The NBA Draft is quickly approaching — LESS THAN TWO WEEKS AWAY!!!! — and that means the rumor mill machine is going to churn more and more as we get closer to the draft. They have already begun.
And when it comes to the Magic, most rumors have something to do with Arron Afflalo.
Afflalo was a near-All Star last season and his professionalism and determination seem to be well-known throughout the league. The Magic obviously value him very highly, reportedly looking for a package similar to the one they got for J.J. Redick at the trade deadline last year and holding onto Afflalo since they did not receive it. By all accounts, the Magic are in no hurry to trade Afflalo and his expiring ($7.75 million next year with a player option for 2016 — a very reasonable price for him).
The Magic value Afflalo’s leadership in the locker room with their young roster and he has done everything asked of him. He is undoubtedly playing a bit above his ability level as a primary scorer on the Magic. But as a third option in an offense or a fourth option, he would be perfect. Afflalo would fit well as a determined 3-and-D guy who can create on his own a bit when the “stars” have to sit out.
That has made Afflalo a very hot commodity as we enter one of the major trading periods in the NBA calendar — the NBA Draft.
Orlando is surely fielding offers for Afflalo and determining internally their value for him. Already sports writers from other towns have started salivating over the possibility of acquiring Afflalo to bolster their team.
The Magic are not going to simply give Afflalo away. They will want a young player much like Tobias Harris that can contribute to the team now but can also be part of the team’s future. Maybe the Magic go after a veteran to fill the void left by Afflalo’s absence. If Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders is right and the Magic want to make the playoffs this year, trading Afflalo for someone largely unproven does not make a ton of sense. And in that sense, trading Afflalo now may not make a ton of sense because his contract is not yet expiring.
But you have to keep your ears open. Here is an evaluation of what the Internet is buzzing about (note: these are all speculations and not confirmation of any rumors):
Intriguing Assets: 9th overall pick, Gerald Henderson ($12m/2 Yrs.), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ($19.6m/3 Yrs.), Cody Zeller ($20.6m/4 Yrs.)
The Hornets have long been after Afflalo it seems. Charlotte is right on the cusp of putting together something decently special after sneaking into the Playoffs this year and signing Al Jefferson in the summer. This is a good young bunch that seems finally ready to compete for the Playoffs and be a player in the Eastern Conference.
Championship quality? Probably not. And Arron Afflalo does not seem to get them there.
Inevitably, any pick the Hornets make at this point is going to need some time to develop. Charlotte is looking to continue climbing. Afflalo would certainly help.
There have been a lot of connections between the Hornets and Afflalo for sometime. Coach Steve Clifford reportedly loves Afflalo and Charlotte wants to win now and is hunting for veterans to help lead their young core to that promised land (again).
As you can see above though, the Hornets may not have the assets or the kind of promising young players the Magic would be willing to trade Afflalo for. They certainly do not have the veterans the Magic would like — I doubt they move to re-acquire Josh McRoberts.
The No. 9 pick sounds great in theory, but as Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders notes, the Magic do not seem to value the No. 9 pick that highly. Certainly not enough to give up both the No. 12 pick and Afflalo. The reality is that there may not be a ton of difference between 9 and 12 — we are talking about Nik Stauskas or Doug McDermott or Rodney Hood. The Magic may very well like their position at 12.
It really might depend on how the Magic view Gerald Henderson and whether they want to deal with his restricted free agency. Afflalo seems like a better value as a player. A deal seems very unlikely with the Hornets without a third team.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Intriguing Assets: No. 21 and 29 overall picks, Jeremy Lamb ($5.2m/2 Yrs), Reggie Jackson ($2.2m/1 Yr.), Perry Jones ($3.2m/2 Yrs.)
The Thunder are another team that have come up in the interested in Arron Afflalo conversations. It is mostly media conjecturing at this point. As you can see, unless the Magic want to take on the final year of Kendrick Perkins’ contract ($9.4 million next year). That is likely what it would take to get one of the more interesting young prospects on Oklahoma City’s roster.
The idea of Afflalo to the Thunder has been brought up by fans in the past and it was given even more credence when Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman answered a fan question in Oklahoma City about adding Afflalo (h/t Andrew Melnick of Fansided)
I think he would fit in just fine. And, remember, there are 18 1/2 shots freed up by the departure of Fisher and likely departures of Sefolosha and Butler. Of course, some of those will go to Jackson and some to Lamb. But Afflalo can get 10 or so shots a game, supply solid defense and be satisfied being a part of a championship team.
No doubt, the Thunder would benefit from getting a player like Afflalo. They need a third scorer from the perimeter, particularly one who would not mind coming off the bench. Afflalo could fill that role and provide a nice boost for the Thunder. There just is not a whole lot to offer the Magic except for the three players above nearing the end of their rookie contracts.
Lamb and Jackson are interesting and the Magic would likely favor Jackson more. But the Thunder do not appear ready to part with him. Lamb would be their preference and he does not appear to be the level of asset the Magic would be waiting to pull the trigger on. Oklahoma City really does not have a whole lot more to sweeten the pot either.
Interesting Assets: Picks 16 and 19, Carlos Boozer ($16.8m/1 Yr.), Taj Gibson ($25.5m/3 Yrs.), Mike Dunleavy ($3.3M/1 Yr.), Tony Snell ($5.4M/3 Yrs.), Jimmy Butler ($2.0m/1 Yr.)
Of all the teams connected to Afflalo at this point, the Bulls might be the most realistic. They likely will not pull the trigger for Afflalo until they determine whether they can actually acquire Carmelo Anthony or until they figure out exactly how to clear the cap room to do so. Whether the Magic want to help them do that is another question entirely. But at least one Bulls blogger likes the idea.
Chicago has the most interesting assets to offer the Magic.
Carlos Boozer seems like a prime amnesty candidate, but he has just one year left on his deal. If, as Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders intimated, the Magic are hoping to make the Playoffs this year, Boozer might be a solid addition to the lineup that will bring some balance to the lineup — assuming the Magic take wings with their draft picks — and some veteran experience. And then, of course, he comes off the books and allows the Magic some cap space to go after a big-name free agent in 2015. One of the Bulls’ draft picks could be used to sweeten the pot.
Taj Gibson would also fit that bill as a younger player the Magic could develop into an every night starter. The Bulls are hoping to do that though and it seems unlikely they would part with him or Jimmy Butler. That is, unless it gets them Carmelo Anthony. That seems to be everything the Bulls’ plans hinge on.
So what does this tell us?
The Magic will have to lower their asking price a bit to move Afflalo. That probably will not happen at this point. The Magic do not mind having Afflalo on the roster and there is not a ton of motivation to move him just for the sake of moving him. Whatever they do has to be part of the larger plan and make the team better.
Again, pieces of that larger plan get answered for fans when we see what players the team goes for in the Draft. Certainly whoever gets selected at Pick No. 4 will be a major part of the team in the future.
Afflalo, whatever the Magic decide to do with him, should be too.