The Orlando Magic should target a proven scorer in offseason

The NBA is expecting a busy trade market this offseason and the Orlando Magic need to be opportunistic looking at players like Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
The NBA is expecting a busy trade market this offseason and the Orlando Magic need to be opportunistic looking at players like Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

As the Orlando Magic get closer to finishing this season, their eyes this offseason need to be on finding an established scorer to take the next step.

The Orlando Magic are almost back.

Not back as in as a NBA Finals contender, but back in the sense of returning from a hiatus from COVID-19. Even with an unfortunate outlook and the virus on the rise in Central Florida, the NBA is proceeding with its plan to return.

The Orlando Magic have eight games to finish their regular season and improve their Playoff positioning, battling with the Brooklyn Nets for the 7-seed in the conference. A small prize for sure, but one the young team wants to achieve.

This is not the final prize though. The Magic have to make the most of their remaining season. But eyes are wandering toward an uncertain future.

Orlando does not want to stay stagnant and finish seventh again. The Magic will need to take bold and ambitious moves to continue the team’s growth and climb the standings.

There is likely very little that could happen in the remaining 10 games-plus that will change president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman’s conclusions on what needs to be done.

The Magic should plan on finding a scorer than can 20 plus points per game consistently. They need someone who can create offense for himself reliably and boost the team when teh offense gets stuck. They need a player defenses must key in on to free up the other players on the roster.

Once the season ends, the Magic must improve their roster by any means necessary.

Assessing the roster

There is still a long way to go for the Magic to reach true contention. They likely would need internal development — particularly from Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz, Aaron Gordon and Mohamed Bamba — to take that leap.

Jonathan Isaac showed general improvement and elite defensive potential until an injury ended his season. Markelle Fultz and Mohamed Bamba both have shown flashes in their young careers, but they still both need time to develop and grow.

Aaron Gordon seemed poise to make a star leap, but this season has been a struggle as he dealt with injuries and changing expectations. It seemed like he unlocked a new playmaking part of his game and at 24 years old still has a lot of room to grow.

It still feels like the best path for the Magic to make significant improvement is through a trade.

The Magic likely view Isaac as untouchable on their roster. They will be hard-pressed to give up a player like Markelle Fultz and even more reluctant to trade Mohamed Bamba or Aaron Gordon (Chuma Okeke is likely in that group, but he is a mystery because of his injury).

Veteran players Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross are all vital to keeping the team competitive. But the Magic probably understand those veteran players likely put a ceiling on this team. And part of what the Magic will have to weigh is when to trust their younger players to take on more responsibility.

Evan Fournier’s free agency complicates trade thoughts. He has a player option for the 2021 season. But with the uncertainty over the 2021 season and the salary cap with it, Fournier seems likely to pick up that option and remain with the Magic in 2021. That would give Orlando another $17.5 million trade chip to use.

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But Weltman wants to keep his team competitive and in the Playoff picture. He has moved carefully with the roster, not making any splashes and looking for opportunities to improve the team on the margins as he builds up the team’s infrastructure.

Two straight Playoff berths at the bottom of the standings though suggests the team needs some tweaks to get to that next level. The question is whether they have the assets to make that kind of move.

Orlando probably knows that in order to pull off a significant trade, it will cost them Gordon. Their evaluation of Bamba will likely also prove important as he could be a sweetener in any trade. The Magic will have to carefully assess their options.

But the need to make a major splash and reform the roster in some way is evident.

Finding a scorer

The Orlando Magic have a very clear need looking at their offense.

They need a player they can rely on to score 20-plus points every night. The Magic have a fairly balanced offensive attack with lots of players who can have big games and contribute. But the lack of consistency has them near the bottom of the league in offensive rating. Shooting has been a struggle all year.

The lack of a go-to scorer is what kept the team from winning more than one game in last year’s playoff series (besides Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard). It will be the reason why they get bounced out of the first round this year.

The Playoffs are all about playmakers and players who can beat set defenses.

The Magic would probably have to cut ties with Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier to get a player who can average 20 plus points on any given night. It might even cost them Aaron Gordon to get one.

Both Vucevic and Fournier have put in seasons near that mythical 20-point-per-game mark. But neither player is viewed as a consistent enough scorer to make an impact in the Playoffs.

Now that Orlando is a Playoff-caliber team, every move the team makes should have an eye on being better for April and May (assuming that is when the Playoffs take place moving forward).

And fishing the market for a player like this is not easy.

