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Serge Ibaka trade completes an awful series of deals for the Magic

The Magic had several promising young prospects two years ago. They’ve turned many of those into very little.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, the Orlando Magic dealt power forward Serge Ibaka to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for guard Terrence Ross and the Raptors’ 2017 first-round pick.

The trade addressed Toronto’s desperate need for a starting power forward and will likely catapult the team back into the East’s upper ranks that they’ve fallen from in recent weeks.

In acquiring Ross, the Magic get a streaky shooter and athletic finisher who can get up and down with the team’s young players. Toronto’s 2017 pick will be a mid-to-late first-rounder at best.

But the deal was part of a head-scratching sequence of events for Orlando, who acquired Ibaka over the summer before log-jamming their frontcourt with free agent signings.

How Ibaka got to Orlando in the first place

The Magic needed to shake things up last season, so they traded Tobias Harris to Detroit for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova. Jennings left for nothing to sign a deal with the New York Knicks the following summer. Ilyasova would later go to Oklahoma City in the Ibaka trade.

The summer before, they also sent Mo Harkless to Portland for virtually nothing: a 2020 second-round pick protected from 31-55. Harkless has found his niche as a key member of the Blazers’ frontcourt rotation.

Orlando finished last season 35-47, watching Scott Skiles resign as head coach. The Magic wanted to compete for more, and Serge Ibaka was growing frustrated with his offensive role in Oklahoma City. So they made the Thunder an offer they could not and did not refuse.

The Magic shipped Ilyasova, Victor Oladipo, and their No. 11 pick in last year’s draft (Domantas Sabonis) to OKC for their stretch-ish four.

But the Ibaka trade didn’t work

After landing Ibaka, Orlando used its cap space from the Harris trade to sign ex-Raptors big man Bismack Biyombo to a four-year, $72 million deal, as well as Jeff Green and D.J. Augustin. Pairing two rim-protecting bigs in Ibaka and Biyombo was questionable, though Ibaka has a much more polished offensive game. The two never quite fit together.

It also created an impossible rotation for new coach Frank Vogel to manage. The Magic had a gifted scorer in Nikola Vucevic already sopping up playing time in the Magic frontcourt. A young, budding Aaron Gordon was later forced to move from the power forward position to small forward just to make room, and Green, who also doubles as a combo forward, competed for minutes as well.

It has not worked all season.

Worse, Ibaka was set to hit unrestricted free agency.

Ibaka scored a career-best 15.1 points per game in Orlando, but his rebounding (6.8) and shot-blocking (1.6), while still respectable, have dropped noticeably from the numbers he posted during his heyday as a dominant rim protector for the Thunder.

And after playing with perennial Western Conference contenders in Oklahoma City his entire career, there was no way Ibaka would re-sign with a lowly Magic team over the summer. Even if he did, Orlando would have to pay him an arm and a leg, and the fit was still questionable.

The Magic had a decision to make: Trade Ibaka and get some value back, or watch the spoils of their trade walk in free agency for nothing.

So they traded him for pennies on the dollar.

Orlando sent Oladipo, Ilyasova (via Tobias Harris trade), and Sabonis (their No. 11 pick in the 2016 NBA draft) to Oklahoma City for Ibaka alone. Less than a year later, that deal has yielded just Ross and a late first-rounder in the upcoming draft.

Had the Magic held off until closer to the trade deadline, they may have gotten more for Ibaka, an expiring contract and serviceable rim-protector who sometimes doubles as an offensive threat. Then again, those offers reportedly weren’t rolling in.

It’s unclear whether this trade pans out for Orlando. The move could (finally) shift Gordon back to his natural position at power forward, and inserting Ross into the starting lineup could give the Magic an extra boost of athleticism and shooting.

But ultimately, Magic general manager Rob Hennigan essentially turned Harris, Harkless, Oladipo, and the No. 11 pick in the 2016 draft (Sabonis) into Toronto’s sixth man and a 2017 first-round pick somewhere in the 20s.

Talk about pennies on the dollar.