Another End to Orlando’s Big-Man Era
By: Devin Zanskas
The March 25th NBA trade deadline ran through the Orlando Magic, which came as no surprise to fans following Aaron Gordon’s formal trade request three days before the trade deadline. According to ESPN’s Nick Friedell, Gordon’s irritation with “losses, injuries, and the way they’ve been playing” led to his request. The morning of the deadline, Gordon was shipped to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for
Gary Harris, RJ Hampton, and Denver’s 2025 protected first round pick. Gordon’s fit with the Magic has always been in question, given that he was asked to go far beyond his true strengths on the basketball court. The former fourth-overall pick from the 2014 NBA Draft developed
his skillset beyond using his extreme athleticism to run towards the rim, as Blake Griffin did in his later LA days. However, he would have probably been better-suited in a simplified rim running role, and being more opportunistic on catch-and-shoot threes next to more offensive talent on the perimeter. To the Magic’s chagrin, Gordon is now in the most ideal spot to hone his athleticism next to one of the best passers of all time, Nikola Jokic. There, he has a chance to fill the Nuggets’ hole left by Jerami Grant adequately, if not better.
Another Magic mainstay who departed the team during the trade deadline was Evan Fournier. Fournier was moved to the Boston Celtics for two second round picks. On the surface, it looks like the Magic were robbed of the value that Fournier was providing, a career high 19.7 points and 3.7 assists per game. However, Fournier’s $17 million contract is set to expire at the end of this season, and because of the Magic’s trades made on Thursday, they probably were not particularly interested in paying Fournier again. In addition, the Celtics had a massive trade exception, allowing them able to take on Fournier and not be required to trade back any active player’s salary. There is a possibility that Fournier’s being up for a new deal diminished his trade value since others may have only seen him as a rental. Regardless, it’s fortunate for Fournier that he is able to join a more competitive team with the potential to be a contender, and the Magic now have a $17 million trade exception that they could possibly move for more draft compensation within the next year.
Perhaps the most shocking and disappointing trade the Magic made at the deadline was sending two-time all-star, Nikola Vucevic, to the Chicago Bulls. The Magic traded Vucevic and Al-Farouq Aminu to the Bulls in exchange for Wendell Carter, Otto Porter, and 2021 and 2023 first round picks. Although the picks received from the Bulls are lightly protected, it was a smart order of business for the Bulls to make sure the picks didn’t extend out further than the summer following Vucevic’s contract expiration, making them more valuable. The Bulls may still find it difficult to escape the first round even with two current all-stars on roster, but climbing in a top-eight seed could be enough of a victory for the franchise that hasn’t seen the postseason since Jimmy Butler parted ways with the team in 2017. Wendell Carter is a solid young acquisition for the Magic, and a solid counterpart to their 2018 lottery selection in big man Mo Bamba. Bamba has been limited not
only by injuries, but also from depth at the center position. Now that Vucevic is out of the picture, hopefully Carter and Bamba will build upon their up-and-down early careers.