Orlando Magic write a clean slate with trade deadline moves

Gary Harris has struggled with injuries throughout his career but he remains an excellent defender and shooter. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Harris has struggled with injuries throughout his career but he remains an excellent defender and shooter. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

The NBA trade deadline is over, and the Orlando Magic have moved on from their current era and have decided to move forward to a new one.

Moving on from Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, and Evan Fournier will hurt at the moment for everything they have done, but there is still a way forward for this team. Even if it is essentially starting from scratch.

There are going to be debates on whether or not the return they acquired is good enough. The fact is the true value of their returns will be revealed during the offseason. What the Magic do next and how they rebuild coming off these cap- and roster-clearing moves will determine their ultimate success.

The Magic are rewriting their franchise. And their next moves with the flexibility they have created in these moves will guide the team’s future.

Orlando clearly has a clean slate.

The Orlando Magic made a series of franchise-altering moves that change the team’s immediate outlook. Whether they are successful or not will be determined as the team rebuilds and develops.

The work Orlando did Thursday helped clear away many of the team’s long-term contracts and bad salary. The Magic went from a guaranteed payroll of $104.4 million in the 2022 season to $94.2 million in guaranteed salary, taking the Magic further away from the luxury tax and even below the salary cap by roughly $15 million (before counting next year’s draft picks).

The team even cushioned that fall by acquiring a $15.5 million trade exception from the Boston Celtics, a potential tool to add player sin trades for the next year if the team chooses to use it.

Orlando also took on few long-term salaries that are not otherwise on rookie deals. Wendell Carter hits restricted free agency in 2022 (after next season) and R.J. Hampton is in the first year of his rookie contract — giving the Magic a team option before the 2023 and 2024 seasons before he hits restricted free agency.

Gary Harris‘ contract is the only one that goes beyond this season and he becomes a free agent in 2022 (and is owed $20.9 million next season).

After spending the last three years bumping up against the salary cap, the Magic suddenly gained some cap flexibility. These deals on a long-term perspective worked to clear the Magic’s cap sheet. Beyond the 2022 season, Orlando has only Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz ono non-rookie contracts.

On the court, the Magic acquired some interesting players in Gary Harris and Wendell Carter who could develop into solid role players and grow with the team.

Both of these players have had their struggles for various reasons such as injuries or coaching situations, but both have shown flashes.

Harris is averaging 9.7 points per game in just 19 appearances this year as he has dealt with a thigh injury. Harris scored 17.5 points per game in the 2018 season and shot 39.6-percent from beyond the arc.

Since then, though he has dealt with various leg and core injuries that have slowed him down and kept him off the floor. He has played more than 60 games just twice in his seven-year career. He has built a reputation though as a solid 3-and-D option when he was healthy before these recent injuries.

Similarly, Carter started his career off strong as a potential defensive anchor for the Bulls but has struggled to stay on the floor and build off that strong start.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

He is averaging 10.9 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game in 24.8 minutes per game. Carter has built a reputation as a solid defender but he has struggled to put all the pieces together to be a consistent option.

As a young player, there is still some playmaking potential (2.2 assists per game) and he should give the Magic a more dynamic defender at the center spot if they want to implement a more purely switching or aggressive scheme.

Both of these players will have an opportunity for the rest of the season to show Orlando they should be part of the team’s future or allow the team to make more trades down the road to shape this team.

Hampton is the only rookie the Magic acquired during the deadline. He is going to have the chance to grow with Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony in the backcourt.

With the injuries this season, Hampton is going to have a lot of opportunities to be apart of this team’s future. He has played only 233 minutes in 25 games, scoring 64 total points. He has played more than 12 minutes just eight times, averaging 5.4 points per game and 4.8 rebounds per game in those appearances.

Hampton is a young player begging for a chance.

It will help the front office mold this team looking forward. But the real prize remains the future assets the Magic collected. They cleared their books and added tools to help them begin to rebuild this offseason.

The last piece from these trade returns will be the three first-round picks and the trade exception. The 2023 and 2025 first-round picks from the Bulls will likely be more relevant down the line. But during the offseason, Chicago’s 2021 first-round pick and possibly the small trade exception created in the deal will have a lot of weight moving forward.

The Magic will likely get a top-5 pick themselves, but the addition of what possibility the Bulls pick may do for this team adds to the cache the team has built.

The Orlando Magic also created a larger trade exception in the deal sending Fournier to the Boston Celtics of roughly $15 million. That could be a potentially big tool in adding players to the roster as a now depleted Magic team feels like a blank slate.

The Magic may have another lottery pick coming from the Bulls if they miss the playoffs, and it would allow the Magic to get creative later in the draft to either select a player or trade the pick. The trade exception would also allow Orlando to get creative this summer in the trade market.

In the end, the trade deadline has left the Magic looking toward the future.

None of Orlando’s acquisitions are designed to have immediate effects on the team. Instead, the Magic have multiple ways forward, and this offseason will contain important decisions that will have a major effect on the team.

Next. Orlando Magic will always be home for Vucevic, Fournier, Gordon. dark

Whether it be Chicago’s first-rounder or any of the players the Magic acquired, this offseason will be pivotal in the team’s future.