Orlando Magic are beginning a rebuild with sell off of Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon

The Orlando Magic acquired Wendell Carter Jr. as the first piece in what seems like a longer rebuild for the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic acquired Wendell Carter Jr. as the first piece in what seems like a longer rebuild for the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

Nikola Vucevic is no longer on the Orlando Magic. Evan Fournier is no longer on the Orlando Magic. Aaron Gordon is no longer on the Orlando Magic.

The remnants of Rob Hennigan’s initial rebuild with the team appear set to be washed away. By the time the trade deadline passes at 3 p.m. on Thursday, the team will belong wholly to Jeff Weltman.

This is the rebuild everyone seemed to believe the Magic needed to make two years ago when Weltman arrived to revamp the woeful Magic. The team made a quick and surprising detour to the playoffs during the last two years.

Orlando always seemed like a victim of their own success. The team maximized its assets under coach Steve Clifford to make one last run at the playoffs. But when the team did not take its next step in 2020 and then bottomed out thanks to injury this year, the Magic were right back where they started three years ago.

And the decision then seemed to be to start a rebuild. And that was the decision now.

The Orlando Magic are poised to begin a prolonged rebuild after selling off their core trio of Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier in one fell swoop before the trade deadline.

The Magic opened up what is sure to be a busy trade deadline day by trading Nikola Vucevic and Al-Farouq Aminu to the Chicago Bulls for Wendell Carter, Otto Porter and two first-round picks (reportedly a top-4 protected pick in 2021 and a lightly protected pick in 2023).

The Magic did not get a star or a player on track for stardom. Essentially they picked up a player on a rookie deal who has struggled to find his footing in the league through several different coaches, an expiring contract and two first-round picks (likely the real prize of this deal) for their two-time All-Star center.

Orlando went further, trading Evan Fournier to the Boston Celtics for two second-round picks and a $17-million trade exception.

UPDATE: According to The Athletic, the Magic will acquire Jeff Teague, although the team has said he does not have to report and he will be waived.

They then completed the trinity, trading Aaron Gordon and Gary Clark to the Denver Nuggets for Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton and a future first-round pick (reportedly set for 2025).

Orlando traded away the core the team had built itself upon for the last seven years in one fell swoop, netting back nothing but future assets.

None of these moves are aimed at improving the team this year or even next year. These moves are aimed at resetting the franchise and its goals. This is about starting new.

The team’s new core is Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz and their upcoming draft pick in 2021 which surely looks like it will be in the top-five now (do not expect a whole lot of wins the rest of the season). Nothing else matters.

Orlando gets some interesting players in return. But none of them are set to make a huge immediate impact.

Harris is the highest-profile of these. But he is averaging only 9.7 points per game, the lowest since his rookie season, while shooting a career-worst 32.0-percent from beyond the arc.

At his peak, he averaged 17.5 points per game and shot 39.6-percent from beyond the arc in 2018.

But he has appeared in only 19 games this season. He has played in 60 games or more just twice in his career. And he has been out since Feb. 17 with a left thigh strain. He has played in only one game since Jan. 31.

Harris has one year left on his contract and becomes a free agent in 2022.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Carter is the next most notable player returning. But he comes with significant baggage too.

Carter is averaging 10.9 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game in just 24.8 minutes per game. Those are about his career averages through three seasons. The forward selected one spot after Mohamed Bamba in the 2018 Draft has struggled to find his footing in the league too.

Carter has cut a reputation as a strong defender but struggles to defend traditional centers in the post. Even players like Nikola Vucevic took advantage of him down low. Carter’s versatility on the perimeter is valuable but it still seems like an imperfect fit.

Carter has had issues feeling confident offensively. He famously struggled to shoot and was even reticent to fire. A change of scenery seemed necessary for him. Like Nikola Vucevic, perhaps Steve Clifford can restore his confidence and use his versatility from the post spot.

Porter provides a solid veteran backing. He may become the Magic’s leading scorer for the rest of the season. But he is also averaging just 9.9 points per game. He is a career 40.4-percent 3-point shooter. So at least the Magic added some shooting.

But Porter too has dealt with injuries, playing in only 25 games so far this season. He has played in the last nine games after a prolonged absence.

Porter’s contract expires at the end of the season. He will not fetch the same $28.5-million salary.

The Magic also picked up a rookie in Hampton, who is averaging just 2.6 points per game in 9.3 minutes per game as he has learned the league. He was considered a potential pick for the Magic in last year’s draft.

For this year’s roster then, Orlando is getting a lot of question marks.

They added two oft-injured shooters (one of whom might not play this season and the other might not be a long-term option for the team). It is likely the Magic are planning to play for ping pong balls the rest of the season as they wait for Isaac and Fultz to get healthy next season.

That is what this is all about.

But even then, it is hard to say what the Magic’s future actually looks like. What is the plan now? What are the Magic trying to do? Who are the Magic trying to be?

That might get answered better after the Magic make their selection in the 2021 draft. A lot of their eggs are placed in winning the Lottery now. Because what is left of the magic’s roster is not particularly strong, especially considering the schedule the Magic have yet to face.

Next. Frustration won the season for the Orlando Magic. dark

The only thing that is clear now is the Magic have hit the reset button. And the rebuild is just beginning.