I would say that Orlando is going to be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference unless something catastrophic happens, yet, in a way, that’s already occurred multiple times so far in 2019-20. All-Star Nikola Vucevic missed 11 contests earlier in the season due to a severe ankle sprain and, just two weeks ago, the Magic lost Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jonathan Isaac for at least the next two months with a knee ailment. It really hasn’t been the easiest path for Orlando through the campaign’s first-half; however, after 41 games, the squad is 20-21 and a clear tier above the Bulls, Pistons and Hornets of the world.
So, how does basically knowing you’ll be playing meaningful basketball in April effect the Magic at the trade deadline? Let’s get into it.
Way back in November, many teams around the league apparently noticed that Orlando sort of had a glut of players at the power forward position. In fact, according to the Athletic’s Shams Charania, many front offices were interested in the possibility of trading for Aaron Gordon, who was viewed as the odd man out with the flourishing Isaac holding down the four for the foreseeable future and possessing an overlapping skill-set. Still, that same report stated that the Magic were not looking to deal the former fourth-overall pick and, in hindsight, that appears to have been the proper stance. Though Gordon’s unachieved throughout 2019-20, even seeing his 3-point rate drop to an abysmal 27.4%, longterm injuries to Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu (knee) have created an opportunity to Gordon to once again be an integral piece of the Magic’s attack. In six January starts, Gordon’s averaged 14.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. I doubt the 24-year-old is going anywhere anytime soon.
Orlando is a fantastic defensive team, possessing the NBA’s second-best defensive rating across its past 10 games (101.9). However, it’s abundantly clear that the team is lacking consistent scoring options. The Magic own the worst offensive rating of any team currently sitting in a playoff spot (105.4) and their 53.0% true shooting rate is better than only the likes of the Knicks and the Warriors. Basically, there’s a reason that every time a flawed point-producer hypothetically hits the market, Orlando is mentioned as a destination that would make sense. A month ago, I felt that the Magic were the exact type of team that might be willing to entice the Spurs to trade DeMar DeRozan; though San Antonio’s recent play and track record suggest that they won’t be sellers on Feb. 6. Now, I’m starting the Derrick Rose to Orlando train. The Pistons have no good reason to hold on to the veteran as they begin what should be a lengthy rebuild and the Magic could desperately use Rose’s scoring acumen. Heck, with injuries to D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams, Orlando could simply use a backup point guard.