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NBA PM: Magic Should Avoid Three-Way Trade

Cody Taylor explains why the Magic should avoid the rumored three-way deal with the Kings and Lakers.

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Updated 10 months ago on
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Magic Should Avoid Three-Way Trade

The Orlando Magic hold the fifth pick in Thursday’s NBA draft and have a lot of different directions in which they can go. In mock drafts all across the Internet, Justise Winslow, Stanley Johnson, Kristaps Porzingis, Devin Booker, Emmanuel Mudiay and Willie Cauley-Stein have all been penciled in as possible selections for the Magic.

The truth of the matter is no one really knows what the Magic are going to do outside of those within the organization. The team treats the draft and who they’ve scouted and worked out as if they are holding nuclear missile launch codes – they don’t publish any information. The Magic even ask players to withhold tweets and other communication about possible workouts as they see no value in sharing that information.

Last year, the team was linked heavily to point guard Dante Exum with the fourth pick, but ultimately chose Aaron Gordon out of Arizona. So as more and more mock drafts surface, any name attached to the Magic seems to be purely a guess and likely has no factual basis behind it. (Although, some are guesses are more educated than others based off of the feedback Orlando is giving each prospect’s respective camp).

Each year around this time, trade rumors and speculation on picks begin to ramp up significantly as the draft is a good time to execute roster moves. Virtually every team that holds a pick in the top 10 has been rumored to be considering some sort of trade and the rumors only figure to continue to escalate until the conclusion of Thursday’s draft.

More often than not, rumors turn out to be just that. For every actual move that occurs, there are a ton of rumored scenarios that don’t occur. Some of the reports or rumors are even leaked just to benefit a specific player or team in some way. Rumors often don’t pan out, and if they do, they’re sometimes much different than originally reported.

One of the biggest trade scenarios of this offseason surfaced on Monday when Marc Stein of ESPN reported that the Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic “have had exploratory dialogue” on a potential deal that would send DeMarcus Cousins to the Lakers. Exact details of the trade were unknown, other than a suggestion that the Magic could send center Nikola Vucevic to the Kings to fill Cousins’ place. It should also be noted that Stein’s sources said the Lakers are trying to construct trade scenarios that would entice the Kings to trade Cousins.

Of course, this report sent the basketball world into a frenzy with Lakers fans wondering if there’s an actual chance their team could acquire one of the best young centers in the game in Cousins. To really evaluate if that trade has any legs is to simply ask, would the Kings trade Cousins? Since Stein’s report has published, the answer to that question has gotten significantly complicated.

It seems as though Kings ownership is adamant that they want to keep Cousins in Sacramento, while head coach George Karl is reportedly trying to recruit Kings vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac and several players to persuade Kings owner Vivek Ranadive to green-light a trade involving Cousins.

In this scenario, it’s believed the Magic would part ways with Vucevic and their fifth pick on Thursday and in return for the second pick from the Lakers. At that point, the Magic would likely draft the big man the Timberwolves don’t select – either Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor – to replace Vucevic. While the team could reportedly consider making a trade on draft night, the Orlando Sentinel is reporting that the Magic are not involved in that three-way trade.

While trying to determine who the Magic might draft may be difficult, the decision to hold onto Vucevic and distance themselves from this trade might be an easier decision to make.

Vucevic has become one of the Magic’s most reliable scoring options, as his 19.3 points per game led the team last season. The team would be taking a huge gamble trading away their franchise cornerstone for an uncertainty coming out of college. While both Towns and Okafor have extremely high ceilings, there is still no guarantee how they’ll develop as they’ve yet to log a single minute in the NBA.

With Vucevic, the team already has an efficient big man on offense that finished ninth in the league in field goal percentage and fifth in the league in PER among all centers. The Magic rewarded Vucevic last October by signing him to a four-year, $48 million deal, which will begin paying him $11.25 next season. That deal is a bargain and will only continue to look better for the Magic with each passing year as the salary cap increases. He has tremendous talent on the offensive side of the ball, but remains a work in progress on defense. While his defense certainly needs to improve, there are similar concerns about Okafor, who Orlando would likely take with the second pick (as the Timberwolves are expected to draft Towns at No. 1).

The Magic would take a step back in their rebuild if they were to hypothetically take part in this deal, since they’d be replacing their most productive player with a teenager. That doesn’t seem to line up with their other moves, which have been focused on winning now and making a playoff push in the Eastern Conference. They just hired Scott Skiles as head coach to help advance the team further along in their rebuild and get to the next step. Drafting a player like Okafor means waiting another couple of seasons while he develops, unless Orlando has fallen in love with him and believes he’s a big upgrade over Vucevic.

This trade scenario also doesn’t line up with what Magic GM Rob Hennigan has said he is willing to do. Hennigan told the Orlando Sentinel recently that the team is considering moving back in the draft.

“I would say we’ve talked to at least a half-dozen teams about it,” Hennigan told the Orlando Sentinel. “So it’s something we’re definitely considering and weighing sincerely: potentially moving back.”

The idea of moving back in the draft could potentially help the team acquire veteran players to contribute, in addition to their young nucleus, or they could add additional picks to trade down. The Magic had veteran players in Channing Frye, Ben Gordon, Luke Ridnour and Willie Green on the team last season, but only Frye is guaranteed for next season.

It’s clear that the Magic will listen to offers on draft night, but nothing is imminent and it remains to be seen what Hennigan will do. The team has plenty of assets to work with, but they’ll likely be careful in how they approach potential trades and may opt to sit out this potential three-way trade with the Lakers and Kings.

Several Teams Looking to Change Draft Positions

As Thursday’s draft quickly approaches, many teams are looking to change positions in the draft. Some teams have made it public that they may be looking to trade down, while there are reports out there that some would like to move up.

We’ve already publicly heard that the Magic would be open to the possibility of moving down, while the Boston Celtics recently made it public knowledge that they would like to trade up.

“We’re having discussions to move up with both of our picks in the first round,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Tuesday morning at the team’s training center. “We’re trying to move up with at least one of them. I think there will be some movement.”

The Celtics are currently slated to pick at positions 16 and 28 in the first round and at 33 and 45 in the second round. Ainge admitted that, based on what he’s heard from other executives, Thursday’s draft could feature a lot of movement. Ainge remains hopeful that his team can get a deal done.

In addition to the Celtics, the Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks and the Oklahoma City Thunder may also try to move up as well. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Clippers are said to be interested in acquiring a pick. The Pelicans want a first-rounder, as they currently only have the 56th pick in the second round, while the Clippers are looking at options to land a late-first or second-round pick because they don’t have a selection in either round.

One idea that appears to be picking up steam is a potential deal between the Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers.

The draft should feature no shortage of potential deals and could feature a lot of trades taking place.

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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