When it became clear that this Orlando Magic team did not have the capabilities to make the playoffs, the team found themselves stuck in limbo. Did they try and contend for a playoff spot in vein, or move towards a strong rebuild in the off-season? The answer to that question was seemingly answered on Friday, when Keith Smith of RealGM, broke the news that the Magic are negotiating trades in preparation for a rebuild.
League sources indicate Orlando has begun pursuing trades for a rebuild. Last night's loss dropped Magic 6 games out of the playoff picture.
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) February 10, 2017
Orlando Magic: Who Should Stay and Who Should Go?
The decision to rebuild may have seemed an obvious choice for many a diehard Magic fan, but for a front office who put so much effort into a ‘win now’ approach, the decision cannot have been easy. However, with the NBA trade deadline right around the corner, the question now is who should stay and who should go?
Keeping the Core
Nikola Vucevic – Having seemingly gained coach Frank Vogel‘s trust, Vucevic has dedicated himself to the franchise since arriving in August 2012. Having been with the Magic through the previous rebuild, the five year veteran has the utmost respect in the Magic locker room. Averaging a near double double per game, his veteran leadership is virtually irreplaceable in Orlando.
Aaron Gordon – At the age of only 21, Aaron Gordon is showing signs of becoming an elite defensive player in years to come. With the right attitude, unteachable energy and passion, Gordon has the capability to become a perennial All-Star for the Orlando Magic. With a career high 11.2ppg this year, if Gordon can develop his jump shot this off-season he will become an essential part of the Magic franchise for many years.
Mario Hezonja – Despite this season being one to forget for Hezonja, the Croatian swingman and former No. 5 overall pick has plenty of upside to his game. A popular figure amongst Magic fans, many feel that he has yet to receive his chance in Orlando. An offensively gifted player, if Hezonja can further mature and develop his game, he will certainly be hanging around in Orlando.
Out with the Old
Serge Ibaka – Perhaps the most clear cut decision on this list, efficient on both ends of the floor, Ibaka belongs on a contending team. When the Magic acquired the 6’10” big man in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder it was on the premise that the team would be contending for a playoff seed. As this has not been the case, the pending free agent is of little use to Orlando. Ibaka, who is averaging a career high 15.2ppg and 38.7% from three point range, would be a good fit for teams seeking that ‘missing piece’ as they attempt to push for the playoffs.
Evan Fournier – Still only 24, Fournier has been one of the Magic’s best players in recent years. A stellar three point shooter, Fournier is averaging a career high 16.8ppg. Despite being arguably the Magic’s most valuable asset, Fournier is now entering the prime of his career and will want to be on a playoff calibre team, rather than a rebuilding one.
Role Players – Players such as Jeff Green, C.J. Watson and D.J. Augustin are all certainly expendable pieces for the Orlando Magic. If any of them can be used to initiate a trade, it is highly unlikely the Magic will not hesitate to move them.
Elfrid Payton– A player that attracts mixed feelings from Magic fans, Elfrid Payton has put on impressive displays this season. A defensively gifted player, Payton is also averaging a career high in points, FG% and 3P%. The Louisiana native is showing signs of improving, at only 22 years old. However, with a plethora of talent at the point guard position available in the 2017 Draft, the Magic may look to move Payton, in search of a more consistent shooter.
Bismack Biyombo– The issue here for the Magic is not whether they should move Biyombo, but finding a team that will take him. Biyombo signed a 4 year / $72,000,000 contract with the Orlando Magic in the off-season, including $68,000,000 guaranteed, and an annual average salary of $18,000,000. With Biyombo averaging just 6.1ppg, it’s hard to imagine anyone willing to take on that salary.
With the Magic seemingly in rebuild mode, the period leading up to the trade deadline will be filled with rumours and speculation. One thing however is clear, the moves Orlando makes during the coming weeks will impact the franchise for several years to come.