The Orlando Magic are getting closer to the start of the 2021 NBA season. An eye is already turned toward the trade market as the team hopes to improve its standing.
There are not a lot of true scorers in the annals of Orlando Magic history.
Tracy McGrady stands above them all, joining Shaquille O’Neal as the only players in Magic history to win a scoring title. Those are the only two players to average at least 20 points per game for their entire tenure with the Magic. Steve Francis and Anfernee Hardaway clock in close at 19.4 and 19.0 points per game respectively. The next highest-scoring wing was Grant Hill, who averaged 16.4 points per game.
As much as teams try to dance around it, having a killer scorer is a key to winning a championship. And that is something the Magic have not had very much of during their franchise’s history.
That is certainly the problem facing this year’s team.
The Magic finished last season 23rd in the league in offensive rating. They have not had a top-10 offense since Dwight Howard left in 2012. And the thing that may very well have held back those Howard-led teams was a lack of offensive punch from the perimeter.
It does not appear to be on the roster. So inevitably when the trade market opens again, the Magic will likely be looking for the same thing they always have — a scorer that can truly elevate this team.
The Magic are trying to balance competing for a playoff spot and growing for the team’s future. They have both in focus.
This is still a fairly young team. A team that seems to be transitioning some to its next generation even as the team competes for a playoff spot again.
The Magic have a lot of tools in their chest. But they do not seem to have this one.
The key for the Magic in a potential trade, is to keep the young core of Mohammed Bamba, Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz and rookie Cole Anthony. So that would mean the only tradable assets would be Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier, the first and second leading scorers on last year’s roster.
If this Magic organization plans on continuing to move forward with this core of young players, they would still need a player who can consistently average somewhere between 20-25 points per game. The Magic organization has failed to find or develop a player who can put up points consistently with ease.
The main reason why there is not a bonafide scorer on the team who can average that amount is because the Magic have prioritized defense and athleticism in their draft picks instead of looking for the best scorers available.
For example, in 2014, the Magic selected Aaron Gordon fourth overall as a hyper-athletic project, passing on more accomplished scorers like Julius Randle or T.J. Warren. They missed out on players who developed into scorers like Zach LaVine and Nikola Jokic. All those players are clearly better scorers than Gordon, even Randle — he averages 16.1 points per game for his career.
And in 2015, the Magic selected Mario Hezonja instead of a scorers like Devin Booker or Myles Turner. When the Magic picked Hezonja he was billed as a potential shooter and scorer who had outside range and the ability to attack the basket. But he failed to live up to that hype.
The Magic have failed to find talent when they were picking early in the draft.
The Magic made a great selection in this year’s draft by picking Cole Anthony, a first round draft pick from North Carolina. But putting a large portion of your offensive scoring responsibilities on a rookie is not an ideal situation for a team that has made the playoffs in consecutive years.
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Current core players like Gordon, Isaac and Bamba have proven they are not capable of carrying a the lead scoring role on this team. Vucevic is still the team’s leading scorer and that does not seem set to change.
And that is the reason why a trade is necessary if this team plans on continuing to move forward up the Eastern Conference ladder.
Vucevic would be the best option to move from if the Magic want to receive a bonafide scorer via trade. He is the only real tradable asset with trade value that the Magic can move.
Not a bad trade chip to cash in, considering Vucevic was clearly the second best player on the court in the 2020 first-round playoff matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Vucevic held his own especially in the Game 1 playoff win last year as he put up 35 points, 14 rebounds and four assists, against a team that featured the two-time back-to-back NBA MVP. Regardless of Vucevic’s deficiencies on defense, every roster does not have a center with the scoring ability like Vucevic, much less one who passes at his rate. And he is the Magic’s most valuable asset in any deal.
The Magic are facing a more immediate decision with Fournier. His contract expires at the end of the season and it does not seem likely the Magic will bring him back — although that might well change.
Last year Fournier averaged 18.5 points per game 2.6 rebounds per game and 3.2 assists per game last year for the Magic. It is not likely the Magic would be able to “trade up” for him, in some way. The Magic could not find a deal this offseason to take that step forward.
When the trade market opens again, the Magic should still be on the hunt for a bonafide scorer if they can find one.
With Fultz and Anthony running the show throwing numerous alley-oops to Gordon and another scorer, it could give this Magic franchise the spark that it needs to land a superstar player in the very near future.