With a glut of big men, the Orlando Magic may consider trading center Nikola Vucevic before the 2016-17 season.
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Vucevic Not Currently on Trade Block
Tuesday, July 26
Lowe wrote the following Tuesday: "The potential playmaking void is one reason the Magic are in no rush to trade Vucevic despite the logjam, league sources say. They might need his post game and especially his passing. Last season, Vucevic quietly morphed into one of the league's best passing centers."
That lack of playmaking refers to Orlando's questionable roster balance. While the combination of Ibaka and Biyombo on the court together will be dynamic on the defensive end, as Lowe noted, "swapping out Vucevic cramps Orlando's spacing, and both Ibaka and Biyombo were among just 16 rotation players last season who averaged one or fewer assists per 36 minutes."
It gets more complex. The Magic intend to move Gordon to small forward, as head coach Frank Vogel confirmed, and he's certainly athletic enough to play the position. But there are questions as to whether he will adjust to the other roles the position requires.
As Lowe noted: "He can't shoot [yet], and he has very little NBA-level experience as a primary ball handler. Playing Gordon and Ibaka at the forward spots takes them further from the rim on defense, reducing the fear factor of their shot-blocking."
Vogel had a more optimistic viewpoint of Gordon at the 3, however.
"If [Ibaka] weren't here, Gordon would be my power forward," Vogel told Lowe. "But Serge is here. Aaron is going to be playing [small forward]. We are going to put the ball in his hands a lot. We're going to use him like Paul George."
With Ibaka and Gordon at forward, Vucevic will have to extend his shooting range and playmaking ability. Vogel told Lowe he envisions Vucevic shooting threes from the corners, giving Orlando better floor spacing, and his improved passing may be key on a team devoid of proven playmakers outside of Elfrid Payton.
As Lowe noted: "They envision Gordon acting almost as a center at times, cutting for dunks as Ibaka and Vucevic spread the floor—a role inversion the Magic toyed with in certain lineups last season."
The balance could work, especially if Evan Fournier and Mario Hezonja provide a consistent threat from the 2 as perimeter shooters and slashers. But it's easier to imagine Gordon and Ibaka paired at forward with Vucevic playing center, not Biyombo, meaning the Magic should have a defined role for Vucevic during the 2016-17 season.
Ultimately, the need to get Vucevic, Biyombo, Ibaka and Gordon major minutes could result in the aforementioned logjam and necessitate a trade. Given the recent acquisitions of Biyombo and Ibaka and the fact that Gordon is only 20, Vucevic is unquestionably the most likely of those players to be moved.
Much remains unknown about how the new-look Magic will jell next season. But if the pieces don't fit, especially in the frontcourt, Vucevic will certainly be put on the trade block. For the moment, however, he seems like he may be the key to ensuring that all of the pieces do indeed work together.
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