Continuing the series of pieces that look at likely trade candidates as we approach this season's deadline, we turn now to the Orlando Magic, a rebuilding team with the second-worst record in the NBA and some veterans to move.
The Magic are building around Victor Oladipo, and building around Victor Oladipo means giving him plenty of time on the ball, with the free reign to run the offense and be the primary creator. For the most part, Oladipo is off to a decent start in this relatively new role - there have at times been too many pull-up jump shots taken by him, particularly early in the clock, yet Oladipo has adapted quite well to his new role, and it is his for as long as he can handle it. Because of this, the incumbent primary creator, Jameer Nelson, must surely be available.
Nelson does not necessarily need to go. He has value to the team in what is now the role of heady veteran, and with only $2 million of his contract guaranteed for next season, he can be largely expunged from the payroll easily without a deal. He is a still a quality player - the clear outlier that was his 2008-09 season does not change his perfectly capable player ever since - who still puts up points though guile and craft and runs a heady, efficient floor game. However, now aged 32, Nelson has little value to a rebuilding team, and it is value that is decreasing all the time as his role becomes ever more redundant. Indeed, it might be best for the Magic to let Oladipo start handling the late game situations that Jacque Vaughn is currently all too intent to let Nelson handle (and frankly with little success, although perhaps this is deliberate). Given the opportunity to move that $2 million cap hit, gain a second round pick, or both, Orlando will likely take it. Even with his defensive concerns, Nelson has value to a contending team, if they have the right contract to move for him. His $8.6 million cap number cost, though, may make a deal hard to come by.
Also potentially hard to deal might be Glen Davis, whose averages of 12.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game do not tell the whole story. Davis tries hard and can frequently be found laying out on the floor for a loose ball, despite his tremendous size - if the Magic franchise as a whole is not trying its hardest to compete every night, then no one told Davis, who certainly does his best to win. However, Davis promptly takes this hustle off the table with his shot selection, which has regressed in his time with the Magic to the point that it actively hurts the team. Improved as a shooter, Davis regrettably nonetheless thinks he is better than he is and takes far too many difficult jump-shots, particularly down the stretch of games. He wants to do the right thing, but he often does not.
As is the case with Nelson, Davis has certain circumstances working in his defense here - someone has to shoulder the scoring responsibilities, after all, and Jacque Vaughn's relentless confidence in Davis means he will certainly let him try. What it does, however, is ensure too large of a part of the Magic's offense stems from inefficient players in inefficient positions. At this point, Davis is a long two point jump-shooter, the most inefficient shot in basketball, shooting only 45% from the field without consistent three point range, not getting to the line, and missing them even when he does (66% FT on the season). A .482% true shooting percentage is reprehensible from a volume scoring power, especially one who rebounds poorly. Nevertheless, despite these offensive woes, Davis is a productive, lively big man with real size, all of which give him some value to someone. Orlando will try to get a bite on account of Davis's occasional offensive outbursts, solid interior defense and innate likeability, yet his value might be higher in 12 months time, when his contract is closer to expiring.
The cream of the crop, though, is Arron Afflalo. Now 28 years old, while costing only $7.5 million per season, Afflalo's value is likely at its highest. No longer the low volume yet extremely efficient defense-first role player he one was, Afflalo is nonetheless expanding his game and enjoying a career year, having rediscovered his jump-shot on his way to scoring 20 points per game. Now one of the best shooters in the league, Afflalo has improved his stroke, his overall consistency, and restored his efficiency from last season's career low - his .586% true shooting percentage is the second highest mark of his career on what is easily his career high in usage (23.8%). The Magic are poor this year, but it is not Afflalo's fault, as he has become a very capable all-around player.
Ideally, 'Spell check' would be a second or third option player on even better efficiency, akin to the offensive role of Kevin Martin, a player who scores a very high volume of points with the ball in hi hand so rarely. He is not a primary offensive creator or ball handler, fulfilling this role in Orlando more through necessity than fit. Yet he is a significant offensive weapon through his spot-up shooting, off-ball movement and occasional drives to the basket, and he has even resumed putting forth the defensive effort he made his name with (which he had somewhat gone away from as his offensive game expanded). Afflalo is a very logical candidate to be traded, and should command a good price. He is fairly cheap, versatile, efficient and good.
Although it is the expanded roles that have somewhat helped their trade credentials - and certainly gone some way to justifying their price tags - all three of these players would benefit from the reduced roles that would almost certainly accompany a trade. None of the three is in a situation befitting their talents - asked to play bigger offensive roles than they ideally should, whilst Oladipo learns the ropes. But the positive side effect from this is increased exposure and statistics. Everyone knows what they can do, and to different extents, all of them will be talked about.