Magic’s Nikola Vucevic trade is the gift that keeps on giving

Orlando Magic v Chicago Bulls
Orlando Magic v Chicago Bulls / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Big man Nikola Vucevic spent most of his career with the Orlando Magic, playing for the franchise from 2012 to 2021. During that time, the Magic made it to the postseason twice. Both trips ended quickly, as they lost two first-round series in just five games. 

In 2021, the Magic eventually decided to part ways with their leading scorer, however. At the trade deadline, they sent him and Al-Farouq Aminu to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter, and two first-round picks. 

For the Bulls, this trade did not work out very well. Since 2021, they have only managed to make the postseason once with their big three of Nikola Vucevic, Zach LaVine, and DeMar DeRozan. They have been mediocre at best, and when they tried to ship out LaVine earlier in the regular season, they could not get a deal done. 

For the Magic, the trade was a home run, however, and it just keeps on giving. 

The Magic won the Vucevic trade 

When the deal was first made, the Magic were excited to add Wendell Carter Jr. to the roster, and he has been solid since coming to Orlando. His production may have gone down since he first joined the team, but he has still been a big part of this team’s success and identity. Things have changed with the emergence of Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner, and Carter is just trying to play his role. 

While getting Carter Jr. in this deal was a solid return, the real jackpot was the two first-round picks the Bulls decided to send out. Those picks turned into Franz Wagner and Jett Howard. 

Howard did not contribute much to the Magic’s success in his rookie season, but he is a promising young player they should be able to develop nicely. He spent most of his time with the Magic’s G League affiliate this season, averaging 18.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists over 29 games. 

Wagner, on the other hand, is a huge part of the Magic’s present and future. As a talented 6’10” two-way player on the wing, he looks like a great co-star for Paolo Banchero. Judging by how those two are playing in just their third and second seasons in the league, they have plenty of All-Star selections and playoff runs ahead of them.

If there was any doubt as to the value of that pick the Bulls gave up, the playoffs eliminated it. The Magic entered the playoffs as an underdog and the first two games of the series were rough. After that, the young Magic team found its rhythm, however, and Wagner was a huge part of that. Orlando would not have been able to tie the series twice without his 34- and 26-point performances in Game 4 and Game 6. 

Remember, Wagner is doing all this at age 22. He will only get better in the future, and that idea should pain Bulls fans. Not only will they have to deal with this surging Magic team in the East, but their front office gifted Orlando this pick. 

After three years, it seems safe to say that the Magic won this trade, and they still continue to reap the benefits.