Even with limited cap flexibility in free agency, the Orlando Magic could have (and still may) make a trade to improve their roster.
Yahoo’s Chris Haynes reported there were conversations held between the Orlando Magic and the Houston Rockets on a swap centered around Aaron Gordon and Russell Westbrook, but substantial talks never materialized.
After Westbrook publicly demanded a trade, the Magic were rumored to be on the shortlist of teams with an interest.
The problem with a Westbrook-to-Orlando trade is the salary. The remaining three years on his current contract are due on a backloaded scale, ballooning to a $47 million payment for the 2023 season.
Given the Magic’s current constraints with their own salary obligations, a healthy number of sizeable contracts would have to be sent to Houston for the trade to meet the obligations of the collective bargaining agreement.
Losing Aaron Gordon; along with either Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, or Markelle Fultz at a minimum; an additional player for matching salary; and some form of draft compensation the Rockets would likely request, makes the trade unpalatable for Orlando.
If you sign Westbrook, with little flexibility to surround him with additional talent in the process, what is your team’s ceiling?
The other deal that seemed to have the Magic attached to it was one that was similar to a lot of the other deals swung throughout the offseason.
The Portland Trail Blazers reportedly targeted Aaron Gordon before settling on Robert Covington, offering Trevor Ariza’s expiring contract, the 16th overall pick and a lottery-protected 2021 pick.
Whether that was a real offer or not, Magic fans uniformly rejected the deal as the Magic reportedly did. Orlando was clearly not looking to be a dumping ground for expiring contracts and draft picks. The team still believes it can make the playoffs and wanted some quality player in return for one of its starters.
Other trades centered around Gordon are still possible, but the market is drying up quickly. The longer the delay, and the more likely a deal does not materialize this offseason.
A trade centered around Vucevic is also a possibility, but there does not appear to be sufficient demand across the league or a desire from the Magic to deal him quite yet. His style of play does not fit the rosters of the NBA’s top-tier teams, those willing to pay a premium in hopes of competing for a championship.