Orlando Magic’s 5 best trades of the last 10 years
1. Chicago Bulls panicked, Orlando Magic capitalized
The Chicago Bulls deal at the 2021 NBA trade deadline has been one of the better trades that have occurred in the NBA in some time. The Orlando Magic were in full rebuild mode and traded three of their best players in Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier all in quick succession on the same day. The team pivoted from a back-end playoff hopeful to a team fully embracing a restart.
Vucevic was the first domino to be dealt, and the return value became two perennial players of the Magic’s core and one prospect who is just now entering his rookie season.
Wendell Carter, the former seventh overall pick, was the only player to come to Orlando immediately minus Otto Porter Jr. (Porter Jr. only played 6 games in Orlando).
Wendell Carter struggled to develop an offensive game in Chicago, and the Bulls were looking to bring in another All-Star to pair with Zach Lavine.
Carter struggled with his shooting in the 22 games he played to finish the season with the Magic that year, but he has improved dramatically in the last two years.
He has averaged 15.1 points per game the last two seasons which is roughly 4.3 points more than his Chicago averages. Carter was re-signed for a team-friendly deal of four years, $50 million after his rookie contract.
That is a significant discount to Vucevic’s $25 million per year salary he had on the remaining years of his contract and his recently signed three-year, $60-million deal he agreed to this offseason.
Vucevic was traded right after turning 30 years old, and after two years have passed since the trade, Carter is heading into his sixth season at 24 years old.
When comparing the two, Vucevic is the all-around better player. He scores, rebounds and passes at a better rate than Carter. However, Carter is a better defender when guarding the pick and roll and is intimidating when defending the paint.
The Magic needed an athletic big man to run the floor with the rest of the young playmakers. Carter can do that much better than Vucevic, and he has plenty of room to improve as time progresses as Wendell is under contract for the next three seasons.
Orlando also traded Al-Farouq Aminu to the Bulls. He was one of the biggest disappointments when it comes to free-agent signings in Magic history.
Injuries tell the story for Aminu, and he only suited up for six games for Chicago after the trade. He averaged 1.5 points per game for the Bulls and will probably never play in an NBA game again.
The two draft picks are where this trade becomes so one-sided.
Franz Wagner is one of the best NBA players who are 25 years or younger. And he has yet to turn 22.
He was the diamond in the rough with the eighth overall selection in the 2021 Draft. He could end up being the best player from that draft class. He might already be.
Wagner averaged 18.6 points per game last season and is arguably the best asset that the Magic or Bulls possess besides Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero.
Wagner will continue to show how lopsided this trade was as his career progresses, and hopefully, an All-Star selection is the next step. He is one of the best offensive creators in the NBA and can score on all three levels.
At 6-foot-10, Wagner can get to his spots and shoot over the top of smaller wing defenders, but he also is a great passer who can see over the top of the defense and initiate the half-court offense.
Not only is he great on offense but he is one of the better Magic defenders to boot.
There are 19 players in the NBA that are in the 85th percentile or better on both offense and defense. And Wagner is one of them.
Jett Howard is the icing on the cake. What he contributes will be a bonus to this deadline deal, and he has already shown promise in the NBA summer league.
Howard looked comfortable in his first NBA action shooting the basketball well, but also creating shots for himself and others. He averaged 13.3 points per game and 3.3 assists per game. That is a solid stat line playing for one of the worst summer league teams in recent memory.
This trade is one for the ages and has expedited the rebuild for the Magic. The deal will only improve in value when Carter, Wagner and Howard continue to improve and Vucevic starts to decline with age.