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The Magic have traditionally been very active at the trading deadline over the past few years, if not in making deals, then at least in being involved in talks. Their motives this season, however, are very different than in past years.
During the 2010-11 season, Otis Smith swapped Rashard Lewis’ awful contract for Gilbert Arenas’ equally bad one, and traded Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat, Vince Carter, and a 2011 first round pick to the Suns for Earl Clark, Hedo Turkoglu, and Jason Richardson. These moves were made in an attempt to surround Dwight Howard with friends (Arenas and Richardson) and favorite former teammates (Hedo).
Last season, after Howard waived the early termination option in his contract and temporarily killed any trade talks involving him, they heavily pursued Steve Nash and Monta Ellis in a last-ditch effort to bring about a change of heart from their disgruntled superstar.
This year, the Magic are expected to be as active as ever, but for entirely different reasons. Bringing in veteran talent is no longer the goal, especially if said talent comes with a hefty price tag. Any deal Rob Hennigan makes before February 21 will be with an eye on either unloading one of the few remaining bad contracts from the Otis era, or on bringing in cheap young talent or draft picks.
Casting aside DeQuan Jones, Ish Smith, Kyle O’Quinn, and E’Twaun Moore (none of whom have much value around the league other than as salary throw-ins), the rest of Orlando’s roster has a few intriguing pieces that could draw interest around the league, although their value is undefined.
Most of the other basement dwellers around the league have at least one young player they would be very hard-pressed to deal. Anthony Davis is completely untouchable for the Pelicans (and they’re officially the Pelicans now, so mentioning their name just got a lot more fun). The Bobcats won’t part with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Kemba Walker anytime soon. The Wizards seem committed to building around John Wall and Bradley Beal. Even the Kings, for whom seemingly everyone is up for grabs with their ownership in flux, seem determined not to move DeMarcus Cousins.
The Magic don’t have anyone like that. Everyone on the roster could be moved for the right offer. Andrew Nicholson has been a revelation in his rookie season and the Magic likely won’t look to move him. But if a young, cheap piece with more potential importance to the franchise (like, say, Eric Bledsoe) came available and he was part of the asking price, Hennigan would probably make that move. Nikola Vucevic is similarly unlikely to be moved, but he isn’t untouchable by any means. Ditto Moe Harkless and Gustavo Ayon. As disappointing as Ayon has been, he’s still cheap and young enough that he’s worth holding onto unless someone offers a pick, which I doubt.
With all of that in mind, here are the rest of the pieces the Magic have for trade and their salary data, per ShamSports.
The Bad Contracts
$11.8 million in 2012-13, $12 million in 2013-14
The one thing Hedo has going for him is that his contract is only 50 percent guaranteed for next season, meaning if the Magic or a team that trades for him waives him after the season, only $6 million would stay on their books. Still, Hedo has battled injuries all year and not contributed much when he has played, so he doesn’t have a lot of value at the moment. The only way to dump his contract, in all likelihood, would be as part of the asking price to trade for one of the Nicholson/Vucevic/Harkless group of prospects. And even that is probably not worth it to Orlando.
$8.6 million in 2012-13, $8.6 million in 2013-14, $8 million in 2014-15
The final year of Nelson’s deal is only guaranteed for $2 million. He might be of some value to a team looking to trim cap space for 2014, but the Magic are trying to do that also and nobody they could get back for him would be worth taking on extra salary. Plus, E’Twaun Moore and Ish Smith are the only other point guards on the roster, and even if the Magic are tanking, the idea of playing only those two minimal-upside guys the rest of the year isn’t that appealing. I seriously doubt Jameer gets moved.
$6.7 million in 2012-13, $7.1 million in 2013-14, $7.6 million in 2014-15
Easily the most palatable of these albatross deals, as the two remaining years beyond this one on Harrington’s deal are only 50 percent guaranteed. By himself, he has no value, but he could be a throw-in depending on what they decide to do with J.J. Redick (whom I’ll get to in a minute).
