Right now the Orlando Magic look like a team that could have an exciting future, but nothing more. They have plenty of young talent, as well as owning their first-round picks going forward and having two belonging to the Chicago Bulls as a result of the Nikola Vucevic trade as well.
During their last rebuild, after Dwight Howard left, at no point did the front office push all of their chips into the middle of the table to try and win big. They built steadily (too steadily if you ask most fans) with no true superstar, which resulted in a couple of postseason appearances and having to change direction midway through this year.
It does not feel like the Magic should be in any rush to accelerate what they are currently building. There’s a ton of young guys here who have never gotten the opportunity to play with one another and to see what they could become. But it is also true that the next star player is never too far away from becoming disgruntled and available, and if the Magic have learnt from past mistakes, they should remain alert.
The Orlando Magic may reach a point where they move a lot of their young talent for proven commodities, but Kristaps Porzingis is not the move to make.
Really there isn’t a single reason that the Magic should even dream about entering into a deal for the Latvian big man. This despite the fact that their odds of trading for him are the fourth-best out there right now. Starting with the on-the-court stuff, and would it be a stretch to say that Porzingis would just be Nikola Vucevic 2.0 for another core here?
That wasn’t the case before he tore his ACL and looked like a true unicorn, but at this point, Vucevic is the more consistent of the two. If Porzingis comes in as your star player to build around, alongside youngsters like Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz (who both also are out with torn ACLs themselves), it feels like a ceiling is being put on this group prematurely.
Already we have seen him next to a true superstar like Luka Doncic, and fail to live up to his billing as the second-best player on the roster. That might not last forever, but in the same way we witnessed the limitations of Vucevic in the playoffs, we have already seen the same from Porzingis. He is the tallest player in the league who seems to stretch the floor and do little else.
We will leave the Vucevic comparisons there, but when you’re also looking at what it would take to get Porzingis to Orlando, you realize it is another reason not to do a deal. Yes, he would sell some jerseys, and the Magic would likely see their appeal in Latvia swell. But the Mavericks aren’t stupid and are already on the clock to make the most of Doncic’s exceptional talents.
If they’re moving Porzingis, they want real value in return. Isaac and Fultz would be off the table, but it would take a lot more than a first-round pick and Mohamed Bamba to get it done. Gary Harris would likely be asked for, as he would attempt to do a passable impression of Seth Curry, who the Mavericks have badly missed since trading him for Josh Richardson.
They might even enquire about Cole Anthony, who already has established himself as a strong leader within the Magic’s locker room. Perhaps Terrence Ross, although that would make sense for both sides as he tries to see out his prime in a more winning situation. R.J. Hampton? The point is, although Magic fans shouldn’t be too attached to most guys on the roster, they could be moving on from a great thing before ever giving it the chance to blossom.
All for a player in Porzingis who may fit the physical makeup that the front office surely loves, but who in reality would expect to be featured offensively a lot of the time while bringing a below-average level of play defensively. Being able to make 3-pointers is great when you’re over seven feet tall, but if a notable inside game doesn’t come with it, then it hampers what you can bring.
But by far and away the biggest reason to stay away from Porzingis is because of his contract. Take a look at the salary owed to him until 2024, and imagine committing to that off the back of what he’s shown in Dallas to this point. He has a player option in 2023, but you better believe he is taking that $36 million no matter where in the league he is playing at that point.
The Orlando Magic are going to have to make decisions themselves with their young players as time goes on. Isaac is due for an extension soon, and before long it’ll be Anthony who is up. In an ideal world, the injuries some of their players have suffered may lead to team-friendly deals being secured, which would allow them the financial flexibility to be aggressive if they turn into contenders.
Adding Kristaps Porzingis would be detrimental to that. The money he commands, combined with what he did in this year’s playoffs (16.3 points and 6.1 assists which is fine, but not over $30 million a year fine), plus what it would take to get him, mean this is a deal the Magic would do their best to avoid engaging in at all costs.