Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac are out long-term. Aaron Gordon is set to miss a prolonged period, too. Orlando has given the Vucevic, Gordon and Evan Fournier core a good look. They have returned to the playoffs, but it’s evident they have hit their ceiling.
Vucevic has two more years left on his deal after this one for a combined $46 million. His $26 million in 2020/21 is a tradeable number. The Magic will be looking for a pick or two in return, and Vucevic is far from a perfect center, but he’s once again performing at an All-Star level. Several front offices should see this as an opportunity to improve their frontcourt.
It would be an exaggeration to call Vucevic elite. The Magic center is far from Embiid and Jokic, and his vulnerability as a defender places him in a tier below Bam Adebayo and Christian Wood. Centers who can shoot like that, who can carry such an offensive load, are valuable, though. Vucevic deserves to be an All-Star in 2021, and it could be the ideal time for the Magic to trade their ultra-skilled big man.
With Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George taken off the free agency board in 2021, teams might be more willing to take on long-term contracts. The best Vucevic landing spots were not in the high-profile free agent sweepstakes anyway, but some teams who kept cap space open could talk themselves into a Vucevic trade.
Landing spots for Vucevic
Two small-market teams stand out: Sacramento and Charlotte. The Kings have their backcourt and wing future settled. Charlotte’s situation is similar. Both teams are set to compete for a play-in spot. Both have picks to trade and/or young players to trade.
They are unlikely to give up their picks in the stacked 2021 Draft without major projections. How would the Kings or Hornets feel about giving up a future protected first? Put some seconds in there and it might be a sufficient package, particularly if they send back players with upside.
Charlotte is clearly not playing the long game. Gordon Hayward‘s contract shows they are trying to be competitive right now. If they could construct a deal around Cody Zeller‘s contract with one or both of the Martin twins, that’s a nice upgrade. Vucevic, P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges are good frontcourt options.
The Kings can trump that package if a Marvin Bagley trade comes to fruition. Bagley could be a great piece for the next good Magic team alongside Isaac, Cole Anthony and Fultz. His relationship in Sacramento is clearly strained, and it’s unclear where he fits with De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield.
A Bagley and Cory Joseph trade for Vucevic makes sense for both parties. Orlando gets another ball handler short-term and the upside of Bagley as they re-tool. Sacramento gets an experienced, productive center for the future. It doesn’t improve the Kings defensively, but it fixes their center rotation as they look to end their postseason drought.
The Raptors and Celtics are two dark horses to keep an eye on if Vucevic is available for trade. Boston has that enormous trade exception. Toronto is struggling at the five after losing Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka – the Raps can build a package around Aron Baynes and Norman Powell.