Orlando Magic: The players they should target for their trade exception

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Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Lakers, Mohamed Bamba, Orlando Magic
Montrezl Harrell has been strong in short bursts but struggled to hold onto the Los Angeles Lakers’ starting five. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic are not expected to be among the most active teams in the offseason this year.

Their decision to tear down the roster and start over has them heading toward a rebuild. And while there are plenty of pieces the team can build around with the returns of Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz along with strong rookie showings from Cole Anthony, R.J. Hampton and Chuma Okeke, the team still has a long way to go and a lot of work to do to get not only back to playoff contention but into title contention.

The NBA Draft is going to go a long way to setting the Magic’s ceiling and determining which direction the Magic will go.

Orlando has an exceedingly young team and the biggest thing the team will be looking to do outside of their draft picks is finding veterans to fill out the roster.

The Orlando Magic will be looking to fill out their roster after the draft concludes. They have one major tool to add a potential impact player that they should be seeking for ways to maximize.

They will have a little bit of cap room — still likely less than $10 million — to spend plus the room exception of a little bit more than $4 million. That will not leave them with a lot of resources available to improve the roster.

This is a rebuilding team anyway and this is not exactly a great free-agent class. While Orlando will have potentially max cap room in the summer of 2022, it is still not clear whether the team will become players in that market. That might depend on where they land in the Lottery and how the Magic play with their top pick this year.

Regardless, Orlando wants to maintain their flexibility, even as they look for ways to improve their team.

The Magic do have one other tool they can use to improve their roster. One that is a bit more complicated to use, but is a powerful tool nonetheless.

The biggest acquisition for the Magic in the Evan Fournier trade was not Jeff Teague, whom the team waived a few days after completing the trade. It was the $17.2-million trade exception that trade created.

Orlando also made sizable trade exceptions in the Al-Farouq trade ($4.3 million) and Gary Clark trades ($2 million). But the one acquired from Fournier is the most significant chess piece on the board.

The trade exception gives the Magic the ability to acquire a player for $17-million more than they send out.

In essence, every trade in the league acts as a one-on-one trade (there are rules for players to match up so you could not trade a max player for a minimum player and make a gigantic trade exception). And so whenever there is an imbalance, a trade exception is created. At the end of each trade, the value going in must be essentially equal to the amount going out. The trade exceptions make up that difference.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The Fournier trade then really was Teague plus the difference in salary in a trade exception for Fournier.

This exception will last for one year — essentially until next year’s trade deadline. So the Magic could still be in the market for a big salary player even if they do not spend it in the offseason.

A team is not simply going to give the Magic some valuable player. In all likelihood, teams will be shopping around hoping the Magic will be able to rent their cap space to dump some unneeded contract. That is unless Orlando is willing to part with a number one pick or some other future asset (that seems unlikely).

Essentially, the Magic are likely hoping someone will pay the team to rent that trade exception and hopefully gain some player that could give them some value. Even if it costs them only a second-round pick or some player on the roster they are not interested in keeping — such as Dwayne Bacon and his non-guaranteed deal for the 2022 season.

The trade market certainly has not fully developed. As teams get eliminated from the playoffs, they will assess what they need to do to take the next steps — watch for the Portland Trail Blazers, who are likely to make some changes after another first-round exit.

There are at least a few players who already seem like they could be odd men out for teams. And trading away players to create some cap space or some flexibility. There will be a market for the trade exception.

Who might these targets be? A few ideas: