Last Word On Basketball

Grading the Orlando Magic’s Trade Deadline

Nikola Vucevic

CHICAGO, USA - DECEMBER 20: Nikola Vucevic (9) of Orlando Magic in action during an NBA basketball match between Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic at United Center in Chicago, Illinois, United States on December 20, 2017. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

This year’s NBA Trade Deadline was definitely one to remember. Most teams declined on making big moves in anticipation of what will probably be a good free agency class this summer. However, the Detroit Pistons made a big move in acquiring Blake Griffin. Additionally, the Cleveland Cavaliers look like an entirely new team. However, The Magic didn’t make a ton of moves this trade season. In fact, the only move they made at all was trading Elfrid Payton. That said, there’s plenty to look at for the Magic’s trade deadline.

Grading the Magic’s Trade Period

Coming into the trade period, it was clear the Magic were looking at moves for several of their key players. General manager John Hammond was pretty open about this. Clearly, Hammond didn’t find what he considered to be a great return; otherwise more players could have been dealt. The only move Orlando ended up making was trading Elfrid Payton to the Phoenix Suns for a second-round pick (via the Memphis Grizzlies).

The Magic Trade Elfrid Payton

Obviously, Orlando’s biggest trade comes in dealing Elfrid Payton. In the end, Payton is the only player who the Magic traded. Initially, there was some criticism that they didn’t get enough in return for trading Payton. Realistically, Payton is worth a bit more as a player. He could go for at least a late first round pick.

However, Payton is playing on an expiring rookie contract. Ultimately, it was clear the Magic wouldn’t re-sign him this summer. Surely, the Suns understood that and were wise to not give up too much. It’s unrealistic for Magic fans to expect to get a first-round pick for a player whose rookie contract was up after the season. Additionally, with how quiet this trade period was in general for most of the NBA teams, a mid-second round pick really isn’t a bad return.

While Payton is worth more than a mid-second round pick, the Magic made out well in getting anything they could for a player they weren’t going to resign. Moving Payton now also helps the Magic prepare to possibly replace him through the draft with a player like Trae Young.

Grade: A-

The Magic Don’t Trade Nikola Vucevic

This lack of trade is easily the hardest to assess. Again, teams are preparing for this year’s free agency crop. The Magic likely didn’t find enough in exchange for what Nikola Vucevic is worth. However, with Khem Birch appearing from seemingly nowhere, there could be a logjam at center once Vucevic returns from injury.

This creates more problems for the Magic. Currently, there is a conflict between balancing the contracts of both Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo. The Magic would be wise to keep Khem Birch around. However, this would require trading either Vucevic or Biyombo. Expect the Magic to attempt trading one, if not both this summer.

Grade: B-

The Magic Don’t Trade Mario Hezonja

During the week before the trade deadline, new Magic president Jeff Weltman confessed the team made a mistake not exercising the team option on Mario Hezonja‘s contract. The Croatian forward/guard combo is having a career year. Particularly, Hezonja seems to have regained his pre-draft swagger in the last few weeks worth of games.

The Magic made the right move in not trading him. However, this is only so if they end up resigning him this summer. Hezonja has made good progress this year offensively. However, his defense will need to be a point of emphasis for improvement. Orlando shouldn’t have trouble keeping him for a team-friendly price. Hezonja has also verbally expressed a desire to stay in Orlando.

Grade: B

The Magic Don’t Trade Fournier

The Orlando Magic have suffered a horrible injury problem all season long. This makes evaluating Evan Fournier staying in Orlando difficult. The new front office wanted to make this a season to evaluate existing talent on the roster.

However, with so many injuries, Fournier has been forced to step up in in ways he might not have been expected to otherwise. This makes assessing his value problematic. For that reason, the Magic were right not to trade him. A proven shooter like Fournier can be good offensive help for a player like Trae Young to pass to next season as well.

Grade: B

Final Grades for the Magic’s Trade Period

Like many teams, the Magic took the cautious approach to this trade deadline. Ultimately, the only player moved is one who had no future with the team. Factors like this summer’s free agency cycle, injury problems, and a likely high overall draft pick kept the Magic quiet.

It’s hard to say any team can have a bad trade period if they stay mostly quiet. So in that sense, Orlando is no exception. However, with Payton in particular gone, the front office clearly has its eyes on filling the point guard spot. And this year’s top point guard could easily be the one to lift the Magic out of the pit of misery.

Final Grade: B+

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