Orlando Magic have plenty of options ahead of deadline

The Orlando Magic are set to make a tough call on fan-favorite guard Terrence Ross. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic are set to make a tough call on fan-favorite guard Terrence Ross. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic stole the show at last year’s trade deadline by trading Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier. These three trades brought back significant draft capital and allowed the younger players to have more playing time while clearing the deck for the Magic to begin a new era in the franchise’s history.

This year, the Magic could make moves that mirror the ones they made at last year’s deadline, just on a smaller scale. They currently have the worst record in the league and the team is not close to being competitive every game.

It is a development year. And the Magic want to see their young players get the opportunity to play and grow. But that comes with growing pains.

The term “tanking” is thrown around to explain moves from NBA teams that decide to build their team through the draft. The moves the Magic made last year does not mean they were intentionally losing, but by giving the youngsters more playing time, and letting them develop, winning was less of a short-term priority.

That same feels the same this year. The team has openly talked about how wins and losses are not their measure for success. They are looking for little victories and general improvement.

The record reflects that.

The Orlando Magic will face some tough decisions as they plan their future at this year’s trade deadline. But they have plenty of options and plenty of tools they can use.

And so it could make sense for the Magic to consider trading either Gary Harris or Terrence Ross before Thursday’s deadline. Both players could fit better on another team and help them in their playoff push, while the Magic continue to prioritize the youth movement.

The Magic will not make the headlines as they did last year, but both Terrence Ross and Gary Harris could be important to a playoff team.

Orlando reportedly wants a first-round pick back for either player. This may sound far-fetched, but under the right circumstances, it could be in play.

Now the question is which team is willing to part with a first-round pick in order to acquire them. Someone could do it, but the Magic will most likely have to take back a bad contract.

That is something the team can afford to do. The Magic are projected to be one of three teams with cap space next summer. But it is not a summer full of good free agents. And at this stage of the rebuild, the Magic likely are not looking to commit long-term money unless it is someone the team really believes in.

Orlando is not likely looking to spend that room. So absorbing a big contract is not the worst thing in the world for the team. It could help the team begin to align itself for the summer the team is ready to start spending.

The Magic’s front office also has a reputation for doing right by its players. Vucevic said that the trade to the Chicago Bulls last March did not take him by surprise. It was something he had discussed with the front office — not the Bulls specifically but the direction of the team.

Orlando took care of him and that has largely been how they have approached the deadline.

Ross deserves to be on a playoff-caliber team. A plethora of teams could use his shooting. He has the potential to swing a playoff series. Harris is also rumored to be wanted by playoff-ready teams.

A year ago, Harris was a supposed bad contract. This season, he has been more consistent and may prove to be an asset for the Magic. He too could go to a playoff-bound team and potentially play important minutes.

As with Ross, his services will be better used on a playoff team. Harris is making $20.4 million this year, and that number is a little harder to move when compared to Ross. There are already reports that the Magic could simply buy him out if they are unable to find a deal, enabling Harris to go to a playoff team.

The Magic are notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to their trade negotiations — let alone when players will come back from injury. Anything that squeaks out about the Magic likely is not coming from them.

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Still, it provides some clues and frameworks for what the Magic might do.

Right now, the two frontrunners for both players appear to be the Los Angeles Lakers and the Utah Jazz. The Lakers could give trade Talen Horton-Tucker. The Jazz could trade a future first-round pick, along with salary filler like the injured Joe Ingles or veteran stalwart Royce O’Neale.

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report suggests the Magic may be downgrading the expectations for their return, simply looking for a trade exception to park Ross’ contract the same way they traded Fournier at least year’s deadline.

There are probably several other teams who are seriously considering acquiring either Ross or Harris that are not rumored yet. In all likelihood, the Magic will catch everyone by surprise.

Due to the Fournier trade with the Boston Celtics last year, the Orlando Magic also have a $17.5 million trade exception. There are a couple of bad contracts the Magic could pick up, and get some draft compensation.

But there are not a ton of tax teams right now, who need relief. The Magic can find something valuable, even if it is only a second-round pick.

These three assets could be traded separately. However, if the Magic were to trade both Ross and Harris together (trade exception cannot be combined), the Magic could interest a completely different set of teams.

The Sixers have a lot of balls in the air and are reportedly trying to get off Tobias Harris’ massive contract. They have been playing well, and may not want to give up Harris, because even though he is expensive, he is serviceable, and the Sixers are in winnow mode. However, the Sixers may believe these two Magic wings are a better fit, and may desire cap flexibility.

The Magic are not likely to make a move this aggressive. But it is important to note Orlando could easily get into an aggressive mode. While Harris has struggled this year, he has been a borderline All-Star in the recent past.

Orlando is not likely looking for a veteran player like Harris. They probably want to stay young. If they are adding a veteran, it will likely be a veteran role player.

The real prize the Magic are looking for would likely be younger players with big contracts attached to them — sort of like how the Magic acquired R.J. Hampton alongside Gary Harris.

The Celtics may want to get off Al Horford’s contract. They may be willing to throw in a young player like Aaron Nesmith or Romeo Langford and a pick in order to do so.

They could also look to teams on the playoff bubble who want to solidify their position moving forward as a target.

Could the Orlando Magic be enticed to take Gordon Hayward’s massive contract along with James Bouknight from the Charlotte Hornets, if that is the direction the playoff-hungry Hornets want to go? Would the Hornets be a team that wants Mo Bamba’s restricted free agent rights to boost their center position?

Young center P.J. Washington is reportedly on the market. The young center is averaging 10.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in 24.3 minutes per game for the Hornets. The Hornets could certainly use a veteran boost off their bench and Washington seems like he needs a fresh start.

Ultimately the Magic have a lot of control when it comes to the deadline. They hold the cards of players teams want. The question is what it will take for the Magic to act.

The trade exception expires this year, so the Magic need to use it or lose it. And the same goes for Harris and his expiring contract. They may settle for the best offer this deadline versus losing him for nothing this summer.

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If the Magic don’t get what they want, they should not be in rush to move Ross. He hasn’t had the best season, so his stock could rise if they wait. He would be an expiring contract next year. If he does indeed get traded, the Magic are surely going to miss his talent.