Revisiting the assets acquired in the Dwight Howard trade
Nikola Vucevic and Arron Afflalo
The two players who significantly impacted the Orlando Magic from the trade were Arron Afflalo and Nikola Vucevic.
Afflalo was 27 years old when he came to Orlando and had just had a career year. He averaged 15.2 points per game with the Denver Nuggets as their second leading scorer.
The Nuggets lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Lakers in seven games that season, but Afflalo proved he could be a primary scorer on a competitive team.
He joined Orlando and improved his scoring to 16.5 points per game and was second behind Tobias Harris to lead the Magic in points per game. Afflalo started in all 64 games in his first season and took a big step the following year.
Orlando had the second worst offensive rating during the 2014 season and would have been dead last if not for Afflalo.
He averaged a team-high 18.2 points per game the following season which is the 36th highest scoring average in Magic history. The team finished 13th in the Eastern Conference, but Afflalo proved that he was reaching an elite offensive level, even flirting with an All-Star bid.
That summer Orlando traded Arron Afflalo back to Denver in exchange for Evan Fournier and a 2014 second round draft pick. The Magic realized they needed to trade Afflalo to receive some returning value and not let him walk in free agency. And it was the right move.
The Magic selected Devyn Marble with the 2014 second round draft pick and he was an end of bench player for two seasons. He had promise as a catch-and-shoot threat but ultimately couldn't produce at the NBA level.
Fournier was the perfect addition to Orlando's roster at the time. The Magic were slowly getting younger and completing the roster overhaul. During the 2013 offseason, three of the top six scorers from last season were no longer on the team.
Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis and Arron Afflalo made up 44 percent of the team's points from the prior season and Orlando needed scoring.
Fournier was given the ultimate greenlight to score the basketball and that is exactly what he did. In retrospect he beat Victor Oladipo out for the starting shooting guard spot which led to the Oladipo trade.
Fournier flourished as a volume shooter on a team that needed floor spacing. He became third in Magic history in total threes made, eighth in total points, ninth in total games and 10th in total assists.
Orlando decided to trade Fournier right before his contract expired and probably held onto him too long. He was pivotal for the Magic's offense throughout his time with the team. The Orlando teams in 2019 and 2020 would not have made the playoffs with out him.
Fournier ended up netting the team two second round picks during the trade deadline in March of 2021.
The Magic acquired a 2025 second round pick via Boston or Memphis and a 2027 second round pick from Boston. That is not a bad return for Fournier as he was a rental for the Celtics and only played in 21 total games for the franchise.
Time will tell if those two second round picks amount to anything, but the on-court production that Evan Fournier delivered is a trickle down correlation from the Dwight Howard trade.
Nikola Vucevic was an unknown when the Magic acquired him. He had just spent his rookie season with the Philadelphia 76ers and averaged a modest 5.5 points per contest.
He immediately became the starting center for Orlando after the trade and started in 77 games. Vucevic was already an integral piece for the new Magic roster.
There were issues with his game when he was younger that were hard to ignore, particularly on defense. He had difficulty guarding the pick and roll and defending the rim.
It always felt like Vucevic was a placeholder -- someone putting up big stats on a bad team. But Orlando always kept returning to him and his consistency every night.
Former general manager Rob Hennigan decided in the 2016 offseason to solidify the Magic's defense and brought in Bismack Biyombo after a terrific playoff run with the Toronto Raptors.
Biyombo would push Vucevic to the bench for 20 games that season, but Vucevic proved that his offensive abilities overcame what Biyombo could do on defense. Per 36 minutes, Vucevic out-rebounded Biyombo by 3.1 rebounds. Since that season Vucevic started every game he ha played in.
When Steve Clifford was hired in the summer of 2018, Vucevic's game was elevated. Clifford strictly ran the offense through Vooch which led to his first All Star appearance.
Vucevic would go on to make two All-Star selections within the three years Clifford was the head coach and broke several Magic records during his nine-year tenure.
In Vucevic's final season, the Magic front office had no other choice but to tear down the current roster and restart, and that began with the Vucevic trade. Vucevic had reached his peak value during this stretch and was averaging 24.5 points per game for the struggling Magic.
The 2021 trade that sent Nikola Vucevic to the Bulls has elevated the Orlando Magic to a playoff team this season. The combination of Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter and Jett Howard is a result of Orlando developing Nikola Vucevic as a part of the Dwight Howard trade.
Franz Wagner is the young All Star the Magic were expecting to receive in the Dwight Howard trade more than 10 years ago.
He is climbing Magic leaderboards in his third season. He is top 20 in games started, top 20 in threes made, and top 24 in points scored. He is only 22 years old and the Magic have played 24 percent of the season.
Wagner still has not sniffed his full potential and his future is among the league's brightest.
All three of these lottery picks are younger than 25 years old. It is hard to believe Carter is only 24 and currently playing in his sixth season.
Carter and Wagner are starters for this team and Howard can easily become a volume scorer as he becomes more comfortable in an NBA system.
This Magic team is different than the Dwight Howard era. This team has embraced Orlando and built a culture that is impossible to ignore.
The team plays harder than any other organization in basketball and consider themselves a family. Dwight Howard and the saga that ended his tenure with the Magic seemed almost disrespectful to the team and the fans.
He handled his decision to request a trade in an immature style and led to his career decline. Howard is no longer thought of in the same light as he was as Orlando's Superman.
Howard only spent one season with the Lakers before deciding to walk away in free agency. The Magic are still reaping the benefits of the assets that were acquired in the Howard trade while the Lakers were left empty-handed -- do not cry for them, they still ended up with LeBron James and a title in 2020 for their trouble.
The trade in 2012 did not lead to immediate success, but the current Magic roster is building something special which at it's core is attributed to the Howard trade and Vucevic's rise to stardom.
Orlando traded its superstar 10 years ago and has been left with two current starters, one lottery-pick rookie and two future draft picks. The future is as bright as it has been since 2012 and Howard is partially responsible.