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Why Tobias Harris was such an intriguing trade chip

Orlando was said to be open to trading the 23-year-old forward. Turns out, they were. Here's why the Pistons are getting such an intriguing player.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This was originally published on Feb. 8. It has been updated to reflect Harris being traded to the Detroit Pistons.

The Orlando Magic, who have dropped 15 of their last 18 games and fallen out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, were said to be open to trading forward Tobias Harris, according to a report from ESPN's Marc Stein. The Magic, according to Stein, weren't actively shopping Harris but "are open to proposals of any kind to get a bit more seasoned."

Well, they're more seasoned now. The team is on the verge of dealing Harris to the Detroit Pistons for veterans Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova.

The 23-year-old Harris is averaging 13.7 points and seven rebounds this season on 46 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the three-point line. He signed a four-year, $64 million contract with Orlando in the offseason after putting up a career year last season.

The Magic were hoping that Harris would take a step forward and develop into an All-Star caliber player under new head coach Scott Skiles. His minutes are right in line with where they've been in the past, but he's taken a back seat on the offensive end. Only 19 percent of the team's possessions ended with the ball in his hands, compared to 23 last season. The Pistons obviously see Harris' potential and will play him as a power forward alongside Andre Drummond.

Why the Magic traded Tobias Harris

Harris has the ability to do a little bit of everything. He can put the ball on the floor and create his own shot. He can shoot from deep. He's big enough (6'9, 235 pounds) to defend in the post and quick enough to stay with wings on the perimeter. He's an active on-ball defender and solid rebounder. He has all the talent a team could want.

However, at times, Harris seems to disappear on the floor for Orlando. Part of that is because he's often relegated to a supporting role. The Magic's roster is stocked with young, talented players, who like to have the ball in their hands. Instead of designing plays ran for Harris, Orlando relegates him to the corner to help space the floor for Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic.

The Magic's logjam at the forward position is another reason trading Harris made sense. Aaron Gordon was selected No. 4 overall by Orlando in 2014 and would be in line for more minutes if Harris is traded. Mario Hezonja is big enough to play small forward and was taken fifth overall last season. Channing Frye is under contract for another two seasons after this one and is a quality veteran, though he's likely to be on the block with Ilyasova arriving. There are just too many players who do similar things to Harris already on the roster.

The Magic believed they could trade Harris for some veteran help and not miss a beat. They have plenty of young bodies who could absorb Harris' minutes, and their group could certainly benefit from some veteran leadership.

However, it's surprising they weren't able to fetch a larger return given his age and contract. Harris is in the first year of a four-year, $64 million deal that declines over time. As the cap jumps, that'll prove to be excellent value. Nevertheless, they obviously believed getting veteran help and handing his minutes to Gordon and others will benefit them more.

Why the Magic shouldn't have traded Tobias Harris

They signed him last year, so they clearly liked what he brings to table at the time. As mentioned above, he has all the tools you look for in a modern power forward. For Harris, it's about putting everything together. Perhaps it hasn't happened yet, but he's still just 23. If Orlando believed he had that potential in July, should a lot have changed in seven months?

Gordon and Hezonja might be talented, but neither have proven that they can play at the NBA level. Harris has. The trade made some sense for Orlando, but the Magic might have been better off dangling one of their younger and unproven players instead. Someone like Gordon would generate interest around the league.

If the Magic want to make the playoffs for the first time in four years, they should have held onto every capable NBA player they have. That includes Harris, someone who's made it clear he likes Orlando and was willing to put the team ahead of himself.

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Harris is an interesting player in an interesting situation. At some point, the Magic were going to have to make a move to clear up their rotation and bolster their team. It makes sense that Harris would be the player to move. Nevertheless, more contenders should have tried to acquire him, given his age and contract. The Pistons were smart to take advantage of his unique situation and add him to their blossoming young core of Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.