$6.4 million in 2012-13, $6.4 million in 2013-14, $6.6 million in 2014-15
The most egregious bit of Otis Smith’s overspending in the last two years of trying to placate Dwight was jettisoning the cheaper and better Brandon Bass for this monstrosity of a Big Baby contract. Davis has been awful lately and his starting minutes are cutting into Nicholson’s development. If a team was willing to take his contract off Hennigan’s hands in return for being able to take Redick or Arron Afflalo for nothing, he would have to seriously consider it. That’s how much he’d like to get rid of Big Baby. But who’s taking him?
The Value Veterans
$7.75 million in 2012-13, $7.75 million in 2013-14, $7.75 million in 2014-15, $7.9 million in 2015-16
Afflalo’s on a pretty good contract: he’s only 27, a solid player, and deadly from three-point range when he actually decides to shoot from the corners. Plus, the final year of his deal is a player option. He’s absolutely the kind of player who could help a contender and one that’s worth giving up a first-round pick for.
$6.2 million in 2012-13
Redick’s expiring contract is easily the most attractive trade piece the Magic have. He’s having a career year and there’s no shortage of playoff teams who would love to add him. He’d be a perfect fit on the Grizzlies or Nuggets, both of whom need another shooter badly. Denver could offer a decent package of expirings like Timofey Mozgov and Corey Brewer, and they also own the Knicks’ 2014 and 2016 first round picks from the Carmelo Anthony trade. The Grizzlies are, more or less, out of the trade market this spring after getting under the luxury tax by dumping Marreese Speights and Wayne Ellington to the Cavs earlier this week. Besides, Rudy Gay and his massive contract make absolutely no sense for the Magic’s rebuilding timeline.
Here’s an idea: The Pacers are likely looking to move Danny Granger once he returns from his knee injury, given Paul George’s emergence as an All-Star. Redick’s health, price, and floor-spacing ability are a better fit alongside George, either as a starter or as a sixth man.
Indiana would have to take back Harrington’s contract to make the money work (or throw in Gerald Green or D.J. Augustin if Hedo is involved instead), and Orlando might have to include one of the several picks they own from another team in the Howard trade.
It’s not a can’t-miss, but there’s some upside: Granger’s health this season is irrelevant since the Magic are gunning for ping-pong balls. He’s scheduled to make $14 million next season in the final year of his contract. The 2014 cap space Hennigan has painstakingly preserved would not be affected (and if anything, unloading Harrington’s partially guaranteed deal would increase their available money), and Granger would give them a very good two-way veteran wing in the meantime to play alongside Afflalo, Nicholson, and Vucevic.
It’s the same idea as hypothetically trading for Gay, but Granger’s contract doesn’t mess them up when they most need the flexibility in two years.
$3.1 million in 2012-13
No real value on his own, but a decent-sized expiring deal to throw into a trade if needed to make the money match up.
The Magic also have two sizable trade exceptions at their disposal, although it’s more likely they’d use them this summer than at the deadline. They have a $4.3 million exception that they got from the Hornets, in addition to Ayon, in this summer’s Ryan Anderson trade. That exception expires on July 11 and could be used early in the free-agency period to make an unbalanced trade to add some young talent if the opportunity presents itself.
They also hold a $17.8 million trade exception from the Lakers in the Howard trade. This exception doesn’t expire until August 12 and with a dollar amount like that, the kind of contract they can absorb from another team is almost limitless. Like the Anderson exception, it’s more likely they’ll take advantage of this one in July than February since adding salary for this season isn’t really the priority.
Whatever Hennigan decides to do, it will be interesting to see whether he opts simply to dump salary or looks to bring in talent or picks. Redick is the player most likely to be traded, but don’t put it past him to flip Afflalo if the opportunity arises either. If he can unload Harrington, Turkoglu, or Big Baby somewhere along the way, so much the better.