After a 6-2 start to the season, the Orlando Magic have seen their season go in the tank. Since losing starting point guard Markelle Fultz to a torn ACL, the Magic have gone on a 2-10 slide, dropping to 13th place in the Eastern Conference.
With forward Jonathan Isaac already being out for the season with a torn ACL suffered in the Orlando bubble, and forward Aaron Gordon expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a severe ankle sprain, some have called for the Magic to blow their roster up and embrace a tank this season. It makes sense, as they have been barely teetering on the edge of relevancy for a few years now. Despite having several talented young players in Fultz, Isaac, Gordon and Mo Bamba, the Magic and coach Steve Clifford have nothing to show for the last two seasons except two eighth seed playoff berths.. They made the postseason last year despite having just a 33-40 record.
They could get a decent return for Gordon, who is being misutilized in their system but has an intriguing, if underdeveloped, skillset of ball-handling and playmaking coupled with elite athleticism. However, the player who would undoubtedly provide the greatest return for the Magic is center Nikola Vucvevic, who is quietly having an All-Star caliber season. Vuvevic is currently averaging 22.5 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists a game. Even more impressive still, he is shooting 43.3 percent on 6.1 3-point attempts per game. His numbers are perhaps a bit inflated compared to if he was on a better team with more mouths to feed, but he is still scoring efficiently despite being on one of the worst offensive teams in the NBA.
The Perfect Outcome
Vucevic’s well-rounded and efficient playstyle would fit seamlessly on just about any team, and would likely net the Magic a solid package of draft picks from a playoff team looking to add an All-Star caliber player. Trading him makes sense from every angle: the Magic can stop treading water, which is difficult to do with a good player like Vucevic, and commit to a full-on rebuild. Additionally, Vucevic would get to spend the last few prime years of his career contributing to a winning franchise. Everyone wins!
The only potential difficulty is Vucevic’s contract, and how it could affect the Magic’s ability to find potential suitors. Vucevic is under contract until 2023 with an average annual salary of $25 million a year. While he is one of the best offensive centers in the NBA, he lacks the athleticism and defensive versatility that elite teams are often looking for, and they might not want to overpay for a center who does not provide them with elite defense.
Vucevic is one of the most entertaining big men in the NBA to watch right now, and is arguably a top five center in the league. He deserves better than wasting away with a franchise like the Magic that has slim prospects of future success. Hopefully their front office will see the writing on the wall and realize that they stand to benefit far more long-term by trading him instead of keeping him around to scratch and claw for the last playoff seed every year. We have seen too many big men have the same fate befall them, such as Demarcus Cousins on the Sacramento Kings and Kevin Love on the Minnesota Timberwolves. It would be fun to see what he could accomplish on a better team. #FreeVuc until it’s backwards.
‘From our Haus to yours’