Orlando Magic should be buyers, not sellers, on trade market as season continues

The Orlando Magic are trying to hold onto their season as injuries have decimated the roster. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic are trying to hold onto their season as injuries have decimated the roster. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic are officially 25-percent of the way through the regular season. Despite last night’s victory against the Charlotte Hornets, it is still clear the Magic need to make some changes.

The team is currently 8-10 and tied for 8th in the Eastern Conference. It is evident the team has lost their identity of the last two seasons. The team has not found its level as it has dealt with injury, a lack of practice time and a road-heavy first quarter of the schedule.

As it stands now, the Magic are currently posting a 110.5 defensive rating, 19th in the league. This is an unacceptable number for a team that prides itself in its defensive prowess.

On the offensive side, the numbers are even more unsettling. The Magic are 28th in the league in scoring with 105.5 points per game and are in the bottom five in assists, 3-point makes, and 3-point percentage. The team currently holds the fifth-worst offensive rating (106.0 points per 100 possessions) in the entire league and is posting a negative net rating of -4.5. That net rating is in the bottom five of the league.

All of these numbers state it simply — the Magic are underperforming.

There is, however, time to turn this around and it starts with the trade market.

Despite the recent struggles, the Orlando Magic can turn this season around with just a few acquisitions. There is a case for the team to sell off some pieces, but it’s ultimately more efficient to make a couple of small additions.

Since losing Markelle Fultz to injury on Jan. 6, the Magic have a record of 2-8. Although Cole Anthony is showing growth over the past couple of weeks, the team still needs an experienced point guard to handle some of the play-making responsibility.

A simple deal for an available guard would go a long way in kick-starting the offense and providing support of the defensive end. Any trade for a rotational player that does not involve the Magic losing one of their future first-round draft picks, is a good one.

One example of a player that fits this profile is Derrick Rose, whom the Pistons have been rumored to be shopping.

On the books for only $7.7 million this season, Rose is exactly the type of expiring contract the Magic should be looking for.

Although it is not clear what the Detroit Pistons’ goals are this season. Detroit seems to be angling for a top lottery pick this year. The Pistons might be looking for long-term prospects the Magic are not quite yet ready to part with.

Would this be a spot or a player the team would be willing to part with a player like Mohamed Bamba for? That seems unlikely on the Magic’s end.

Another option could be Lonzo Ball, who has been struggling lately for the New Orleans Pelicans. Ball, drafted the pick after Fultz, could be a good plug and play this season. Although potentially costly to acquire, he could become part of the long-term plan for the team if he performs the remainder of the season.

Ball did not sign an extension with the Pelicans last offseason, choosing to bet he could be one of the better free agents on a now weakened 2021 free-agent market. His struggles though have depressed his value some.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

In both Rose and Ball’s case, the Magic would be acquiring players who are set to become free agents this offseason. Acquiring them would also be a hint at their potential to add them to the long-term.

That part seems unclear. The Magic could also be looking to make a trade to clear some cap room and get a little further under the luxury tax.

What direction the Magic are going in the trade market will depend on how much they stay in the playoff race. But they should be looking for ways to improve the team in both the short- and long-term as they enter the trade market.

Through the next couple of weeks, more guards will be rumored to be available and the Magic should make themselves known as buyers.

Looking at the team’s current situation and roster, buying makes much more sense than selling off assets. Many Eastern Conference teams, including the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers, have over-performed expectations early on. It is likely these teams will slip back toward the mean, giving the Magic a chance to jump them in the standings.

Remember,10 teams now make the NBA postseason in each conference, with play-in games for the 7-10 seeds. If the Magic can sneak their way into the postseason, winning a play-in game does not seem out of reach.

Even more encouraging, the Magic are only one game back from the 6-seed in the East, a spot that would guarantee them a full first-round series and avoid a matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks or Brooklyn Nets.

A couple of trades could give the team a real shot at chasing the 6-seed.

On the flip side, some fans are in the camp of wishing the Magic would sell off assets and build for the future. A quick look at the current roster construction proves this would be difficult.

As we know, the team recently gave out $120 million combined in extensions to Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac. The Magic are locked into both of these players as they rehab injuries. The future of this team likely hinges on how these two look coming back from injury.

Nikola Vucevic could be an intriguing piece for another team looking for a big man, as he has been playing like an MVP candidate thus far. He is still owed more than $20-million per year through the 2023 season. The biggest difficulty in trading Vucevic would be the return.

Although he is not old by any means, the league is obsessed with youth, potential and athleticism. Unfortunately, other franchises are unlikely to shell out multiple first-round picks or assets for a player like Vucevic.

The Magic need to be firm about Vucevic — not a great return means no deal.

There is the potential to trade Aaron Gordon, who is only 25-years old and locked into a reasonable deal for his abilities. Gordon could garner a decent return, but it is unlikely it outweighs the loss of a player who has not yet reached his full potential.

And if the Magic are trying to make the playoffs, Aaron Gordon is essential to keep the team afloat with Jonathan Isaac out of the lineup.

Evan Fournier may be the easiest player for the Magic to trade, as he has an expiring $17-million dollar contract. Although it would be tough to lose Fournier as his return has made a huge difference for the team.

Next. Magic must defend Amway Center to keep hopes alive. dark

As we get closer to the trade deadline on March 25, things will become clearer around the league. As the market develops, it would be best for the Magic to stand pat and make a trade or two to gain rotational players.