Did you see what happened against LA? Markelle Fultz managed to lead the Orlando Magic past the Lakers. Fultz put up a triple-double with 21 points, 11 rebounds and ten assists. Fultz and the Magic managed to hold off the Lakers in LA. This game showed Fultz and Orlando at their highest potential. Orlando is finally looking like they have a direction with their team. They have an exciting young core that’s looking like they really could be something in 2-3 years.
Orlando hasn’t been much of, well, anything, since the Dwight Howard trade. They traded Howard and got an entire package in return, they got Nikola Vucevic, a bunch of picks, Moe Harkless, Aaron Afflalo and a bunch of other players. Throughout the following years, Orlando never really managed to recover. Vucevic was a solid center, but nothing special, and they didn’t use their picks wisely. They drafted Victor Oladipo in 2013 with the second pick, exciting right? Nope. Although he was a good player in Orlando, he wasn’t the superstar that Orlando had hoped, so they traded him to OKC. In 2015 they drafted Mario Hezojnia over the likes of Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre Jr. In 2016 they picked up Domantas Sabonis with the 11th pick, and then traded him to OKC as well.
Orlando made some mistakes over the years, but are finally looking like they have a real future after eight years of mediocrity. They have a young core of Markelle Fultz, Johnathan Isaac and Mo Bamba. This team is far from the young core that Atlanta or Memphis has, but they’re building a solid foundation as may well turn into something in a few years. They have several things that they must do, Here’s what Orlando must do to be a true playoff team in the furute:
The trio of Markelle Fultz, Johnathan Isaac and Mo Bamba is one of the most exciting young trios in the NBA. Fultz is having the rookie season that he wanted to have two years ago (No he’s not actually a rookie). This is actually Fultz’s first season playing more than 19 games, playing more than 40 so far this year. He also had a 6.7% increase in 2-point percentage. His 3-point shot needs some work, but he has shown flashes of greatness with Orlando. The LA game is the perfect example of what people were expecting from him when he was first drafted. He is also starting to actually shoot the 3-point shot in each game, averaging 1.7 attempts per game. He’s only shooting at a 26.5% clip, but the fact that he is making an effort to shoot the 3-ball shows real development in his game. He has seen improvements in every aspect of his game and is showing that his upside potential is something that Magic fans can look forward to.
Johnathan Isaac was having a breakout season until he got a severe bone contusion in his left knee. Isaac is in his third season and proved himself as one of the best defensive players in the league. He was averaging 2.4 blocks, fourth most in the NBA, as well as 1.6 steals. Isaac was a clear candidate for Defensive Player of the Year before his unfortunate injury. Isaac is also starting to show offensive improvements. He’s shot his average 33% from three, but his 2-point field goal percentage is a career best 51.5%. He’s putting up a career-high 12 points per game, as well as 6.9 rebounds. Isaac is only 22 years-old with more than enough time to develop into something real. Isaac is the most likely candidate of the Magic’s young three to become a multiple-time all-star. His potential is limitless and he’s only going to improve.
Bamba makes the cut solely because of his youth. He is currently looking like the bust of the 2018 draft. Part of this isn’t his fault, though, since the Magic decided to bring one-time all-star Nikola Vucevic back on a four-year deal. Bamba’s production has gone down from his rookie season averaging 5.3 points per game instead of 6.2. His field goal percentage dropped 4.2%, now shooting 43.9%. The former fifth pick in the draft hasn’t given Magic fans much excitement, but he has shown promise on the defensive end. He is currently averaging 1.3 blocks per game, the only exciting thing about him at the moment.
Bamba has not really had the chance to prove himself though as he has never averaged 20 minutes per game. Bamba will likely soon get his chance since one of Orlando’s big men may be on the move.
Trade Aaron Gordon:
The 24 year-old power forward has had a solid career so far. Despite his solid stint, he doesn’t really fit with Orlando. This is his sixth year with the Magic and his trade value is decreasing day-by day. He’s experiencing a serious drop in production since Fultz and Fournier are playing very well. Gordon could very well help a team that needs a solid big man and Orlando could use another guard to play along-side Fultz. Fournier is on an expiring deal and DJ Augustin is currently injured. Aaron Gordon could bring back a solid guard in a deal around a team that needs that’s trying to contend. Here are two options for trading Gordon:
Phoenix started out the season pretty hot at 5-2 and have been slowly dropping since. Phoenix still wants to make the playoffs as they feel they have the team to do it. Phoenix has a gaping hole at the four spot. Dario Saric is a solid player, but he’s not exactly starting caliber. He’s averaging a career-low 9.8 points per game on 43.7% shooting. Gordon would be a clear upgrade at that position. They’d have to give up some assets to get him, but Gordon is only 24, so they’re getting a young asset back. Gordon will give Phoenix a real boost in their offense. Gordon could be the piece that they need in order to make a second-half playoff push.
As for Orlando, They pick up two solid pieces in Ty Jerome, whom could play and develop in the backcourt with Fultz. They also acquire Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky isn’t as good as Gordon, but that’s the idea. First off, he’s injured for a bit, so Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will likely be starting in his place, but even when he returns, he won’t be receiving as many minutes as Gordon, allowing Bamba more time in each game. Bamba needs to be getting more minutes if the Magic want him to be able to develop into the top-five pick they were hoping for. Tyler Johnson is just thrown in for salary purposes as he has one of the worst contracts in the NBA. It’s expiring this year and Orlando will need to take him in order to match Gordon’s contract.
The other possible trade looks like this:
Miami has been one of the biggest surprises this season. Jimmy Butler has lead the young team to ground-breaking heights. They don’t look like they’d take out the Bucks, but they would be able to school any other team in the East. This trade would allow them to add the talent to be competitive against Milwaukee. Their current starting four is Meyers Leonard. He’s proven to not be that bad of a player, but he’s still not great. Aaron Gordon would be a clear upgrade over Leonard and would make this team one of the most exciting to watch. Gordon is a young player and hopefully Jimmy Butler’s work ethic could rub off on him. Gordon is not a great defender, but he’s better than Leonard. Also, being 24, Jimmy Butler would make him be a good defender. Gordon would fill the one minor hole that Miami needs to patch, and have already expressed interest in making a trade before the deadline to improve their roster.
Orlando gets a solid haul in return for Gordon in this as well. Their end of the bargain is highlighted by Derrick Jones Jr, He is only 22 years-old and is 6′. He would play the two nicely along-side Markell and the two could grow chemistry together. They’d also acquire Meyers Leonard, an expiring contract, and Dion Waiters, a solid wing that could help Fultz and has chemistry with Jones. Waiters is on a two-year deal so he’d be gone by the 2021 offseason where countless free agents will be available.
Many Magic fans may want more for their young power forward, but he’s having a bit of an off season. His production has dropped and he is a year older than last year. He has some value, but he is not worth a first-round pick or a lot of young assets. These trades benefit the Magic in their quest to complete the rebuild that they’ve been in since 2013.
Orlando looks like they finally have a direction with their franchise for the first time since Dwight Howard. They have some really good pieces with high potential to work with. They need to keep building with what they have and have their team grow within. They do need to keep some veterans because tanking is completely useless. Veterans are key to a rebuild in order to help with the young players. Orlando should keep Vucevic and Ross or Fournier, so that they can have some veteran leadership with them. Orlando has an exciting future ahead of them. We will have to wait a few seasons to see what they can do.