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Who is the Orlando Magic’s Best Trade Chip?

Orlando Magic guard Arron Afflalo is his team’s best trade chip, which is why he could be on the move soon.

Cody Taylor



Draft night in the NBA presents one of the busiest times of the year for general managers, and Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan will be among the busiest. The Magic currently own the No. 4 and No. 12 picks in this month’s draft and figure to be very active all night. The way things play out ahead of the Magic at the fourth pick may very well determine what Hennigan and the Magic do. Having those two picks allows the Magic to listen to incoming offers from teams attempting to trade up and position themselves with possibly one or two more picks in the middle of the first-round.

There has been a lot of speculation about who the Magic could decide to take with their first pick, but given their need for a point guard, Australian point guard Dante Exum is the current favorite to land in Orlando. In recent weeks, the Philadelphia 76ers have been rumored to want to draft Exum to pair up with reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams. So if the Magic’s clear-cut guy is Exum and the 76ers draft him, what will the Magic do? If Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid or Jabari Parker fall to the Magic at four, will they take one of them instead of Exum?

Having two top-12 draft picks, the Magic have plenty of options and could be open to making a trade on draft night. There is reason to believe that there is no one player safe from a trade on the roster unless it’s an offer Hennigan can’t refuse. With the possibility of an active draft night, who might be the best trade option the Magic have to offer?

One name that has been thrown around a lot is Arron Afflalo. This season, Afflalo averaged a career-best 18.2 points per game along with 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists. If the Magic were to draft a guard or wing player like Exum or Parker with the fourth pick, Afflalo could become expendable. Pairing Exum up with Victor Oladipo would solidify the Magic’s backcourt for years to come and thus create an opportunity to part ways with Afflalo. The argument can be made that the time has never been better to trade Afflalo at the high-point of his career. Coming off of his seventh season in the league, Afflalo may be past his prime when the time comes for the Magic to begin winning in a couple of seasons. Many view the Magic as a young team with a bright future, but it may be time to cash in on Afflalo now and allow the younger players to get the meaningful minutes. A starting lineup of Exum, Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Kyle O’Quinn and Nikola Vucevic may be more beneficial to the Magic at this point.

Afflalo could become very attractive to teams that are in need of another scoring option, such as the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls have been rumored to want Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love and possible soon-to-be free agent Carmelo Anthony. Should the Bulls falter in acquiring either of those players, Afflalo could become a real option. The Magic could be looking at Carlos Boozer and his expiring contract in return. With the Magic due roughly $22.7 million in cap space this summer, they can afford to bring in Boozer and his $16.5 million contract. The Bulls may also have to throw in one of their two first-round draft picks in a deal like this. The Bulls currently hold the 16th and 19th selections, respectively. The Magic could potentially be looking at the No. 4, No. 12 and No. 16 or No. 19 picks.

One of the biggest reasons why Afflalo is so attractive is his contract situation. Coming off a career-year, Afflalo made $7.5 million and stands to make that same figure for the next two seasons. As a proven player who scores 18 points a game, Afflalo remains a bargain for teams that could make a serious run in the playoffs and can afford to bring in that kind of salary. With the Magic’s stance on clearing out expensive contracts, they could have a way to dump Afflalo’s salary.

One potential drawback of deciding to trade Afflalo is the Magic might only gain interest from playoff teams. A team in a similar situation with high draft picks may not want to take on a player like Afflalo and the $7.5 million due to him next season. That leaves those teams competing for the playoffs and their draft picks may be too low for the Magic’s taste.

While the talk of having two first-round draft picks has allowed for the Magic to deal Afflalo, it also wouldn’t be a surprise if the Magic decided to deal one of those picks if it meant acquiring an additional pick. One idea that could help the Magic is trading the fourth pick to a team with multiple first-round picks like the Phoenix Suns. If a player like Parker is available at the fourth pick, the Suns may view him as a player that they must have and could be inclined to give the Magic their 14th and 18th picks for the Magic’s fourth pick. With still three weeks to go until the draft, the rumors will continue to fly. In his short time as Magic GM, Hennigan has already put his mark on the team and he faces a big summer ahead of him to continue to improve the Magic.

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.


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NBA Daily: The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Porter Jr. is an elite prospect, but questions surrounding his back will determine his landing spot in the NBA.

Steve Kyler



The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

While some of the highly thought of college players have made their intentions on declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft known, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr still hasn’t made his proclamation. Most people in NBA circles believe he’ll be in the 2018 NBA Draft class, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think he’s in.

Back in November the Missouri staff was somewhat vague and guarded about Porter Jr’s condition until it was announced that he’d have back surgery on a couple of problematic discs in the lumbar area of his spine. The procedure is called a microdiscectomy and by all accounts was a success.

Porter Jr missed virtually all of his college season but opted to play in the post-season for Missouri, who got eliminated fairly quick.

There were certainly a lot of ugly things about Porter Jr’s game. He looked out of shape, and certainly wasn’t the overwhelming dominating force he’d been in high school. Some executives applauded his decision to play, even though he wasn’t at a 100 percent. Some pointed to that fact that too many college players play it safe and that’s not always viewed positively. Almost no one Basketball Insiders spoke with was holding the less than stellar outing against him, in fact, most had far more positive things to say than negative. There was one resounding theme from the NBA executives who spoke about this situation – none of it matters until they see his medical.

