Storyline: Aaron Gordon Trade?

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Aaron Gordon a clear trade candidate

Gordon was on the block at the trade deadline last February and there was interest from teams like Golden State and Phoenix, but nothing that got close to becoming a workable deal. Gordon bounced back after a rough start but still, the Magic want to give the team over to Jonathan Isaac and Gordon just doesn’t fit with that plan. He has a contract that lines up well for a trade, declining to $18.1 million next year and $16.4 million in the final year of the deal. Eastern Conference exec: “They were really trying to deal him before the deadline but they weren’t getting the assets back they wanted. It will be easier to move that contract when it’s only got two years left. He’s probably the most likely big name to be traded. He’s a good gamble—he is only 24.”

But the big thing I keep coming back to is this: The Magic need to shake things up with this roster, in my view. They have interesting pieces, it’s just that all of those pieces don’t fit all that well together. In my mind, their three best players are Nikola Vucevic, Isaac and Aaron Gordon. And unfortunately, you can’t play all three of those guys together at once at their optimal effectiveness. And in the backcourt, they still don’t have nearly enough playmaking and shot-making. That makes them ripe for a trade to try and move some of that talent from the frontcourt to the backcourt potentially. To me, Gordon is the odd man out, and I think they could actually get a pretty real trade package for him with two years left on his deal at a very reasonable cost due to the descending structure of his contract. That’s the route I’d look at, despite the fact that I think Gordon is probably the second-best asset on the roster behind Isaac.

VECENIE: I have one particular deal I’ve been kicking around for a while, and I’ve floated it to a few people around the league who have found it interesting. The Golden State Warriors seem primed to use the $17.2 million trade exception that they created in last summer’s Andre Iguodala trade to Memphis. Typically, within a trade exception, you can’t take back more than the amount of the exception in a deal. Given that Aaron Gordon is set to make $18.1 million next year, you’d think he’s out of the running. Not so fast, my friend. The Warriors could swing what would amount to a sort of three-team trade that functions as two separate trades in actuality to make someone like Gordon fit into that exception. They could take back a big contract on someone’s books — say, Minnesota’s James Johnson after Johnson picks up his player option for $16 million next season — into that trade exception and actually use that contract in a separate trade to acquire someone making more than $17.2 million.

There is no “clock is ticking” urgency with regard to Aaron Gordon, who played superbly after he returned to power forward. Gordon has two full seasons remaining on his contract. But the fact that neither Gordon nor Isaac are natural small forwards presents a problem offensively, and at some point, that situation almost certainly needs to be resolved. Hypothetically, the team could trade Gordon as soon as this offseason, although his recent stellar play should give the team pause.

There’s little doubt that, ahead of last week’s NBA trading deadline, the Magic were beating the bushes to see what could be brought back in a trade for forward Aaron Gordon. Golden State was among the teams with whom the Magic discussed a Gordon trade. So were the Timberwolves. Those two wound up making the most significant trade of the deadline period, swapping D’Angelo Russell for Andrew Wiggins. Orlando had been interested in Russell last summer when he was a restricted free agent.

The Orlando Magic have reportedly discussed trading forward Aaron Gordon ahead of Thursday’s deadline, but a deal is “tricky” because of injuries on the roster. “Aaron Gordon’s a player they’ve had some discussions about,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on his podcast with Bobby Marks. “I think it’s a tricky one to trade him now, with the season-ending injuries to Jonathan Isaac, to Al-Farouq Aminu. … If you’re going to move Gordon and you want to try to stick around in the playoff chase…you’ve got to get back a significant amount.

Wolves called about Aaron Gordon

One team that makes sense for Gordon is Minnesota, which called Orlando about Gordon this season, according to league sources. It’s unclear what precisely was offered, but Minnesota is shopping Robert Covington. Just imagine Gordon rolling down the lane, then kicking it out to Karl-Anthony Towns, who could shoot a 3 or attack the closeout. The Wolves don’t have a true playmaker, but they could acquire one in Gordon.

The rumblings persist that Orlando might move on from Gordon, who signed a four-year, $76 million deal in July 2018 but who has regressed this season. As our Magic beat writer, Josh Robbins, wrote, the recent knee injury to big man Jonathan Isaac could change this landscape a bit (he’ll be re-evaluated in seven weeks). But long-term, Orlando’s front office of John Hammond and Jeff Weltman must decide whether Isaac and Gordon have too much duplication in their games. “There is chatter coming from Orlando,” one executive shared on Wednesday.

What about Gordon, who has two more full seasons on his contract, valued at $18.1 million in 2020-21 and $16.4 million in 2021-22? Because Gordon and Isaac are best suited to play the same position, power forward, many NBA insiders question Gordon’s long-term fit. But Friday, Gordon and his teammates offered a tantalizing glimpse of what they might be able to accomplish together — if, that is, they continue to play with the same tenacity on defense and the same attention to detail.

The Pacers discussed a deal with him going to the Orlando Magic before the deadline, according to league sources, as they had strong interest in Aaron Gordon. The Magic pivoted, however, to acquire Markelle Fultz from Philadelphia and kept Gordon. The Pacers have also talked to the Atlanta Hawks about moving up eight spots Thursday to No. 10 but Holiday was requested in such a swap to bolster the Hawks’ backcourt behind Trae Young and that discussion didn’t go anywhere, a league source said.

The photo surfaced on Twitter on Monday after the Magic signed Patricio Garino out of the D-League. Garino’s agent took a picture of his client signing the contract. In the background, a wall-mounted dry-erase board listed potential Magic off-season trade and free-agency targets. The column devoted to trade targets included Saric’s last name and “for AG?” in parentheses next to Saric’s last name. “Typically, with rumors and stuff like that, we don’t really address them,” Vogel said today when asked about the photo. “But this is a unique situation, and I talked to him a little bit this morning, and everybody’s good. We’re ready to move on.”

“It’s ok,” Saric said after seeing a photo of the whiteboard. “Every team got rights to think about their future, to put it on board. But to comment, I don’t have something. It’s ok. To me, you are doing good if they have you on [their] mind like an option.” The irony is that Magic once had the rights to Saric. In the 2014 draft, the Sixers used the 10th overall pick on Louisiana-Lafayette point guard Elfrid Payton. Two picks later, the Magic drafted Saric. Then the Sixers traded Payton to the Magic for Saric, a 2017 first-round pick and a 2015 second-round selection.
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August 14, 2020 | 1:12 am EDT Update
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