Orlando Magic Free Agency: Five targets for the mid-level exception

Milwaukee Bucks guard Wesley Matthews is a proven veteran who can give the Orlando Magic a needed 3-and-D presence. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Milwaukee Bucks guard Wesley Matthews is a proven veteran who can give the Orlando Magic a needed 3-and-D presence. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /
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Aron Baynes, Phoenix Suns
Aron Baynes has built a reputation as a grinder and physical center who can step out and shoot. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Boosting the Post: Aron Baynes

There is a growing current that the Orlando Magic will have to trade one of their biggest stars — either Nikola Vucevic or Aaron Gordon — to make any significant move. It is seemingly unlikely the Magic will get equal value.

Part of the calculus for the Magic will be having to plan and figure out which players will remain and which players are ready to step up into bigger roles with the time now arriving.

Especially when it comes to trading Vucevic. It is hard to see the team acquiring another star-caliber center. The question is finding a role player that could replace the starter minutes while still giving Mohamed Bamba the time to develop in a less pressured role. At least until he is ready.

A stop-gap center would become a priority if the Magic traded Vucevic in any capacity. So the team would have to be on the lookout for someone who can fill minutes and start as the team transitions away.

If the Magic trade Nikola Vucevic, Aron Baynes should be the team’s top target.

Baynes had a strong season for the Phoenix Suns last year, averaging 11.5 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game. He made 35.1-percent of his 3-pointers. More than that, his physicality stands out. He is not afraid to mix things up, even if his rebound rate was fairly poor for a starting-caliber center.

Baynes is a solid shooter for a center. But those are still largely shots that defenses will allow. He made only 34.7-percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-pointers and still left open fairly frequently — on 30.5-percent of his 3-point attempts according to Basketball Index.

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  • If the Magic are looking for 3-point shooting centers, they have one in Mohamed Bamba and another in Nikola Vucevic or could find perhaps a cheaper option in Meyers Leonard, although he probably would not be able to hold down the starting center spot.

    Still, Baynes is a really good pick and roll player, creating a positive impact on both rolls and pops according to Basketball Index — +0.25 points per 75 possessions above the league average overall (+0.23 on rolls and +0.18 on pops). That marks better than Vucevic with Vucevic’s pop rating slightly higher.

    Baynes is more willing to mix it up in the paint than Vucevic is even if he is not as proficient a shooter or scorer.

    Baynes can deter players in the paint but his impact in protecting the rim is slightly negative — Vucevic rates better in this category.

    There is a lot worse the Magic could do if they decided to move on from Vucevic. Baynes could fill the role even if he does not provide the same kind of offense or rebounding.

    More importantly for the Magic’s consideration, Aron Baynes was a solid starter for the Suns during DeAndre Ayton’s 25-game suspension to start the season. Before Christmas, Baynes averaged 13.0 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting 37.6-percent from three in those 21 games.

    Herein lies part of the problem. He started in 15 of those 21 games and missed nine games with an injury. Baynes missed 15 games in January and February too. He ended up sitting out the resumption of the season, missing Phoenix’s stirring 8-0 run, because of a positive coronavirus diagnosis.

    Durability is certainly a concern with Baynes. The Magic would only be acquiring him if they felt like he could share the starting role with Bamba. The plan would certainly be that they expected Bamba to take over the starting role at some point during the season.

    The Magic signing any free agent center would be with in consideration that Bamba would be ready this season.