star break push might be willing to take a risk on a few month rental if they think it can get them over the hill. However, Magic ownership might not be too thrilled with trading away a player they just traded Victor Oladipo for. They may just be forced to try and make it work with Ibaka, and hope he re-signs this offseason.

This leaves them with Nikola Vucevic. Of everybody on the roster, nobody is more movable than Vucevic thanks to a very team friendly contract without many years left. Vucevic is a talented low post scorer with a history of very bad defense. He’s made major improvements on that end of the floor this season, but Orlando’s shooting bug has bitten him leaving him with rather poor shooting numbers. Despite this he’s still a talented player that could make a lot of teams better immediately, and with his favorable contract it wouldn’t take too much to move him. In terms of trade value, Vucevic will bring Orlando their best possible return.

The Youth

Let’s say the Magic decide to abandon the youth movement. They tried to build through the draft and so far it’s been a flop which leaves the possibilities of either blowing it all up again, or making a run at some veterans and trying to build something cohesive on the fly. This plan can work, but it has to be executed to perfection and there has to be an upside involved. Just going out and acquiring vets with no real purpose will not only create a team with a low ceiling, but it won’t lead to that many wins in the first place. What the Magic did this summer seems like an example of that scenario.

If the Magic do go this route then don’t be surprised to see Elfrid Payton show up in rumors. Payton so far has not developed on the path that Orlando was hoping from him (big game last night notwithstanding). He’s an athletic defensive-minded point guard, but his limitations on offense have left Frank Vogel to turn towards D.J. Augustin as a better option in the starting lineup and in late game situations. Payton’s jumpshot just doesn’t fall at a consistent enough rate to be trusted, and he’s a career 56 percent free throw shooter. The Magic haven’t given up on him yet, but if a young team looking to develop prospects calls Orlando it wouldn’t be surprising to see them offer up Payton.

Another potential piece for Orlando to move is Mario Hezonja. Drafted fifth overall, Orlando was hoping that Hezonja could be an offensive scorer that at worst would develop into a gunner off the bench. When he entered the NBA it was expected he would be a 3-point shooter right away but so far that skill hasn’t translated over, as he’s shooting 17 percent on 3s this season. He’s a turnstile on defense, and he doesn’t use his underrated vision as much as he should. He quickly fell out of Vogel’s rotation this season, and the few times he does enter the game hasn’t sparked a lot of excitement. Like Payton, a team that’s willing to take a risk on a prospect and try to develop him may be willing to trade a veteran, or even a draft pick, for a player like Hezonja. However, his early career struggles have likely done damage to his trade value.

There is talent on this Magic roster, and any team that’s looking to make a trade should give a feeler call to Orlando, because nobody is off the table. The Magic’s offense needs to be fixed sooner rather than later, and some of their potential pieces are currently at their highest value. Others might see their value increase as contenders across the league look for that final piece to move them up a tier. Either way, amidst all this speculation, the one thing we know for sure is the Magic are looking to add some scoring. Considering their situation right now, that is the right move, no matter who they trade.