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Since the season ended for the Orlando Magic in the middle of April, there has been a lot of talk about Arron Afflalo’s future with the team. The 28-year-old was stuck in limbo, putting up big numbers in the prime of his career for a franchise that is in the midst of a major rebuild in the aftermath of Dwight Howard’s departure.
The timing couldn’t have been better for the Magic, either. Following a year in which Afflalo flirted with an All-Star appearance, posting career-high averages across the board, his trade value was as high as it has ever been. Not only that, his contract was an easy sell — $7.5 million per season over two more years (the last being a player option) for one of the better two-guards in the Association.
After weeks of rumors, the Magic finally found a suitor for Afflalo in the hours leading up to the 2014 NBA Draft. According to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, they have agreed to send him back to his old stomping grounds, Denver, for Evan Fournier and the 56th pick in the 2014 draft (which turned out to be Devyn Marble).
For the Magic, the biggest takeaway from the trade is cap relief. By parting ways with Afflalo, they now have less than $35 million committed to their roster for the 2014-15 season, and that can be trimmed down further if they decline the options on Kyle O’Quinn, Doron Lamb, Jason Maxiell and Jameer Nelson’s contract.
As a result, they have the room — potentially $28.7 million worth — to bring on a big contract this offseason, whether that be in the form of a free agent or a trade with a team that is looking to dump a big salary. The hope in the latter case would be that the Magic would receive some sort of compensation for a one-year rental, preferably in the form of draft picks.
The move also frees up room for the franchise to re-sign Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris, both of whom are up for qualifying options next offseason.
As for Fournier, he is still a young player at 21 years of age, and word is that the Magic have had their eye on him since 2012, per the Orlando Sentinel.
While he still has a lot to prove, he showed some promise in his second year in the league. In 76 games with the Denver Nuggets, he averaged 8.4 points in 19.8 minutes per game with a .533 True Shooting percentage and 10.3 PER. He provided them with a nice spark off the bench at times, and that’s a role he’ll likely continue to fulfill in Orlando.
There’s also little financial commitment to Fournier, as he is only due $1.48 million next season, and the fourth year of his contract is a team option for $2.28 million. The Magic, therefore, have the freedom of deciding whether or not to let him become a free agent or keep him around on a small contract following the 2014-15 season.
All in all, the trade is further insurance that Rob Hennigan is committed to a slow rebuild, which is what he signed up for once he parted ways with Dwight Howard back in 2012.
The issue is, however, the Magic seemingly had better offers on the table. According to ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford, the Charlotte Hornets offered Gerald Henderson — a much better two-guard than Fournier, but with a $6.0 million contract through 2015-16 (last year is a player option) — and the 24th pick for Afflalo. Not only that, there had been rumors centered around Afflalo going to the Nuggets for the 11th pick, as well as a potential package to the Cleveland Cavaliers involving the first overall. It was also rumored that the Magic and Bulls were in discussion for flipping Afflalo for draft picks, namely one of Chicago’s two first rounders in the draft.
Although there’s no telling how close those deals were to falling through, it’s an indication that the Magic didn’t get the biggest bang for their buck.
Nevertheless, at the very least, the Magic got some assets in return for Afflalo, who has made it clear that he plans to decline his player option and test free agency next summer. Seeing as the Magic probably wouldn’t have re-signed him to an extension– they’re still a few years away from being true competitors in the Eastern Conference, years that extend beyond Afflalo’s prime — there’s value in parting ways with him now and bringing in a younger, cap-friendly player, as well as another draft pick.
Although they may have sold low, this is a big summer for the Magic. They’re hoping to hit home runs with Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton in the draft, and with all the cap space they have freed up, they’re keeping their options open.