The Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers are two teams that ended last season in rebuild mode, but have taken very different paths after an event-filled off-season. This leads us to here, as the Magic and Lakers should do a trade involving Nikola Vucevic.
After selecting Mo Bamba during last June’s draft to pair with Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac, the Magic now have young assets who create a pretty formidable front court. What they lack, however, are quality wing players to space the floor.
Evan Fournier, who has spent the last four seasons with the team and is locked in until 2021, is still serviceable but is also oft-injured. Upgrading both guard spots should be an area they address as soon as they can.
On the other hand, the group from Hollywood has seemingly fast-tracked their ascent into the upper echelon of NBA teams with the acquisition of incumbent best player on the planet, LeBron James. Furthermore, they’ve signed savvy veterans in Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, and JaVale McGee to join their young core of Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma to form a group that can compete with the powerhouses of the Western Conference.
The last missing piece to their puzzle, though, is a starting quality center. McGee, a three-year pro, Ivica Zubac, and recently drafted Mo Wagner, are better suited for spot minutes rather than a heavy workload off the bat.
Zeroing in on each of their primary needs, I believe this trade will benefit both the Magic and the Lakers.
Landing Nikola Vucevic instantly gives the Purple and Gold the prototypical big man they’ve been yearning for. Given his ability to space the floor, rebound the basketball, and post up, he’ll be a solid fit alongside Ball, James, or Rondo, who will find him for easy baskets off the pick and roll.
Additionally, after averaging almost a steal and a block for his seven-year career, Vuc’s defense is underrated and he does a good enough job of protecting the paint. Think of him as a slightly quicker and younger version of Brook Lopez.
Moreover, sending away Kentavious Caldwell-Pope solidifies the young Ingram as the starting shooting guard and Kuzma as their premier small forward. Giving both these young guns the opportunities to grow, in spite of LBJ’s arrival, should also be a priority for Coach Luke Walton.
We all already know what the multiple-time NBA Most Valuable Player can do, but the Lakers will only go as far as these two players can take them.
As for the Magic, ridding themselves of last season’s starting center means they’re going all-in on Bamba as their big man of the future. His never-before-seen mixture of blocking shots, outside shooting, length, and sprinting the floor has other executives salivate at this potential. Still, he is widely considered a project and will need all the playing time he can handle to evolve offensively and get acclimated to the professional game.
Adding KCP also has its positives. After shooting a career-high 38.3% from the great beyond last season, he should be ready to take on a larger offensive role. His outside snipping will be a welcome addition to a team that only made 35.1% from three, good for 28th in the league, and is in dire need of floor spacers.
The former Piston also brings in a wealth of experience that should help create a strong learning culture for a young organization. Though the Magic are not yet seen as contenders in the East, this deal will allow them to be more competitive and make a bigger splash next season.
This may not be the landscape-altering, earth-shattering deal fans of each franchise are hoping for, but after careful analysis, its effectivity cannot be questioned. Each team fills a need while squeezing out more opportunities for their young players. Ultimately, this helps them in a short-term, while setting them up nicely for the future.
At the very least, this should be a transaction both the Lakers and the Magic explore.