2023 Orlando Magic Trade Value Column: A future to plan for

The Orlando Magic are a team on the rise with several franchise pillars in place heading into the trade deadline. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic are a team on the rise with several franchise pillars in place heading into the trade deadline. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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R.J. Hampton, Orlando Magic
R.J. Hampton saw the game slow down for him in the Orlando Magic’s opening preseason game. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports /

2023 Orlando Magic Trade Value Column

Category II — We don’t know what to do with them

15. R.J. Hampton (1-year, $2.4 million)

Last Year: 12th

The Orlando Magic probably sealed R.J. Hampton’s fate when they declined his player option and set him for free agency this offseason before the usual expiration of his rookie contract.

Hampton was simply a victim of a roster that is too overloaded with young players. The Magic did not have the time to play him regularly (minus the injuries early in the season). And they just never developed the trust in him that he would have his game under control.

It is an unfortunate circumstance because in the games he has played, Hampton has exhibited the control and composure the Magic were looking for. Or at least, he looked like he was trending in that direction for such a young player.

Hampton’s talent is undeniable. And that is on display every time he steps on the floor. But it has never really come together for him completely. Certainly not enough to erase his uneven sophomore season. And not enough for the Magic to prioritize developing him over the other young players on their roster.

Hampton has simply gotten lost in the shuffle and he does not have a body of work to make some other team believe in him to give up something of value.

14. Chuma Okeke (2-year, $8.7 million)

Last Year: 10th

Chuma Okeke is another player who is just a hard player to figure out. The only difference between him and R.J. Hampton at this point has been that Chuma Okeke actually has a decent-looking body of NBA work that could sell someone on him fitting in with a winning team.

His problem is just that he cannot stay healthy.

He deferred a year after college to recover from a torn ACL. He had a shin and ankle injury that slowed him in his rookie year. He was in and out of the lineup throughout his sophomore year. And this year, a knee injury has kept him out since Nov. 21.

It looks like Okeke is starting to ramp up his workload with an eye toward coming back. But like with Hampton, he enters a depth chart that is pretty full. And at forward, the Magic have most of their best players. It still feels like Okeke is the one getting squeezed out of the rotation.

But, the Magic know how good Okeke can be. He is a disruptive defender and a great help defender. His willingness to defend is a huge plus and a big boost for a young team.

And Okeke is at least still theoretically a good 3-point shooter — although his entire career he has been extremely streaky swinging wildly from game-changing shooter to can’t hit anything.

13. Caleb Houstan (4-year, $8.2 million, non-guaranteed in 2025, team option in 2026)

Caleb Houstan may be the smaller and healthier version of Chuma Okeke. So much so that the Orlando Magic could easily do a salary dump trade of Terrence Ross or a straight buyout not only to open up a roster spot but also to try to get Caleb Houstan more playing time.

There is a lot to like with Houstan.

It starts with his shooting where he is shooting 36.4 percent for the season. In his last run of play from Dec. 23 to Jan. 10, Houstan made eight of his 20 3-pointers. He needed his time in Lakeland just to stay sharp and get some time on the court. But his 3-point shot is starting to come along.

Houstan’s real value though comes on defense. He has looked sharp on defense, understanding his role in the defensive schemes and being a solid help-side defender to get some deflections and steals.

It is clear the Magic really like Houstan. They certainly seem him as a prospect they can keep developing and growing.