The Orlando Magic have been stricken with the worst injury luck this season. They are currently riding an eight-game losing streak and currently have the fourth-worst record in the league at 13-26. When fully healthy, they have enough talent to make the play-in tournament. It is possible that they turn things around as they’re just four games behind the play-in, but they might make some big changes to the roster with the direction their season is headed.
Evan Fournier is probably the most likely starter to be traded since his contract is expiring. Nikola Vucevic is naturally gaining a lot of interest with his All-Star season, but there’s no urgency to move him right now with two more years left on his contract. The same goes with Terrence Ross, who certainly can be acquired but it will probably require a lot for them to move him now.
Then there’s Aaron Gordon. The seven-year veteran hasn’t made huge leaps since the 2017-18 season but that hasn’t stopped rival teams from being interested in him. He’s a good passer and a versatile defender but his lack of shooting and spacing leaves a lot on the table offensively. In fairness to Gordon, it’s arguable that he’s being asked to do too much on offense. The pressure has been on him for a while now and, it doesn’t help when former head coach Frank Vogel said that he wanted to “use him like Paul George”.
If he were to play on a great shooting team, he wouldn’t need to be relied on for shooting and could focus on what he does best. Throughout Gordon’s time in Orlando, the Magic have ranged between average to league-worst in three-point percentage. This is just one example of how a change of scenery could allow him to perform better. There could also be more potential left in Gordon and perhaps a new, really good team can unlock it if he’s allowed to focus on his strengths.
He has one more year left on his contract so the Magic must make a decision on his future soon. They can extend him this offseason to a four-year, $88.2 million contract that would start him at $19.7 million in 2022-23. Whether it’s in Orlando or with a new team, he could command as much money as his maximum allowable extension if he has a strong 2021-22 season.
Gordon might not be in Orlando’s plans for much longer, to be honest. This is mainly because of his odd fit next to Jonathan Isaac. The Magic probably need a shooter in one of their forward spots if they’re going to have a respectable offense. The question is whether the Magic should trade him now or later. If they can get a late-lottery pick along with a good veteran or young player, they should heavily consider it. Otherwise, they are probably better off holding him and gauging the market on him again this coming offseason. The only thing to consider is that his value might not be as high as it is this season since he will become an expiring contract this summer. The additional year of team-control gives him a lot more value right now.
Here are some of the teams Gordon has been linked to and what they could offer for him.
Minnesota is reportedly interested in acquiring Gordon or John Collins. The latter would probably require a future first-round pick with minimal protection from the Timberwolves, making Gordon a more viable target for them. Ideally, they would like to pair Gordon with Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, and Anthony Edwards is probably off the table. Malik Beasley is also important to them, so the Timberwolves are probably looking to trade anyone else but those four players.
Trading Ricky Rubio ($17 million) is the easiest way to match salaries for Gordon, and the playmaking-dry Magic could be interested in him, according to Chris Mannix. Minnesota can also match salaries by offering a combination of players such as Juancho Hernangomez ($6.5 million), Ed Davis ($5 million), and Jake Layman ($3.7 million).
Right now, trading a future first-round pick is a risky proposition by the Timberwolves given their continual struggles, especially this season in which they owe the Warriors a Top 3 protected pick. If Minnesota were guaranteed to be a playoff team with Gordon, then maybe they should trade a first if they can lottery protect it for several years before turning it into several second-round picks. In absence of a first-round pick, Minnesota will probably offer a combination of young players such as Jarrett Culver, Josh Okogie, and Jaden McDaniels, but it might not be enough for Orlando without a future first.
Portland Trail Blazers
After trading two first-round picks for Robert Covington, it seems unlikely that the Trail Blazers would trade him for Gordon. A Covington-Gordon pairing could have similar issues on offense as an Isaac-Gordon frontcourt, but Covington makes spot-up three-pointers more frequently than Isaac. The Trail Blazers’ closing lineup also has enough offense between Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic, to work around Gordon’s shooting limitations.
Right now Portland cannot trade a future first-round pick since the 2021 pick they owe Houston is lottery-protected through 2027, though it will likely convey this season. The Trail Blazers probably have a better shot at acquiring Gordon this offseason once the pick officially conveys and they can offer any of their future first-rounders through 2028.
