Earlier this week, reports suggested that the Orlando Magic are planning to trade center Nikola Vucevic in a move that could potentially free up more playing time for recent lottery picks Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba. While the NBA rumor mill hasn’t had much information so far on potential trade partners for the Magic, a new report from the L.A. Sports Hub on Fansided recommended a deal that would allow the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire the 27-year-old big man and shore up their weakness in the middle.
With a rotation that features recently acquired veteran JaVale McGee and seldom-used youngster Ivica Zubac as the players most likely to get the bulk of the minutes, L.A. Sports Hub wrote that the center position is the Lakers’ biggest weakness ahead of the soon-to-begin LeBron James era. The publication also mentioned another pain point of note in Luol Deng’s contract, as the veteran small forward is still owed $36 million for the next two years, but might not see much playing time in a forward rotation that also includes James, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma.
Taking stock of the situation, L.A. Sports Hub recommended a potential trade that might resolve both issues by giving the Lakers a solid starting center and getting rid of Deng’s expensive contract. According to the blog site, the Los Angeles Lakers could swing a trade for Nikola Vucevic, reserve big man Jarell Martin, and a 2019 second-round pick, and send Deng, 2018 first-round draft pick Moritz Wagner, and a 2019 first-rounder to the Magic in return.
According to L.A. Sports Hub, the trade could benefit the Lakers not only because Vucevic is an upgrade over McGee and Zubac, but also because the team could free up cap space when Vucevic, who is in the last year of his contract with the Magic, becomes a free agent next summer. This cap space could then be used to sign top free agents such as Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler. The publication also noted that the Lakers could exercise Vucevic’s Bird Rights and extend his contract if he is able to mesh with LeBron James and the rest of the team.
“[Vucevic] is the embodiment of the true, big-bodied center that the Lakers need offensively and defensively.”
As for the Orlando Magic, the suggested trade would deprive them of a center who averaged 16.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists, but even without Nikola Vucevic, the team could consequently find minutes for Bamba and Wagner, the latter of whom was picked 25th overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. While L.A. Sports Hub predicted that the deal won’t turn the Magic into a contender just yet, the site posited that the addition of Wagner and the Lakers’ first-round pick in the 2019 draft could make the theoretical deal worth it for the team.