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

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Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers, James Ennis, Orlando Magic
Kyle Kuzma has struggled to fit in with the championship-contending Los Angeles Lakers. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

Orlando Magic Targets: Second-Chance Players

Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers

When Kyle Kuzma hit the league, he seemed to immediately take it by storm.

The 27th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft — the one Jeff Weltman infamously said had flattened out as he traded out of the 25th pick — became a scoring wizard for the rebuilding Los Angeles Lakers. Kuzma averaged 16.1 points per game and 18.7 points per game in his first two years.

But he struggled since LeBron James’ arrival. He averaged 12.8 and 12.9 points per game in each of the last two years. His 3-point field goal percentage dropped to 31.6-percent last year before bouncing back to 36.1-percent.

Kuzma is still good enough that he gets his fair share of starts. But something is still missing and nobody can seem to get a grip on the young player.

In this year’s playoffs, Kuzma completely disappeared, averaging 6.3 points per game and shooting 17.4-percent from beyond the arc. That was not so dissimilar from the drops he suffered during the Lakers’ championship run.

Los Angeles needs more from him if the team is going to continue competing for titles. And a change of scenery might be best.

Kuzma is not a super likely option for the trade exception. The Lakers will probably hope to get some player in return. The Lakers would probably hope to get someone like Terrence Ross or Gary Harris in return to help them in their championship pursuit.

Los Angeles could trade away Kuzma, who is set to make $13 million in each of the next three seasons with a player option on 2024, to get under the cap and try to make some machinations to revamp the team.

That contract length is likely to give the Magic pause. Not to mention the team has little room right now with Chuma Okeke and Jonathan Isaac occupying those spots. Kuzma might slide in at small forward and be a stopgap starter.

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The question would be whether the Magic want to eat that contract and stay invested in him a little longer.

Josh Richardson, Dallas Mavericks

Josh Richardson had a rough year with the Dallas Mavericks. The promising guard has been on a downhill spiral since getting traded from the Miami Heat to the Philadelphia 76ers two years ago (and then again to the Dallas Mavericks last year).

Richardson averaged 12.1 points per game but saw his 3-point field goal percentage drop to 33.0-percent, the third straight year that has dropped. He scored only 4.9 points per game in 13.4 minutes per game during the Mavericks’ playoff series.

He is supposed to provide strong defense, but even that has seemed to slip.

Richardson has not fallen out of the rotation by any means, but he is also not living up to his contract. With just one year remaining at $11.6 million, Richardson is not an albatross either. But the Mavericks, with a little cap room to spend in addition to needing to re-sign Tim Hardaway Jr., might need a place to park Richardson’s salary if he picks up his player option.

Richardson is the kind of reclamation project the Orlando Magic could be sniffing for. There is a good player in Richardson, even if his 3-point shooting was always a bit overvalued. And he has shown he can thrive within hard-working, over-achieving teams.

If the experiment does not work, the Magic still maintain their cap flexibility for the 2022 offseason.

Marvin Bagley, Sacramento Kings

It would be really hard for a team to give up on a player who is still on their rookie contract. Especially when they expended significant draft capital on him — the second pick in that loaded 2018 NBA Draft.

But Marvin Bagley has struggled to find his footing in the NBA. Whether it is injuries or just the changing nature of the NBA, Bagley has had his moments but is nowhere near the player he was in college that made him the second pick in the draft. It sure feels like the Sacramento Kings are trying to figure out what to do with him.

Bagley averaged 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game last year. He has been fairly consistently at that level in three years. He hit 34.3-percent from beyond the arc, so he is trying to add that part to his game. But the consistency is just not there yet.

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Orlando has plenty of young players already on the roster. Wendell Carter and Mohamed Bamba right now are fighting for the center minutes. And it still feels like the Magic could add a veteran. The team could theoretically trade one of their young centers for a shot at Bagley but they all become restricted free agents at the end of the season.

This is not a likely target for that reason. Orlando would want to send something out to give Bagley a proper chance.

Derrick Jones, Portland Trail Blazers

That would be a twist, wouldn’t it? Acquiring the player who topped Aaron Gordon during the infamous 50-off in the 2020 NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest. But Derrick Jones developed into a decent player in his own right.

He made his name with the Miami Heat as a rim runner and defender. Jones was much more than a dunker — although that was still his main skill.

Jones was in and out of the rotation though last year and ultimately was not used in the playoffs. Jones averaged 6.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in 22.7 minutes per game this year for the Blazers. He played a total of 10 minutes in the playoffs.

His lack of shooting ultimately took him out of the rotation, even though the Blazers could have used someone with a little more defensive presence.

Jones is one of those players who has always been more about his athleticism and his potential rather than his actual ability.

That might be something the Magic could be willing to take on though. Jones has a player option for $9.7 million next year that he will surely pick up. A one-year flyer that has a pick attached to it might be something the Magic could consider.