Orlando Magic have to make a choice this trade deadline

Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic represent the old guard for the Orlando Magic, keeping the team competitive while young players grow. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)
Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic represent the old guard for the Orlando Magic, keeping the team competitive while young players grow. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic have two roads to choose from during this deadline. They can either choose to give the youth the chance to lead this team.

During this rebuild, the Orlando Magic have made both good and bad decisions during the trade deadline in recent years.

Trading Tobias Harris for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova in a desperate attempt to save a sinking season put the team in a tailspin of bad decisions, ending during that summer with another ill-fated trade of future All-Stars Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis on draft night.

That decision signaled the beginning of the end of Rob Hennigan and his poor decision-making to try to make the Magic a contending team.

Last season, Jeff Weltman made a shrewd move at the deadline to add to what would become a playoff team. He traded away Jonathon Simmons and a future protected pick (not likely to convey as a first-round pick now) for Markelle Fultz. That has turned into a steal for the Magic.

Last February, with the playoff race only starting to percolate, Orlando decided to keep future free agents Terrence Ross and Nikola Vucevic past the deadline and to pay them during the summer after making the playoffs.

Now the Magic find themselves in a similar situation this season with Evan Fournier. He is likely to opt-out of this deal and become an unrestricted free agent this summer, leaving the Magic facing a question about whether to retain a key player or look to build elsewhere.

With one day before the deadline Thursday, people are questioning what Orlando should do at the deadline. The Magic have to make a decision that will impact the present and the future.

The Magic continue to go to Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic late in games and as the first options overall on offense, which makes sense since they are the best players. But, it does limit the young players and their potential. And this is still a rebuilding team.

Orlando’s future is not in these players. And so the Magic are caught between trying to win (even on a small scale) this year and building for their future. Both go hand in hand and also work against each other in many ways.

Markelle Fultz and Mo Bamba are prime examples of these limitations.

Fultz continues to show he can generate offense for this team and shows he can take over games. He achieved a career-high with 14 assists against the Charlotte Hornets. That made Fournier a secondary option off the ball which was effective.

Fultz continues to show he is the future, and should have the ball in his hands creating for others, and should get more opportunities to create. The Magic have to find a way to keep him involved in the offense in a central way.

As they do other young players.

Mohamed Bamba has had a strong past few weeks and is starting to show consistent play and flashes of what he can become for this team.

In his last outing, he scored 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and blocked two shots. He made five of his six shots and hit both of his 3-pointers in just 11.5 minutes. Vucevic is the better player and should be playing, but Bamba deserves more minutes as he has shown he has earned more playing time. And that is a good sign of his progress.

Aaron Gordon is the mystery for the Magic. After a promising season last year, he has struggled offensively this year.

But obstacles have been in his way this year from playing through injuries, playing out of position and just being misused by Orlando to fit the current team.

Orlando should not trade Aaron Gordon as he is still a very good defender and extremely young at 24 years old. With the right fit, he can play well offensively.

Besides, the frontcourt of Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon is dangerous on the defensive end, and they have proven that they can coexist offensively.

There is very clearly a lot to build around in Orlando. The question facing the team then is how best to move the team forward and maximize those young players and their development.

All the while, the Magic want to maintain a winning environment with the playoffs as a realistic goal.

The Magic then have to decide whether they want to stand pat and rely on Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic or let the younger players take control as they did in 2007 when they let Grant Hill walk. That year, the Magic made the playoffs for the first time in two seasons but decided to trust Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson to be leaders on the team. Letting a veteran like Hill walk was a clear sign of their trust in their young core.

Are the Magic ready to trust their young core now? How best do they put them in positions to expand their games and continue growing?

Orlando has pieces to trade to build around the younger players if they decide to move on from their current veterans. They have Fournier, Vucevic and this upcoming first-round pick. They have quality veterans like D.J. Augustin and even Khem Birch whom they can dangle to improve the roster around the edges.

Orlando has two roads to choose from during this deadline and moving toward the offseason, the Magic can either choose to give the youth the chance to lead this team or they will stay with their current best players to continue this path.

Next. Orlando Magic still hunting for their pace. dark

Orlando has reached the point in their rebuild where tough decisions need to be made, and regardless of what they choose, it is a decision that will affect the team for years to come.