Should the Orlando Magic consider trading Aaron Gordon at the deadline?
When the Orlando Magic agreed to a four-year, $80 million contract extension with forward Aaron Gordon, he rewarded them in year 1 with arguably the best season of his career. Averaging 16.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, the former University of Arizona standout started a career-high 78 games. Orlando also made the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Things were looking up for Steve Clifford’s squad.
Fast forward a season, and now the Magic are 21-27. Although the main core of the team is intact, things haven’t clicked how they should have. Center Nikola Vucevic signed a new deal last offseason and was expected to take the franchise to the next level (along with Gordon). Unfortunately, it looks like the Magic’s magic has run out.
Gordon’s numbers are down across the board. The uber-athletic big is currently averaging 13.3 points per game, the lowest figure since his third season in the league. On top of that, his field goal percentage is a career-low 41.8 and he’s connecting on just 28.6 percent of his attempts from deep. The $20M average annual value his deal is worth that was once considered a steal may now not quite be worth the money.
Orlando appears to have hit its ceiling as a team. While youngsters like Mohamed Bamba and Jonathan Isaac (before injury) are becoming intriguing pieces for the future and Vucevic is clearly in it for the long haul, teams are starting to become interested in Gordon. Per The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, the Minnesota Timberwolves have inquired about him at some point this season. Other squads still believe in Gordon’s potential.
It seems like Gordon’s been in the league for quite some time (he has — since 2014), yet he’s still only 24 years old. In his previous form, he was a rising star who could get inside and score at will, dunk over defenders and knock down 3-pointers. He seemed like a legitimate building block for the future.
That raises the question: Should the Orlando Magic hold onto Gordon for at least the rest of the season, or should they trade him and try to recoup as much as possible? At the end of the day, the answer comes down to what direction the franchise believes it’s going in. If general manager John Hammond believes in Clifford and thinks Gordon belongs in Orlando long-term, trading him makes no sense. If he’s ready for a change and sees either more potential and/or a better fit in a player like Isaac, severing ties with Gordon could be best.
Being a perennial playoff team could be a worse situation to be in, I suppose. But if the Magic want to make a leap into the upper tier of the Eastern Conference, a shakeup may need to occur. With Aaron Gordon under contract for the next two seasons, a major decision could be on the horizon. Hang onto an impressive young player that’s struggling — or suffer a setback now in order to potentially set up a brighter future? Only time will tell.