Assuming Porter Jr, does as expected and hires an agent and enters the draft, the next challenge he’ll face is how open he wants to be to teams looking at drafting him.

In recent years NBA teams have not shied away from using high draft picks on injured or recently injured players. Once a team can get a sense of how the player is recovering they can make a value judgment.

Agents often use this information and access to the player to help steer their client to the situation they deem most favorable. While fans and outsiders often get caught up in the pick number a player ultimately lands in, more and more agents are concerned with fit, especially for a player that may need time to get back to 100 percent.

Steering their client to a team with favorable medical staff, a team with a proven track record of patience or more importantly, a team with the best chance at a long and fruitful career.

This won’t be good news for some team that could end up in the top 10, as its more likely that Porter Jr isn’t made available to everyone. NBA executives will tell you, they can certainly draft him if they wanted to, but most teams won’t draft a player if their medical staff doesn’t sign off, and without information and access how can they do that?

There is a significant financial difference in going third in the draft ($5.47 million) and tenth ($2.964 million) – but several agents commented that the short-term money shouldn’t drive the long-term decision, especially if the player isn’t 100 percent. The fit and situation typically trump everything in these situations.

Another concept to consider is while Porter Jr did play, there are questions about whether he’ll host a pro-day, take part in private team workouts or simply let his body of work drive his draft value.

Almost no one who spoke about this situation believed Porter Jr would take part in the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, as he’d have to subject himself to the medical testing that’s part of that event.

The common perception on Porter Jr is he’s a top-five talent, although it seems more likely that his camp is going to try and work the process to ensure he lands in a favorable situation. That could mean he falls out of top-five selections, simply because he and his agents choose to.

There is still a lot that needs to play out for Porter Jr, including his announcement that he will enter the draft. But given where things stand with him, it’s more likely than not he’s coming into the draft, and it’s more likely than not he’ll have a lot of questions NBA teams will want to understand before his real draft position is clear.

The NBA Draft Lottery will be held in Chicago this year and is scheduled for May 15th. The annual Draft Combine, also in Chicago, gets underway on May 16th.

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NBA Daily: Checking In With Terrance Ferguson

Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Terrance Ferguson talks to Basketball Insiders about learning from his teammates, earning minutes and being mentally tough.

Ben Nadeau



Before he reached the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Terrance Ferguson was once often referred to as a man of mystery. After changing course on two different programs in a two-month span, Ferguson ditched the typical one-and-done collegiate season for an adventure on the other side of the planet. But even after the Thunder selected Ferguson with the No. 21 overall pick in last year’s draft — the questions still lingered. How would a teenager with one season overseas adjust to the world’s most physical basketball league?

Not many rookies can contribute to a 40-plus win squad out in the cutthroat Western Conference so quickly — but down the stretch, here Ferguson is doing just that. With the Thunder locked in a tight playoff battle with six others teams, the 19-year-old’s hard-working personality has fit alongside the roster’s three perennial All-Stars — Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. And although his rookie season has come with some growing pains, Ferguson is earning meaningful minutes and making the most of them.

“I think it’s my work ethic, I come in every day with the same mentality,” Ferguson said. “I work my butt off — inside the game, being physical. Even though I’m a skinny guy, as everyone can see, I’m still everywhere on the floor being physical. I think [the coaching staff] really likes that, especially on the defensive end.”

Skinny or not, Ferguson is one of the league’s youngest players, so the 6-foot-7 guard has plenty of room to grow — literally. But for now, he’s playing an integral role on an Oklahoma City team looking to protect its high postseason seed. Late January brought the unfortunate season-ending injury to Andre Roberson — an All-Defensive Second Team honoree in 2016-17 — so the Thunder have needed both new and old players to step up in bigger roles.

While those candidates included the three-point shooting Alex Abrines, veteran Raymond Felton and the newly-acquired Corey Brewer, Ferguson’s recent rise in the rotation has arguably been the most interesting development. Since the calendar flipped to January, Ferguson has featured in almost all of the Thunder’s games, tallying just two DNP-CDs and one missed contest following a concussion. This steady diet of opportunity comes as a stark contrast to the 15 games in which he received no playing time, spanning from the season’s opening tip to the new year.

Of course, playing time is not always indicative of success, but Ferguson himself isn’t surprised that he’s carved out a crucial role ahead of the playoffs.

“Not really, it’s all up to coach’s decision,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I’m just here playing my part, staying ready at all times and some minutes came, so I’mma take them and play to the best of my ability.”

Back in October, Basketball Insiders’ own Joel Brigham spoke to Ferguson about his unconventional path to NBA and the choice to spend a year grinding with the Adelaide 36ers, an Australian outfit. In the land down under, Ferguson averaged just 15 minutes a night, considerably less than he would’ve likely received as a highly-recruited prospect here in America. Some five months later, Ferguson’s early-season stance on the move still stands out.

“I’m living the dream now, right? I must have done the right thing,” Ferguson said.

