The last time the Orlando Magic finished a season with a winning record — yes, it happened — Tracy McGrady was still around the league and Grant Hill was still revving it up. That was in the 2011-12 campaign when Ryan Anderson was still the team's best player (based on win shares).
Since then, the Magic posted no more than 30 wins within an NBA calendar in the five of the next six seasons. They have had nine first-round picks over that span and none of them was able to get Orlando out of the deep hole it's still trying to climb out of. Out of those nine selections, Victor Oladipo, at this point, has been the finest player, as evidenced by his All-Star nod last season. But he’s no longer with the team. This brings us to Aaron Gordon, who has evolved into some sort of a franchise cornerstone for Orlando. That’s until the front office trades him, and you can make a fair bet that they'll do that since that seems to be the team’s proclivity when it comes to its first-round picks lately.
The Magic are likely not going to improve much in 2018-19 with a roster that didn’t get reconfigured over the summer unless Mohamed Bamba plays like peak Dwight Howard right out of the gate of his NBA career. In other words, the Magic need something dramatic to get done in order to right their ship, and trading Gordon can be viewed as one maneuver Orlando’s front office could consider.
Gordon is only 22. He also just signed a very friendly four-year, $80 million deal, thanks to a cap-crunched market in the summer. Both factors should make him a tasty target for general managers in the league, especially if the Magic dangles the former Arizona Wildcat in their faces. Conversely, the Magic can acquire a considerable amount of talent or assets in return.
With that being said, here are some of the possible trade partners for Orlando in the event it puts Aaron Gordon on the trade block.
The trade: Aaron Gordon for Tyson Chandler/Dragan Bender/Josh Jackson/2020 first round pick
Aaron Gordon can pretend he loves playing for Orlando if reporters suddenly smell any trace of trade rumor blood in the water, but if he’s going to Phoenix, he’s probably going to be okay with it. From a basketball standpoint, the Magic and the Suns are like kindred spirits, as both teams appear to be stuck in the rebuild purgatory. They even share the same long odds of +50,000 to win an NBA title next year per BetOnline.ag.
Gordon is very familiar with the environment in Arizona, having spent his college years in Tucson. Now with the trade.
It makes sense for the Magic to get Tyson Chandler, who has arrived at a point that tutoring his teammates has become part of his resume. In Orlando, Chandler, who’s turning 36 this October, can serve that role to Mo Bamba. Bamba has a closer built and style of play in comparison to Chandler than Suns rookie Deandre Ayton, so the veteran may feel more comfortable mentoring the newbie over the other. Chandler is also on an expiring contract, so that’s a plus for the Magic.
Dragan Bender and Josh Jackson, on the other hand, will mitigate the impact of Gordon’s loss on Orlando’s forward slot. The two are also set to become restricted free agents next year, giving the Magic more control of what to do with these pieces. Letting Bender and Jackson walk away in 2019 would free Orlando of almost $13 million in salary cap space – money the team could use in luring a key free agent to Disneyland.
The trade: Aaron Gordon/D.J. Augustin for Damian Lillard
A general manager sometimes has to be heartless. And Neil Olshey needs to be one if he wants to give away Damian Lillard for Aaron Gordon.
The Magic and Blazers have a need that they could provide each other. Orlando needs a point guard. Since trading Elfrid Payton, their offense has been run on the floor by D.J. Augustin, who was serviceable, but isn’t going to be the type of guard a team dreaming of becoming a contender would ideally have as a starter. Ditto with Jerian Grant, who found himself in Orlando via a three-team trade back in July. The Magic finished just 20th in the league last season with only 41.8 points per game generated by their backcourt, and putting a scorer and playmaker of Lillard’s ilk should do wonders for Orlando’s lethargic offense.
Conversely, the Blazers wish for an upgrade in the forward slot. Portland was second worst in the NBA last season when its power forwards manufactured a paltry average of 14.3 points per game. Gordon can solve that lack of scoring at the four while giving more freedom for McCollum to operate in the backcourt. In addition to that, he will make the Blazers’ second unit better by bumping Al-Farouq Aminu into a backup role. Portland’s reserves put up only 27.7 points per game last season, third worst in the league.
While Augustin is never going to be mistaken for Lillard, C.J. McCollum is still there to keep the backcourt’s head above water. Signing Seth Curry in the summer will also soften the blow of Lillard’s loss atop the point guard depth chart at least in terms of scoring.
The trade: Aaron Gordon/D.J. Augustin for Jordan Clarkson/J.R. Smith/Sam Dekker/2020 first round pick
On paper, the Cavs might not be an ideal landing spot for Gordon since Cleveland already has Kevin Love, who also just signed a huge extension deal.
There’s no way that the Cavs will force Love into playing outside of his natural position, but they can line up Gordon alongside him in the other forward role to bolster the starting unit’s heft and versatility. Rodney Hood is slotted as the team’s starting small forward, but he’ll revert back to his old shooting guard role should Gordon arrive.
Gordon has steadily learned to shoot the ball from deep. He shot just 27.1 percent from behind the arc in his rookie year but did a whole lot better last year when he drained 33.6 percent of his long-distance attempts. With his ability to finish in half-court sets and push the pace by taking rebounds and running the ball downcourt, he’ll be able to supply Cleveland at least some of what LeBron James used to provide the team.
As for the Magic, they’ll get solid backcourt scoring from J.R. Smith and Jordan Clarkson. Smith will also provide sound perimeter defense, and while Clarkson turned into a ghost in this year’s playoffs, he should be able to get back up on his feet and rediscover his Los Angeles Lakers moxie while playing minus the pressure that obviously bothered him in Cleveland.