The major knock against Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic throughout his NBA career has been his defense, but hiding some of those deficiencies alongside Anthony Davis might just be too perfect.
The Orlando Magic have endured four seasons of frustration with Nikola Vucevic’s lack of rim protection. He is not quick afoot, his rotations are slow, and for all his offensive brilliance, his defensive limitations place a tough glass ceiling on his potential. It is one Orlando tried to overcome by acquiring Serge Ibaka, a move which has failed as expected for the languishing franchise.
But let us not be quick to forget that Vucevic is a player with some clear talents and strengths that can benefit a team so it is absolutely requisite he plays alongside a strong defensive 4-man.
Anthony Davis, undoubtedly, is just that. The New Orleans Pelicans have searched wide and far for answers at the 5-spot, and the only clear thing thus far is that neither Omer Asik nor Alexis Ajinca represent the answer.
That means New Orleans must be active in the trade market. Davis prefers to play power forward, and he is likely best off there. After all, home is where the heart is. Tim Duncan made a career of being a center at the 4-spot, and a similar progression for Davis is both likely and best. That means plugging that void next to him with a capable mid-range shooter, a strong post scorer, and a young player on a reasonable contract makes perfect sense.
For both Orlando and New Orleans, that is.
The Magic are clearly in another rebuild (again) after dealing Serge Ibaka yesterday to the Toronto Raptors. With Bismack Biyombo already aboard and getting paid more than Vucevic, it would seem the Magic could take the tank to its next level by dealing its most-effective post scorer.
Where it gets tricky is what the Pelicans could possibly dangle to intrigue Orlando. It might not take the most attractive offer, but Orlando also is not going to simply give away a productive center like Vucevic who reportedly has some demand across the league. For howsoever grave his defensive shortcomings, he can be a viable starter with the right players around him. And Davis is the quintessential version thereof.
There is one move that would make sense here, but by no means is it the only.
Orlando gives: Nikola Vucevic
New Orleans gives: Tyreke Evans, Terrence Jones, 2018 first-round pick w/ limited protection
For starters, both Tyreke Evans and Terrence Jones are expiring contracts. Secondly, they both match Vucevic’s $11.75 million salary. The Magic would have a chance to audition Jones for a potential role in its rebuild, while Evans would give them the opportunity to clear $10 million in cap room since there is little to no chance Orlando would be interested in re-signing him to a similar contract this offseason.
Also, with the acquisition of Vucevic, Jones’ role would be more or less absorbed within the rotation, making him obsolete to New Orleans should it acquire Vucevic through any other combination.
There is another salary which matches perfectly, but something tells me the Pelicans would steer shy from pulling the trigger on such a deal: Jrue Holiday. To be sure, Orlando is still on the fence with Elfrid Payton, whose role has fluctuated from big minutes starter to a fringe reserve. With Frank Vogel often favoring C.J. Watson and D.J. Augustin over Payton, the Magic clearly are not “all in” on the former No. 10 overall pick.
While Orlando certainly gave up a chunk to obtain him (Dario Saric and another first round pick), Payton’s frustrating ineptitudes and inability to shoot the ball seems to spell the story of his career. If Orlando insisted on Holiday, it would be unsurprising, but on the same token, a deal New Orleans should likely clear steer from.
Regardless of what it takes, the talks between Orlando and New Orleans really should commence, and soon. Vucevic has seemingly plateaued in development, but that plateau is a fairly substantial one. He is arguably the NBA’s best mid-range shooter from the post, and this season it has translated to a mere 14 points per game. Something tells us that on New Orleans that figure could approach what it once was; namely, closer to 20 points per game.
Vucevic is also capable of being a monster on the boards, which would be an additional boon as it would allow Davis to focus more on help-side defense while “Vooch” clears the glass.
All in all, the fit seems too perfect. Vucevic adds some much-needed shooting and rebounding, and his career path seems to have run its course in central Florida. As the main chip in the deal that sent Dwight Howard out of Orlando, the Magic will not be gaining a tremendous return on his play, but the rebuild has also largely failed with all of the major names from its initial phase either gone or likely gone.
Detroit Pistons’ swingman Tobias Harris was sold for pennies, too (specifically Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova), showing the penchant Magic GM Rob Hennigan has for making head-scratching deals like the one that sent Ibaka to Toronto for Terrence Ross and a first round pick.
While Vucevic’s offensive upside seems to suggest he would be an expensive player to obtain, a package of Evans, Jones and a 2018 first round pick with limited protections may suffice.
The Hollinger analysis shows New Orleans improving by three wins, for whatever that is worth. The actual improvement could be far more substantial as it does more than just give the team another scorer: it gives New Orleans the needed player to allow Davis to slide back to the 4-spot, where he clearly prefers to play.
All in all, a trade proposal could be a pure win for both clubs, and it would be nice to see more than mere speculation propping up these ideas in the upcoming days before the Feb. 23 trade deadline.
The NBA trade deadline is fast approaching. What should the New Orleans Pelicans do?Posted by The Bird Writes on Thursday, January 12, 2017