The NBA trade window is slowly starting to creep open. The machinery is moving again with the end of the NBA Finals in sight and the countdown to the NBA Draft beginning.
Everyone will be focused on the Orlando Magic and their first pick in the draft. And there is still plenty of debate to be had for who the Magic will pick first.
The draft though is a piece of the puzzle for the offseason. It is a big part of the puzzle. But there is a lot that has to happen in the machinations this offseason. And draft night is going to be a busy one.
It appears it is already pretty busy.
The Dallas Mavericks reportedly traded their 26th pick (along with a few players) to the Houston Rockets for Christian Wood, starting the trade wheelings and dealings.
There are plenty of rumors that the young upstart Sacramento Kings might be looking to move the fourth pick and the Portland Trail Blazers, needing to get back into the playoff picture, might be willing to part with their pick at No. 7.
There are a few Magic fans entertaining the idea of trying to trade that high into the draft. But that seems unlikely for what those teams might want to move off those picks.
But the trade gates are open. And the Magic, with a full roster, a veteran on an expiring contract and two second-round picks, are a team ripe to make a move.
The Orlando Magic should be active in the trade market this offseason. But finding a deal that fits and helps them find their player may prove difficult.
But finding a deal will be difficult, as it always is.
The teams mentioned above are buyers trying to find veteran help to improve their roster. The Magic may well be buyers trying to buy their way up the draft, but the question is what do they have to sell?
Terrence Ross is the biggest trade chip the Magic have to spend right now. He is on an expiring deal worth $11.5 million. But Ross is also coming off perhaps the worst season of his career, and certainly the worst season of his time with the Magic.
Ross is a veteran and has the reputation for being a great shooter and spark plug off the bench. He certainly did not benefit from playing on a rebuilding team without other weapons to space the floor for him. But it is also clear Ross trades more on his reputation than on his actual percentages as a volume 3-point shooter.
Still, there is no doubt teams could use a player like Ross. And finding a team with a draft pick in the middle or late first round and a big salary to match can be a bit difficult.
Teams like the Atlanta Hawks (No. 16) are certainly looking for a way to push their rebuild along. And Kevin Huerter would seem like a nice young shooter to add. But Atlanta likely would want more. And the Hawks are looking to buy higher with reports they may chase Rudy Gobert.
The Denver Nuggets (No. 21) might be looking to rearrange some of their roster with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter getting set to return from injuries next season. They desperately need shooting and have veteran Will Barton to offer. But that may not be enough of an upgrade for the Nuggets.
The Memphis Grizzlies (No. 22) have Steven Adams, whom they sat throughout much of the playoffs even before he missed games in the health and safety protocols. More shooting is always helpful and a Ross-for-Adams swap would only eat up an additional $5 million in cap room for Orlando.
That would also help solve the Magic’s backup center questions and give them a good veteran who has been a part of winning teams, even if Adams is near the end of his career.
Lock that one away for later.
Lock away the Philadelphia 76ers (No. 23) too.
The Sixers have Danny Green on a non-guaranteed deal worth $10 million. That contract becomes guaranteed on July 1. Green tore his ACL during the playoffs and likely would miss the entire 2023 season. But the Magic would get that first-round pick for Ross that they are coveting as the cost of taking on an injured player.
That framework is pretty clear and would give the Magic an easy out before July 1 to create even more cap room — how the Magic use that room is anyone’s guess.
With so little cap space available around the league and even fewer quality free agents to chase after, it should be an active trade market this offseason to move players around and make improvements. The Magic are one of the few teams with cap room — nearly $30 million, by my calculation — to spend.
That makes them a potential trade partner for everyone to try to grease the wheels later in the offseason as teams try to clear room. The Magic easily could rent their cap space to teams trying to clear room, taking picks or other assets as payment for the salary dump.
But that is still the problem, of course.
The Magic reportedly shopped Ross at the trade deadline and held the line firm at receiving a first-round pick. Now with the draft approaching, they will surely try for that again. But they may not get it. Not much has changed since then.
And Orlando should not be some passive player in this market though. The Magic should be aggressively pursuing opportunities to add to their roster and get the players that fit their larger overall vision.
Like at the trade deadline, Orlando should not settle for whatever deal is out there. The team should be looking to accomplish some goal — whether that is adding a key player to the roster with a higher salary or grabbing a player in the draft.
There are a few players worth targeting.
Bryce McGowens from Nebraska is a fantastic scorer who can get to the basket and draw contact to get to the foul line. He had a free throw rate greater than 40 percent last year and was a good catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter in limited attempts because he was on the ball so much.
Dalen Terry has been a quick riser on draft boards as a 6-foot-7 points guard. He averaged 8.0 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game and 3.9 assists per game last year at Arizona.
Arkansas big man Jalin Williams leads a group of big men in Khalifa Diop and Ismael Kamagate whom the Magic could look at too. Williams is more of an energy big who plays great defense and positions himself well on that end.
Wake Forest power forward Jake LaRavia is a strong shooter and an oversized wing player who does a lot of the little things to find success. He is an energy player in addition to his shooting who should find a place in the league.
The point is, there are a lot of potential guys the Magic could target. And picking that target player is probably more important than targeting a team to trade up with in addition to figuring out what the right value is for Ross — or even if there are teams enticed to move enough for Ross.
Orlando, of course, could be hunting bigger fish. That might entail adding in some of the Magic’s young players. There could be a lot of fish in the fryer this week leading up to the draft.
But finding the right trade partner and the right move with the assets the Magic are willing to give up is not entirely clear. Finding a trade is still often very difficult and the Magic remain in a difficult position as they try to make moves to improve their team.