The last Magic player to average similar numbers was Tracy McGrady. And we all know what he represented for the franchise.

McGrady became a Hall of Famer in Orlando and is perhaps the best scorer in team history. He put in some of the best individual seasons the Magic have ever seen.

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The frustration of McGrady’s four years in Orlando were not with McGrady’s scoring mastery. He carried the team to three Playoff appearances and his presence alone gave the team a chance to win those series — even as an 8-seed against the Detroit Pistons in 2003.

Grant Hill’s injury and the lack of consistent help or structure around him ultimate cost the Magic their championship window with a player who was one of the top-10 players in the league at the time.

Orlando are seemingly chasing that kind of perimeter scoring ever since.

But you have to give up something in order to land a player of that magnitude. That something would have to be Vucevic and Fournier, and maybe a pick if a team thinks their guy is worth more. And quite possibly, and more likely, Gordon.

A proven scorer with Gordon, Fultz, Bamba and Isaac would be a formidable group of young players who would demand their peers’ respect. This move would balance the Magic’s roster offensively and defensively. The Magic would be back into the top-5 Eastern Conference team conversation.

The Magic may not be able to acquire an absolute superstar like Bradley Beal. But they should be able to find quality shooters who can balance the roster and take over games when its calls for it.

That is probably what is best for the Magic at this point with where some of their young players are at developmentally.

The early trade market?

A few players who may be available are Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield or Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie.

Dinwiddie may be more realistic considering the Nets look to their future with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan protecting the rim and catching alley-oops. Dinwiddie is an excellent ball-handler who can help with point guard duties but he can also spread the floor with his 3-point shooting.

Dinwiddie is currently averaging more points per game than any player on this Magic roster. He is averaging 20.6 points per game, 6.8 assists per game and 3.5 rebounds per game. He may end up missing the seeding round games after testing positive for COVID-19.

But he is an incredibly gifted scorer and hard worker who lifted himself up from a slow start to his career. The Magic have been looking for a guy that can get you 20 points constantly from the perimeter and Dinwiddie fits that bill.

His fit with the Nets is uncertain considering their loaded backcourt. With Kyrie Irving in the lineup dominating the ball, Spencer Dinwiddie could get squeezed out some. He has largely come off the bench — with this year his first year starting more full-time with Irving in and out of the lineup.

Dinwiddie seems like a perfect candidate of a player who could use a bigger role with quality role players around him. He would add a needed scoring punch to the Magic’s balanced attack. The missing ingredient.

Buddy Hield might also be something like that too.

Hield is averaging 19.8 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game and 3.1 assists per game in 2020. He is arguably a top-five long-range three-point sniper as evidenced with him winning the last three-point contest.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Hield can create a bit off the dribble. But his real value is in his volume 3-point shooting. He made 39.5 percent from beyond the arc on 9.7 3-point field goal attempts per game.

The Kings have messed around with his minutes, playing him off the bench for chunks of this season and apparently upsetting the young guard. But Hield is the kind of player who can get hot quickly and shoot the team back into the game.

For both Dinwiddie and Hield, they come with a significant cost. Both just signed extensions that will kick in next year. So acquiring either of them will mean a long-term investment from the Magic.

It is not clear whether either will be available on the trade market. But it does seem like an offer could be made if the market develops that way.

The Magic could also look at more veteran players too.

A player like Gordon Hayward would fit if he is available with the emergence of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. A veteran player like Hayward becomes expendable when younger players start to live up to their potential. The Celtics are certainly eager to move off his salary — he has a player option worth $34.2 million for 2021 that he seems likely to pick up.

But Hayward can still play. Recovering from a catastrophic leg injury, Hayward has proven a valuable role player and scorer. He is averaging 17.3 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, 4.1 assists per game in 2020.

He would be more of a Fournier-type of player on the roster that has had a little more success creating and scoring.

The Magic have options when the trade market opens this summer. And with so few quality free agents and money to spend, it seems like teams will be open to making deals to improve their roster.

But the Magic will have to be calculated in how they approach this situation.

Being too aggressive too early can hurt the current chemistry if the organization is not careful. Overcommitting and overextending the team’s salary sheet also carries significant risk. The Magic do not want to marry themselves to a middling roster. That is the situation they want to get out of.

And Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz’s restricted free agency loom in the summer of 2021.

Next. Breaking down the Orlando Magic's seeding round schedule. dark

But the Magic definitely need a move for this team to continue to grow into what we think they can be. And that likely means staying aggressive and opportunistic to seek a true scorer and offensive threat.