Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
At one point, it was pretty difficult, almost impossible, to imagine the Magic running out of the tunnel without Dwight Howard. Now, just months after his departure, things have normalized, at least in a sense, in Orlando.
While the few veterans left on the roster continue to chip away at what was supposed to be an agonizing season, players like Andrew Nicholson, Nikola Vucevic, and Maurice Harkless have become familiar, if not by now household names.
Maybe now, while we still have our wits in tact, we should get used to the idea that J.J. Redick, a man who has never in his professional career worn a jersey that didn’t say “Orlando” or “Magic” on it, might not be in Orlando for much longer.
Rumors have been reported, pundits have predicted, promulgated, and all but publicized the fact that J.J. Redick is probably the highest-valued trade asset on the Magic’s roster, and is in all likelihood squarely in the crosshairs of several contenders.
And why wouldn’t he be? For years, Redick has been referred to as a cerebral player, a high IQ guy, a smart defender, and obviously a great shooter. Now he’s enhanced his passing game and shown his ability to confidently get to the paint.
Put differently, Redick has expanded his skill-set, increased his production, and now you’ll need more than two hands to count the number of teams that would salivate at the prospect of having him come off their bench.
Despite platooning in and out of a starter role over the years, Redick excels off the bench, making him an extremely flexible option for any coach who might wish to use him as their sixth man. Whether he’s getting hot from deep or just running his defender into the ground while navigating around the perimeter, the speed and diligence at which Redick can play can be devastating, and his ability to get into the flow of his game off the bench is invaluable.
On offense, there is absolutely no question that Redick makes his team better. This season, when Redick is on the court, the Magic have a 104.1 Offensive Rating versus 93.9 when he is off, per NBA.com. That Orlando is 10.2 points per 100 possessions better offensively with Redick on the floor should come as no surprise.
Similarly, Redick now finds himself above the Mendoza line, so to speak, with a career-high 16.0 Player Efficiency Rating (the league average is 15), which points not only to his growth as a player in his seventh year, but also to the fact that where more responsibility is given, the more Redick will give back.
This season, not only is Redick averaging a career high 31.1 minutes per game, but his usage rate is at 21.6 percent, a mark only bested by his (inflated) second season in the NBA where he only played eight minutes per game.
Redick does not block shots and does not steal the ball often, so his defense isn’t going to show up clearly in a box score. But he grades well on Synergy, apart from defending spot-ups, and the eye test will show you the determination and hustle on the defensive end. That aspect of Redick’s game is not a secret. A graduate from Stan Van Gundy’s school of defense, Redick takes pride in his craft and it shows night in and night out.
That Redick was already considered by most a valuable asset should scare Magic fans a bit. With his increased production, off-court work ethic, and maturity in the league, it’s a safe bet that a contender is going to sweep in and make a play for the seventh year man by the trade deadline. The question right now is who and what Orlando will get in return. Instead of speculating, though, it’s best to just to come to terms with the fact that J.J. is, at the time, the most valuable piece Orlando has to work with.
The reality of Redick’s value right now, coupled with the high probability of the Magic front office continuing to blow up the roster, is probably depressing to some and by all means should be. The trade deadline is too perfect a spot for someone to come to Orlando with a nice little deal for Redick, and whoever lands him will certainly be better off for the remainder of the season and on into the postseason.
The important thing for fans is to not be too surprised if and when this trade goes down. Redick has spent his career controlling the things he can control, which are his conditioning, his scoring, his ballhandling, and his defense.
And now he has all but forced the hands of the Magic front office to deal him. For no other reason than the fact that he’s just a really valuable piece and will be wherever he ends up.