In absence of first-rounders, Portland can offer some of their young players such as Gary Trent Jr., Anfernee Simons, or Nassir Little as incentives. However, they may not want to part with any of these players at this moment as they are high on them. Likewise, Orlando might be able to get more for Gordon right now, especially since the rest of the package will likely involve Rodney Hood ($10 million) and Zach Collins ($5.4 million) as salary ballast. One other player the Magic could have interest in is Derrick Jones Jr. ($9.3 million) who would probably be the odd man out of the Trail Blazers starting lineup with Gordon in.
The Rockets reportedly have interest in Aaron Gordon, according to Matt Moore of The Action Network. Houston has many future first-round picks they can offer, so if they really want Gordon, they could probably make an adequate offer for him. While he could be a good player to build around for the next great Rockets team, it may be too early in their timeline to acquire a player like Gordon right now. Even if they can get him in exchange for Victor Oladipo ($21 million), Gordon might just become another player they acquire just to trade later for draft picks and young players.
It’s hard to see another package right now from Houston since Orlando probably won’t want Eric Gordon’s contract, and the Rockets can’t sensibly match salaries for Aaron Gordon with their cheaper players. They can’t aggregate DJ Augustin and DJ Wilson in a trade this month, and if they were to offer a package such as Dante Exum ($9.6 million), Danuel House ($3.7 million), and Ben McLemore ($2.3 million), while that matches salaries for Gordon, it would put the Rockets over the luxury tax.
On the other hand, if the Rockets can get Gordon for Oladipo, perhaps in a three-team deal where a third team sends draft picks to Orlando while receiving Oladipo, that swap is probably worthwhile if Houston can’t get anything better. After acquiring Augustin from the Bucks for PJ Tucker, the Rockets are no longer projected to be a cap space team in 2021 even if they keep their own first-round pick. That could change between now and March 25 if they get off Augustin or another large guaranteed contract such as Eric Gordon. The point is that with 2021 cap space currently looking unlikely, the Rockets could part with an expiring contract like Oladipo for Gordon.
Boston seems like a good trade partner for the Magic given their $28.5 million trade exception (TPE). They are reportedly interested in acquiring Nikola Vucevic with it but they have a better chance at getting Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross, or Aaron Gordon. They can actually acquire Gordon with the TPE and not send any salary back as they’d be just $1.76 million below the hard cap after completing the trade.
One of the Celtics’ most coveted targets on the trade market is Harrison Barnes. However, their likely offer of late first-round picks and young players likely won’t be enough for Sacramento, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. If the Kings won’t agree to that, it seems unlikely that the Magic would agree to such a package for Gordon as well. The Magic could also create a large TPE having to take back little-to-no salary, but they could probably generate one in a different trade.
The Nuggets have inquired about Aaron Gordon, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. They can put together a respectable offer right now involving their 2021 first-round pick and some of their young players such as RJ Hampton, Bol Bol, or Zeke Nnaji. As far as salary-matching goes, Paul Millsap ($10 million, requires consent) and JaMychal Green ($7.2 million), or just Gary Harris ($19.6 million) works.
Even if Denver were able to acquire him, future expenses could hold them back from doing so. They have to make a decision on Michael Porter Jr. soon, specifically if they want to pay him. He becomes extension-eligible this offseason and could command a salary that puts the Nuggets in the luxury tax or close to it. Unless Denver’s ownership is willing to pay the tax, something they haven’t done since 2010, it’s hard to see them breaking the bank to fit Gordon in as well.
Detroit is another team interested in Aaron Gordon according to Chris Haynes. The fit is a little perplexing as they already have a player with a very similar skillset in Jerami Grant. Both players are naturally fours but the Pistons probably don’t mind playing Grant at the three again like he did to start the season. It would be a fun pairing but it doesn’t look like one that will translate to more wins.
The Pistons can match salaries with a combination of players such as Delon Wright ($9 million), Mason Plumlee ($8 million), and Rodney McGruder ($5.2 million), but cannot trade any first-round picks right now. This is because they lottery-protected the pick they owe to Houston through 2027. It also seems unlikely they want to move on from any of the players they just drafted. With their recent purge of players from the former regime, perhaps they are willing to trade Sekou Doumbouya for Gordon. While Orlando is flushed with power forwards right now, Doumbouya might have enough upside for them to consider him.