Today, it’s hard to disagree with Ferguson’s decisions considering that they’re currently paying off. In 2009, Brandon Jennings became the first to skip college and play in Europe before being drafted, with Emmanuel Mudiay most notably following in his footsteps six years later. While those two point guards both were selected in the top ten of their draft classes — at No. 10 and No. 7, respectively — it still remains the road far less traveled.

Considered raw by most pre-draft evaluations, an early expectation was that Ferguson would spend much of the season with the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate. Instead, Ferguson has played in only three games with the Blue, where he has averaged a commendable 14.7 points, four rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.

But as of late, the Thunder have found somebody that’ll always work hard, learn from others and do the little things that don’t show up in the box score.

“I’ve learned a lot more from when I first started,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I got great teammates — I got Nick Collison, I got Russ, PG, Melo, so just picking their brains. I got Corey now, so just the work ethic they put in, just picking their brains each and every day about what I can do better, watching game film, it’s a lot of things.”

When he was drafted, Ferguson had a reputation as a skyscraping leaper with the athleticism to become an elite perimeter defender. Although his current averages with the Thunder understate his innate potential, Ferguson knows he can contribute without scoring — even noting that he can make up for it “on the other side of the court.” Playing defense and competing hard every night, he has slowly made a name for himself.

And while Ferguson has tallied far more single-digit scoring outings than his 24-point breakout performance in early January, he’s earned the trust of head coach Billy Donovan and his veteran teammates, which is something the rookie will never take for granted.

“Coach believes in me and that means a lot to me,” Ferguson said. “But my teammates believe in me, so I’m not gonna let them down. I’m gonna go out every day and play my hardest, compete and try to get the win each and every night.”

One might assume that his year abroad in Australia helped to mentally mold him into the high-flying, hard-nosed rookie we see today. Ferguson, however, contends that he’s had that edge from the very beginning.

“I’ve been mentally tough, it wasn’t overseas that did that,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I had to be mentally tough just to go over there — so I’ve always had that mentality, the [desire] to just dominate, play to the best of my ability and compete.”

And now he’s doing just that in the NBA.

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Is Kyrie Irving’s Second Opinion a Cause for Concern?

Shane Rhodes breaks down the tough situation the Celtics are in with Kyrie Irving.

Shane Rhodes



The Boston Celtics are in one awful predicament.

With a third of the roster out due to injury, Brad Stevens has been forced into the impossible task of maintaining Boston’s championship aspirations with some subpar talent; while they have performed admirably, the likes of Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye wouldn’t see the same run they are currently on with most contenders. Gordon Hayward has missed the entire season, save a few minutes on opening night. Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis are all currently out, some for the year and others not. Key contributors Al Horford, Marcus Morris and others have missed time as well.

It couldn’t get worse, could it?

Well, it may just have. Reports surfaced Tuesday that Irving, who had missed time this season — including the last four games — with left knee soreness, is seeking a second opinion after a lack of progress in his recovery.

In the wake of the Isaiah Thomas fiasco and his ailing hip last Summer, an injury that lingered deep into this season, the Celtics will likely be more than cautious with Irving, whom they gave up a haul (the rights to the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick, most notably), to acquire. But one can only wonder if these persistent issues — Irving’s left knee was surgically repaired after he sustained a fractured kneecap in 2015, and he reportedly threatened the Cleveland Cavaliers with surgery this offseason before his trade to Boston — are a cause for concern for general manager Danny Ainge and the Celtics.

The situation presents the Celtics with a quandary, to say the least.

Knee injuries aren’t exactly a death-knell, but fans need not look far for to see the devastating effect they can have on NBA players (e.g. Derrick Rose). They can snowball and, over time, even the best players will break down. Regardless of the severity, Irving’s knee issue presents problems both now and in the future.

The problems now are obvious: the Celtics, already down Gordon Hayward, cannot afford to lose Irving if they are at all interested in making a Finals run this season. Boston struggles mightily on the offensive end when Irving and his 24.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists aren’t on the court. In a playoff atmosphere, especially, the team would sorely miss his scoring prowess.

Looking ahead, if Irving is dealing with these problems at the age of 25, what could the future hold for the All-Star guard? Knee issues, most lower body issues in general, are often of the chronic variety, and constant maintenance can wear on people, both mentally and physically.

Just a season separated from a likely super-max payday, will the Celtics want to commit big-money long-term to potentially damaged goods?

If there is a silver lining in it all, it is the fact that 20-year-old rookie Jayson Tatum must now shoulder the scoring load, something that should go a long way in building on the potential that made him the No. 3 overall pick last June. And, should Irving miss the remainder of this season, exposure to the fires of the playoffs should only temper the Celtics’ young roster. In the event that Irving’s absence isn’t prolonged, time like this could only serve to strengthen the roster around him.

Still, Ainge brought Irving to Boston for a reason: he was meant to lead the Celtics into battle, alongside Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, in their quest for a title. Obviously, he can’t do that from the bench. Without Irving at 100 percent, the Celtics are not a championship caliber squad, healthy Gordon Hayward or not. That fact alone will make Irving’s situation one to monitor going forward and for the foreseeable future.

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