The Orlando Magic went out this offseason and spent a ton of money to improve their roster in order to make a serious run at the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12. And the Magic apparently are willing to make some in-season moves as well.
Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel is reporting that the Magic will look to add some scorers via the trade market this year.
Orlando has won two straight to improve 9-12 on the season. The Magic’s main Achilles’ heel through the first 21 games has been scoring as they rank 29th in the league in points per game (93.2). The Magic are also 29th in offensive rating (96.8) and tied for last with 1.11 points per possession.
Orlando has only topped the century mark five times so far. The Magic are 4-1 in those games.
Evan Fournier leads four players in double figures with 17.2 points a game. Fournier has struggled the last two games, making just five of 18 shots from the field, and averaging 10.5 points a game. The six-foot-seven swing man has scored in double figures 19 times, which includes topping the 20-point plateau on eight occasions. He is shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 37.0 percent from beyond the arc.
Power forward Serge Ibaka (14.6 ppg), center Nikola Vucevic (12.5, 11.6 rpg), and point guard Elfrid Payton (10.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg) are the other players averaging double figures. Forward Aaron Gordon (9.9 ppg) and guard D.J. Augustin (9.4) are close to double figures.
The biggest problem for the Magic is that they don’t have a go-to scorer. Fournier, Vucevic, and Jeff Green are all shooting below their career averages. Gordon and Payton have struggled from beyond the arc, making 29.7 percent and 17.8 percent of those shot attempts, respectively. And swing man Mario Hezonja has yet to develop in year two as expected. The 21-year-old Croatian is averaging 4.1 points in 12.1 minutes as he is shooting 30.0 percent from the floor and 17.2 percent from long distance.
Orlando acquired shooting guard Jodie Meeks to complement their other offseason additions of Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo, and Green as a capable outside shooter. However, Meeks is still working his way back into shape after having foot surgery in July. The 29-year-old made his season debut on Friday, tallying 10 points as he made two of three shots from beyond the arc against Philadelphia. He then contributed seven points along with two assists in 16 minutes against the Detroit Pistons, his former team, on Sunday.
Robbins mentioned Ibaka, Green, Meeks, and C.J. Wilcox as possible trade candidates as they are all in the final year of their contracts. He also included C.J. Watson in that group as only $1 million of his $5 million 2017-18 contract is guaranteed. Teams looking to free cap space for the upcoming offseason typically like to acquire players on expiring contracts.
A key date to remember is December 15, the first day when most players who signed free agent deals during the offseason may be included in trades. That is when Ibaka, Augustin, Biyombo, Green, Arinze Onuaka, and Damjan Rudez become eligible.
Ibaka seems the least likely of the five players mentioned by Robbins to be dealt as the Magic’s offseason centered around his and Biyombo’s acquisition. Orlando gave up Victor Oladipo, Erslan Ilyasova, and the rights to No. 11 draft selection, Domantas Sabonis, in exchange for the six-foot-10 27-year-old.
Ibaka has been an integral part of the team this season. He leads the team in shooting percentage (49.2) and blocks (1.8). Ibaka is also third on the squad in rebounding (6.7).
Ibaka has bounced back nicely from a disappointing 2015-16 campaign. He has increased his shooting accuracy from the three-point arc, making a career-high 1.3 triples a game, and has become a better passer this year. Ibaka also has been good on the defensive end, limiting opponents to 48.7 percent shooting from the field as he has been the Magic’s second best rim protector – behind Gordon.
Green has been a major disappointment. He is producing a career-worse 8.6 points a game as he is shooting personal lows of 36.6 percent from the field and 27.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Wilcox has only played in eight games, averaging 5.6 minutes a game. He is averaging 1.0 points while shooting 25.0 percent from the field and 28.6 percent on his three-point attempts. The six-foot-five guard has not seen a lot of NBA action since being selected late in the first round by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014.
Watson is the Magic’s fifth guard, so it is unlikely he will see much action with Meeks’ return. He is averaging 2.2 points and 1.0 assist in 12.2 minutes over 17 games. The 32-year-old is a good three-point shooter though he is struggling overall this season, shooting 25.6 percent from the field. He has made 40.0 percent of his three-point attempts.
Vucevic and Payton also could be on the move per ESPN.
Head coach Frank Vogel recently replaced Vucevic in the starting lineup with Biyombo, possibly adding credence to ongoing rumors. The 26-year-old is shooting a career-low 44.4 percent from the field, and his scoring average is down nearly six points from last year’s 18.2 average.
Vucevic is on the books for $11.75 million this season and is owed $12.25 million in 2017-18 and $12.75 million in 2018-19.
Payton has not been the lead guard that the Magic thought they were getting since acquiring him from the Philadelphia 76ers on draft day three years ago. The 22-year-old demonstrated some improvement last year over his rookie campaign. But he is still not a good shooter and is not a top-tier point guard despite being selected with the 10th overall selection.
Payton has been better on the defensive end and has protected the ball a little better this year. He does a good job challenging jump shooters due to his length and quickness.
Orlando has been terrific on defense overall, permitting 97.1 points a game – which is the third fewest in the league. The Magic are also third in defensive rating, seventh in defensive field goal percentage, and third in defensive three-point percentage.
[Featured Image by Brandon Dill/AP Images]