It seems the Orlando Magic have found the man they want running the point guard spot as they embark on a long-term rebuilding project.
It's just not whom most would expect.
According to ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required), sources close to the Magic organization have said they covet making a trade for Los Angeles Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe. In return, Orlando would send out starting shooting guard Arron Afflalo and take on the expiring contract of Caron Butler.
The Magic would be able to make the deal—in which they take in about $2 million more in salary—because they are under the salary cap.
Ford had no report on whether Los Angeles would be amenable to such a trade. And though Magic fans may get excited about the prospect of landing a player like Bledsoe, don't look for a deal to get consummated anytime soon—even if the Clippers would jump at the offer.
Any deal the Clippers make with Bledsoe attached is contingent on Chris Paul returning to the club. Paul is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and has been noncommittal about staying in Los Angeles—even as he seemingly wields the power to pick and choose the team's next head coach.
From the moment Paul signs on the dotted line with the Clippers, all bets are off. It's also possible Los Angeles listens to overtures should the All-Star point guard give assurances prior to the start of free agency in July.
From Orlando's perspective, though, floating an offer like this makes perfect sense.
It's no secret that the Magic have been in the market for a long-term solution at the point guard spot. Longtime starter Jameer Nelson, though worthy of a rotational spot, isn't an NBA starter at this juncture of his career.
The franchise stalwart scored 14.7 points and dished out 7.4 assists per night last season, but he did so on just 39.2 percent shooting. Nelson also struggled with injuries, playing in just 56 games.
At 31 years old, Nelson is on a completely opposite career trajectory from the remainder of the roster.
Who would a potential Arron Afflalo for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler trade be better for?
This also could be a sign Orlando isn’t too enamored with this year’s point guard crop in the draft. The Magic hold the No. 2 overall selection in June’s draft, and they have been linked with Michigan guard Trey Burke by many pundits, including Ford.
If Orlando is out scouring the market for point guards like Bledsoe, perhaps it’s not too keen on taking the National Player of the Year so high in the draft.
On the other hand, it seems Orlando feels the 23-year-old Bledsoe could form a burgeoning young core with ascending young talents like Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris.
Playing as Paul's primary backup, Bledsoe took a massive step forward in his third NBA season. He averaged 8.5 points, 3.1 assists and 3.0 rebounds per night, flashing a nifty two-way game, elite athleticism and strength prodigious enough to earn him the nickname "Mini LeBron."
Largely seen as a player who could take the proverbial leap with more playing time, Bledsoe will likely get a chance next season—whether in Los Angeles, Orlando or elsewhere. He's due a long-term extension, one the Clippers likely won't be able to afford with Paul and Blake Griffin taking up a majority of the cap room.
Paul even acknowledged the likelihood Bledsoe would be sent packing if he returns to the Clips.
If that's the case, could Afflalo be enough? That remains to be seen. He's a veteran scorer who can be a two-way menace, though he struggled with the role of primary scorer in Orlando. A move to Los Angeles could allow the 27-year-old Afflalo to play a third or fourth banana role, where he’d be able to pick his spots on offense and wreak havoc on opposing wings defensively.
Whether there’s any smoke to this fire or not, don’t expect the Bledsoe-to-Orlando or Bledsoe-to-anywhere chatter to die down anytime soon.
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