Orlando Magic Rumors: Elfrid Payton and Mario Hezonja on trading block ahead of deadline

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 13: Mario Hezonja
SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 13: Mario Hezonja /

With the trade deadline less than 24 hours away, the Orlando Magic are said to be willing to trade almost anyone on their roster. But two names stand out in particular.

The Orlando Magic are shopping Elfrid Payton and Mario Hezonja hard ahead of tomorrow’s trade deadline, according to Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports.

The pair were always set to be likely trade candidates. Elfrid Payton has struggled to find consistency in Central Florida since a strong rookie season. He has perhaps been Orlando’s worst backcourt defender this season.

In addition, even as he has upped his 3-point percentage to 37.9 percent, he is still a streaky and unreliable threat from distance. Opposing defenses are more than happy to leave him open.

Whether the Magic can find a deal for him is a bigger mystery. Everyone likely has the same conclusion about Payton after four years in the league. It is just a matter of what the Magic are willing to accept in return for him.

But there appears to be some interest.

Marc Berman of the New York Post reported the New York Knicks were interested in acquiring Payton, as an athletic, defensive point guard. Former Orlando executive Scott Perry, who helped make the decision to trade for Payton on Draft Night 2015, is now the general manager for the Knicks.

He reportedly wants to bring in Payton.

The framework for a deal is much harder to figure out. Especially after Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL in Tuesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

According to Berman, though, one permutation of the deal had the Magic and Knicks swapping disappointing big men Bismack Biyombo and Joakim Noah. To do that deal, the Knicks would likely have to add a future first-round pick. Joakim Noah’s contract is quite possibly worse than Bismack Biyombo’s deal.

In any case, the Magic and Knicks may have engaged in initial talks. The interest is there.

Despite his struggles, one area Payton has excelled this season is in terms of his pure, raw numbers. He is averaging a career-high 13.0 points, along with 6.3 assists and 1.5 steals, on shooting splits of .458/.373/.632. This comes despite Elfrid Payton playing a career-low 28.6 minutes per night, even occasionally losing his starting spot to D.J. Augustin.

Payton is set to head into restricted free agency this summer. But at just 23 years old, and with good raw numbers, a team may be willing to give him a fresh start in a new environment.

Trading Mario Hezonja will likely be far more difficult for Orlando.

The Magic did not pick up his fourth-year team option, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Unless a team feels he can make an immediate impact for them, it is unlikely they will want to give anything up since he could walk for nothing in the summer.

The fan favorite has done wonders to rejuvenate his NBA career this season after a disappointing first two years in the league.

In 12 games as a starter, Hezonja is averaging 14.6 points and 5.2 rebounds. He is shooting 49.6 percent shooting and 41.5 percent from deep. But no matter how well he plays, the Magic’s mistake in not picking up his team option — something worth doing even if you do not want to retain a player long-term — will make Hezonja difficult to move at the deadline.

The Orlando Magic will be an interesting team to watch at the trade deadline. They could move a couple of players or none at all.

Next: Rumors: Tight trade market making deals hard to find

But in all likelihood, 2018 could possibly be the final season for both Payton and Hezonja in Orlando.