The Magic are not championship, or even playoff, contenders this season. They are in the valley of their rebuild: The stage where they are more focused on player development and asset accumulation rather than winning. One can imagine Orlando selling its veteran pieces for furthered financial flexibility, draft picks and young prospects. There are movable parts here, the question is what will the Magic do with them?
The Afflalo situation
Arron Afflalo has completely transformed from a primary defender and spot up three-point shooter to a legitimate go to option on offense. Last year he struggled with that new role in Orlando: He wasn't comfortable creating for teammates and his offensive efficiency dropped below the standard he built in Denver. This season, he has exceeded all expectations.
He's averaging a career-high in points (19.4), rebounds (4.1) and assists (3.7) while posting a 57.9 percent True Shooting and a career best 17.3 PER, via basketball-reference. That combination of efficiency and volume has propped his trade value to an all-time high and has folks wondering if the Magic will capitalize on his gains. From all indications, however, the team is still reluctant to trading Afflalo.
ESPN's Marc Stein reported on Jan. 11 that Orlando "continues to give the stiff-arm to teams registered interest in" Afflalo.
Has Afflalo played well enough, in this breakout half-season, that the Magic will eventually be offered a first-round pick closer to the deadline that can pry Afflalo loose? The reality is that no one is giving up first-round picks these days -- such is the lure of the 2014 draft -- but 40 days is a long time
One can imagine that it will take at least a first-round draft pick to pry Afflalo away from the Magic. But teams are typically reluctant to part with such an asset, especially with one of the best drafts in recent memory looming this summer.
Orlando staying quiet
There has been plenty of trade speculation on any combination of Orlando's veterans Afflalo, Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis, but most reports seem to indicate that the team might remain quiet around the deadline. The Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins spoke with Magic GM Rob Hennigan recently about the team's activity on the trade market and Hennigan's response doesn't sound like a team aggressively shopping its players.
"We're exploring all options that may improve our team," Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan said. "But in terms of aggressively, actively trying to do something? I would say no [we're not]."
BasketballInsiders' Steve Kyler reports that "serious offers are not being considered and that real trade scenarios are not taking place." Kyler goes on to say that the Magic could be "playing a little poker" and that it shouldn't come as a surprise if the team holds on to the players its got for the rest of the season.
That may come to a surprise to those who haven't followed the Magic that much. Outside viewers may think that a team with young talent should ship out its veterans in order to free up playing time, but Hennigan has been preaching patience to Magic fans since he arrived in Orlando. Those fans may have to extend that patience past this year's trade deadline.
A clean cap sheet
Orlando has just around $31.3 million guaranteed for the 2014-15 season with $8 million unguaranteed for Nelson, $2.5 million unguaranteed for Jason Maxiell and a couple of low figure contract options for Ronnie Price, Doron Lamb and Kyle O'Quinn. That's assuming that the team does not make any moves at the deadline.
That's a pretty clear cap sheet for a team that was so intertwined with nasty contracts just two seasons ago. Keeping a clear cap sheet should be important for the Magic since many of their young players will be looking for contract extensions in the coming years. The team can, however, afford to take on some expiring contracts around the deadline, as that means more financial flexibility in the future.