4 Directions the Orlando Magic can go with trades on draft night
Seeking a Backup Center
The Orlando Magic finished the season with Goga Bitadze as their backup center. Shot blocking and an athletic, rim running center can be an improvement for the roster. Onyeka Okongwu fits the timeline of the young Magic, and at 22 years old, still has room for improvement.
Here, Orlando trades Chuma Okeke and Bol Bol to acquire the big man. Both players had difficulty cracking the rotation to finish the season. They are both still young than 25 years old and could bolster the depth for Atlanta’s bench.
The Hawks could be a team ripe for a deal. They disappointed last season in losing in the first-round of the playoffs. They also have six active players who make more than $18 million per year. Their books are tight. This deal would allow them to acquire two team-friendly contracts.
It is highly unlikely the Atlanta Hawks part with their young center. Instead they seemed poised to try to move on from Clint Capela. That would probably be a contract too big for the Magic to pursue.
Still, Okongwu has not been able to blossom into the starting center the Hawks intended after selecting him with the sixth overall selection three seasons ago. He is in a bit of a prove-it season and is forcing Atlanta to make a difficult choice.
Okongwu is still young and likely to command more money than the Hawks are willing to pay for their backup center. Okongwu is extension eligible this offseason, and if he were to hit restricted free agency next season, there will have plenty of teams interested in signing him to large deals.
Here I find another young backup center by acquiring Kai Jones. Jones is a former first-round pick who is 22 years old.
He has yet to crack the rotation in his first two years averaging a meager 9.1 minutes per game. The Charlotte Hornets recently drafted former Duke Blue Devil Mark Williams, and he seems to be the future of the position for the team.
Nick Richards has also played well for Charlotte after being selected as the 42nd overall pick. Richards recently signed a three-year, $15-million deal with the team. Clearly the Hornets like him, and he played in 19 more games with 6.7 more minutes than Kai Jones last season.
Jones possesses a thin frame that can run the floor, but most importantly, defend the rim.
Per NBA.com, with a minimum of 250 minutes played, Kai Jones is number one in defended field goal percentage and players have the worst actual field goal percentage versus expected when Jones contests their shot.
These statistics might be an outlier based on the fact that Jones is mostly playing against backup players, but it is intriguing.
He also spent time in Orlando during high school playing for Orlando Christian Prep, so a reunion to Central Florida could be a great fit.
The Hornets agree to this deal if they believe they can find a quality player at 36 and decide to not create a logjam with the three centers.
Chuma Okeke might not have a lot of value currently, but he has shown flashes of spreading the floor and defending opposing wings.
He played some of his best basketball as a rookie under former Magic coach Steve Clifford who is now Charlotte’s coach. If Clifford can unlock some of his potential then the Hornets have to be happy with this trade.
This is not a blockbuster trade, to say the least. But it gives Orlando depth at a position where only Wendell Carter Jr. and Goga Bitadze are under contract before the draft and free agency.
Orlando’s front office has a history of only selecting a maximum of two rookies each year to add to the roster, so trading the 36th pick for a first-round prospect is worth the risk.
Kelly Olynyk is in the final year of his deal that he originally signed with the Detroit Pistons. He had a great season last year with the new-look Utah Jazz.
He started all 68 games averaging 12.5 points per game in 28.6 minutes.
He was a willing passer with 3.7 assists per game which is good for the seventh-most assists among centers in the NBA last year. Olynyk also played fewer minutes than the six guys ahead of him.
At 6-foot-11, Olynyk is comfortable playing either power forward or the center position. He has always been a capable shooter averaging 36.8 percent from three in his career and has stayed relatively healthy through 10 seasons.
The Jazz make this trade so that Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler become the frontcourt of the future for the franchise.
Utah would receive two expiring contracts at the end of next season as well as a future first round pick for only moving back two selections in the upcoming draft.
Executive for the Jazz, Danny Ainge, has rebuilt the Jazz roster in one short year and has amassed a significant amount of draft picks. It might be worth the move if he can bring in another first round pick for a veteran player.
The Magic make this deal to give up minimal assets to draft a player at ninth overall who would not be there in two selections. Bringing in Olynyk on an expiring deal is a sweetener to see if he can help generate offense off the bench for the team.
The Magic have an intriguing future and want to continue to make the right moves to further enhance the roster. Teams will be interested in making deals on Thursday night and Orlando can certainly be one of them.
If the team becomes active or stays on the trade sidelines remains to be seen, but regardless the future of the Magic will be brighter by Friday morning.