Cohen: Will Magic Be Active by February's Trade Deadline?

By Josh Cohen
October 8, 2012

ORLANDO -- At various stages this season, general manager Rob Hennigan and his staff will likely survey the Orlando Magic’s current roster and determine if any modifications or upgrades are necessary.

It’s difficult to predict the path Hennigan will pursue considering the Magic are in the preliminary phase of a rebuilding process.

While it’s expected that Orlando will rely profoundly on the NBA Draft to further improve the roster, it’s also probable Hennigan will explore potential trades and utilize the team’s financial flexibility in free agency.

Ever since the Dwight Howard blockbuster trade, I have dissected the landscape of the league to assess what players the Magic may target over the next few summers. Considering the plethora of salary cap space Orlando may have, it’s very feasible to assume the Magic will be able to chase a slew of impending free agents as early as next July.

But many meddling minds want to know: If a big-name talent was rumored to be on the trading block by this season’s deadline, would the Magic be radical, play some NBA chess and make a drastic move?

Well, while I can’t envisage Hennigan’s course of action, I will offer my opinion. In the NBA, if you can get your hands on an All-Star caliber talent in his prime with no baggage, injuries or an unfavorable contract, you accept the adaptation with very little hesitancy.

This season is quite delicate for the Magic considering it’s somewhat of a mystery how they will perform.

Some believe Orlando will exceed expectations, challenge for a playoff spot and build around its present cast, including rookies Andrew Nicholson and Maurice Harkless and veterans such as Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo and Glen Davis.

Others, on the other hand, advocate the commencement of a renovation will result in some initial bumps in the road and the kind of growing pains that will offer the Magic a high lottery draft pick next June.

It’s extremely difficult – considering the preseason has just started and several players are recovering from injuries – to properly tag a value to just about anyone on the Magic’s roster.

Some think that because he is in the final year of his contract, J.J. Redick may be dealt by the trade deadline. Some believe Al Harrington may eventually get traded – though Hennigan assured the media immediately after the Howard trade in August that Al was an integral part of the deal and that he would likely see plenty of playing time once he returns to the lineup.

Remember also, Orlando has a $17 million trade exception it can flirt with until next August.

If there is one thing we learned the last few years when the Magic attempted to find a suitable star to team with Howard, it’s extremely complicated to land a legitimate talent that can guide a team to a championship. There are always very few All-Star level players available since teams are generally very protective of their very best.

Usually, the only time an All-Star in his prime is attainable via trade is if the player has demanded a trade, refuses to commit long term while in the final year of his contract or if the team chooses to dive into complete rebuild mode and clear up as much salary cap space as possible.

I have done some careful thinking and undraped a few top-tier talents that could be traded by the deadline this season. And while it’s very possible the Magic would have absolutely no interest in any of them, it’s always invigorating to ponder the possibilities.

Here are some players that may be dealt this season along with an assessment as to what their current teams would likely want in a trade should they decide to send him away.

LaMarcus Aldridge – One would automatically assume Portland would have no craving to trade away the lone star it has after all its others dissipated as a result of severe injuries (Brandon Roy, Greg Oden).

Aldridge’s contract runs until 2015 – so the Blazers are not in any sort of rush to try and get a long-term commitment from L.A. However, it sure seems that Portland is attempting to reconstruct the makeup of its team around Damian Lillard, who has scouts salivating after his outstanding performance at the Las Vegas Summer League this past July.

If the Blazers get off to a rough start this season and Aldridge seems in any way discontent with the direction of the franchise, rumblings of a trade may develop.

Portland would likely expect some sort of combination of budding young talent and/or reasonably high draft picks if it decides to throw Aldridge on the trade market.

James Harden – It sounds outrageous in many ways considering the Thunder are one of the best teams in the league, adore Harden’s unremitting improvement and believe the chemistry between he, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook is terrific.

However, Harden will be a restricted free agent next summer and while OKC can match any offer another team presents to him, the Thunder are on a dangerous road to major luxury tax penalties.

Along with Durant and Westbrook’s contracts, Oklahoma City just gave Serge Ibaka a four-year $48 million extension.

It also is paying Kendrick Perkins a decent figure and is committed to Nick Collison and Thabo Sefalosha after this season.

Some, as a result, believe the Thunder will not pay to keep Harden around, especially because he essentially plays the same position as Durant and may not be a necessity for OKC to remain a championship contender.

It would seem practical to believe that OKC may deal Harden by the deadline to avoid letting him walk for nothing. Since Harden is a reserve, it may be more advantageous for the Thunder to accept a collection of dependable role players with inexpensive price tags in a deal.

In this instance, perhaps quantity is more important than quality.

Josh Smith – Will this ever get resolved in Atlanta? Those in Orlando thought the Howard indecision was fatiguing,

But I will tell you, it’s possible the whole J-Smoove, Hawks back-and-forth ambiguity has become even more taxing.

Countless times, Smith has requested a trade. Atlanta has remained stringent and continues to grasp onto their star forward.

One would believe, especially after new GM Danny Ferry opted to trade Joe Johnson this past summer, that the Hawks want to rebuild and travel down a similar road to that of the Magic.

Some thought there was a realistic chance Atlanta would trade Smith to the Lakers for Pau Gasol. But that swap hasn’t happened – yet anyway.

Remember, Smith is in the final year of his contract and despite born and raised in Atlanta, he may prefer to invent his own path somewhere else.

My best guess is that the Hawks would favor a trade that rivals what Orlando got back in the Howard deal – financial flexibility, draft picks and promising young talent.

Al Jefferson – It’s a peculiar problem – in a way – but the Jazz just simply have too many big men. While most teams would prefer this dilemma to its current issues, Utah’s lineup lacks balance.

Aside from Jefferson, the Jazz have Paul Millsap, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors all nestled together. One would assume, considering they traded Deron Williams for both of them essentially, that Utah wants to make both Favors and Kanter the centerpieces of their rebuilding method.

Also, Big Al is in the final year of his contract and it’s difficult to detect what kind of offer he may get next summer. It wouldn’t seem rational for the Jazz to pay Jefferson a max contract when they are trying to develop both Favors and Kanter.

My suggestion is for Utah to try and acquire a budding or already-established guard who can help the Jazz sustain a more balanced lineup.

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