The Orlando Magic are rebuilding their roster, and they’ve drafted several big men over the last few years in order to do it. With Jonathan Issac, Mo Bamba, and the recently re-signed Aaron Gordon all needing playing time, it’s time for the Magic to cut their losses with Nikola Vucevic.
Nikola Vucevic joined the Orlando Magic prior to the 2012-13 season. He was traded to the Magic by Philadelphia in a deal that would also involve both Andre Iguodala and Dwight Howard. Vucevic has been a solid player throughout his NBA career, averaging a double-double in multiple seasons. A skilled scorer and hardworking rebounder, Vucevic could even be considered one of the more underrated players in the league. He is also 27, and on an Orlando Magic team that is clearly looking to get younger – including at his position of center.
The Magic selected Mohamed Bamba with the sixth pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Bamba is part of a young core of frontcourt players expected to get Orlando back into the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. Bamba, Jonathan Issac, and Aaron Gordon are the new faces of the Magic, and as the team is currently constructed, all will compete with Vucevic for minutes. If the Magic want to fully commit to their young talent, they should look to trade Vucevic while he still has value.
If the Magic decide to make Vucevic available, he should have no shortage of suitors. Several teams, many of them contenders with assets to spare, could use a player of his caliber. Vucevic averaged 16.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game last season. His rebounding numbers led the team. He was also one of the team’s better defenders, leading them in defensive win shares with 2.3. He showed that he has the ability to take over a game offensively, scoring 41 points against the Nets early last season.
Vucevic displayed his versatility as a scorer in that game, scoring in multiple ways. He rolled to the basket well and hit mid-range jump shots, both staples of his game. Even more impressive were the 6 threes he made on eight attempts. He had another standout game in December against Atlanta, posting a triple-double against the Hawks. Vucevic finished with 31 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists for his best all-around effort of the 2017-18 season.
In today’s NBA, where players are expected to contribute in multiple ways, Vucevic can add value to a contender. A big with a skilled shooting touch and the ability to grab rebounds at a high rate will be in high demand. Here are a few trades that the Magic could make with Vucevic as the centerpiece, and that would be mutually beneficial for both teams involved.
Trade #1 – Indiana Pacers trade Thaddeus Young, Magic Trade Vucevic
Vucevic would be a welcome addition to the Pacers lineup. He is a more versatile scorer than Young and a far better rebounder. His presence would help the Pacers build on an impressive season without giving up assets like first-round pick Aaron Holiday or key pieces like Myles Turner. Indiana could potentially put out a lineup of Darren Collison, Tyreke Evans, Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, and Vucevic, with Bojan Bogdanovic and Domantas Sabonis coming off the bench. In an Eastern Conference that’s as wide open as any time in recent memory, that could be a formidable roster.
As for Orlando, Thaddeus Young would provide scoring and defense off the bench, but perhaps more importantly, his contract expires at the end of next season. Freeing up roughly $13 million in cap space could help Orlando land a key free agent in what is shaping up to be a pivotal NBA summer.
Trade #2 – Utah Jazz trade Alec Burks, Magic Trade Vucevic
Adding Vucevic’s scoring and rebounding to Utah’s roster would help the Jazz immensely. The Jazz were 20th in the NBA in rebounds per game, and adding a perennial double-double threat like Vucevic would likely increase that number. Vucevic and Rudy Gobert would complement each other well, with each player able to compensate for the weaknesses of the other.
Orlando could ideally add Burks’ scoring, as he has shown himself to be a capable option when healthy. “When healthy” is an important distinction with Burks, who has played just 164 games since 2014 due to injury. If his health doesn’t improve, his contract does expire at the end of the season, giving the Magic some cap flexibility.
Trade #3 – Milwaukee Bucks trade Tony Snell, Magic Trade Vucevic
The Bucks have been looking for a permanent answer at center for some time, and they would be wise to make a move for Vucevic should he hit the market. The Bucks finished dead last in rebounds per game last season, so any rebounding Vucevic could provide would be greatly appreciated. Vucevic would be a solid addition to a team with aspirations of contending in the Eastern Conference, and they would likely give him the opportunity to see playoff basketball for the first time since his rookie season with the Sixers.
Tony Snell’s shooting could help the Magic spread the floor, and he is a plus defender. He could be a solid piece off the bench for Orlando as they continue their rebuild.
Now that the Magic have drafted Mo Bamba, they should support the face of their newest rebuild by giving the face of their last rebuild a real chance to contend.