Magic's Active Trade Deadline Turns the Page to Next Chapter of Franchise History

Orlando Trades Vucevic, Gordon, Fournier and More in Separate Deals in Exchange for Carter Jr., Porter Jr., Hampton, Harris, Draft Picks and More
Carter, Hampton, Harris, Porter
by Dan Savage

ORLANDO -- The Orlando Magic completely closed one chapter of franchise history and started the process of writing a new one on Thursday.

In separate moves, the Magic sent away long-time franchise staples Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon, who all have been with the team for seven-plus seasons.

In the process, Orlando got younger, created salary cap flexibility and acquired draft assets that they believe will help them take advantage of a strong and deep 2021 NBA Draft class. While certainly an extremely challenging day for the organization, the Magic felt it was time to reset after falling short of expectations this season. With its timeline towards contention centered around Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac, Chuma Okeke, Cole Anthony, and Mo Bamba, Orlando felt this was the moment to bring in pieces and assets that would fit and add to that window.

As part of the exchange, Orlando added Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr., and two first round picks from the Chicago Bulls, R.J. Hampton, Gary Harris and a first round selection from the Denver Nuggets, and two second round picks from the Boston Celtics.

The first domino to fall occurred when the Magic dealt two-time All-Star Vucevic to the Bulls along with Al-Farouq Aminu in exchange for Carter, Porter and two first round draft picks.

Along with the valuable draft selections, Orlando acquired Carter, who was selected a pick after Bamba in the 2018 NBA Draft. The Magic view him as a promising young big who can develop with their current nucleus.

“Wendell is a talented, young player, who is just starting to blossom,” Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said. “We are excited not only to add him to our team, but to watch him continue to develop into the player we think we can become. We’re happy to welcome Wendell and Otto to the Magic family.”

Carter has appeared in 119 career NBA regular season games (112 starts), all with the Bulls, averaging 10.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 50.9 percent from the floor.

Porter, originally selected third overall in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards, is averaging 9.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game this season, while shooting 40.0 percent from three-point range.

The decision to deal Vucevic was undoubtedly a difficult one. He spent the last nine seasons with the Magic after being acquired in the blockbuster four-team trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. A two-time NBA All-Star, Vooch consistently improved his game year after year. He ranks at or near the top of a number of key categories in Orlando franchise history, including first in all-time field goals made (4,490), second in rebounds (6,381), third in blocks (550), third in points scored (10,423), and fourth in games played (591).

The former Magic center is averaging a career-high 24.5 points to go along with 11.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.6 blocks per game this season. He's made his biggest stride from three-point range, knocking down 2.7 triples per contest while shooting a scorching 40.6 percent from distance.

“Anytime you trade a player like Nikola, it is a tough decision to make,” said Weltman. “'Vooch’ will go down as one of the best players to ever wear a Magic uniform and we can’t thank him enough for all the contributions he made to the organization, both on and off the court.”

The Magic continued their roster overhaul when they sent Gordon along with Gary Clark to the Nuggets in exchange for Hampton, Harris, and a future first round pick.

Hampton was originally selected in the first round (24th overall) of the 2020 NBA Draft by Milwaukee, then acquired on draft night by Denver as part of a four-team trade. The immensely athletic guard can play both the one and the two. He excels in transition, a product of his exceptional speed, but is still a raw and unpolished prospect, who needs to improve his shooting and finishing around the rim to truly become a dangerous scoring threat in this league.

Harris has played his entire career with the Nuggets after being acquired in a draft night trade from the Bulls in 2014. Over the course of his career, the shooting guard has averaged 12.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game, while shooting 45.4 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from distance.

“R.J. and Gary (Harris) will provide great depth to our backcourt,” said Weltman. “R.J. is a bright, young player that brings speed and athleticism, while Gary provides a solid veteran presence. We are happy to welcome R.J. and Gary to the Magic family.”

Gordon made headlines recently when it was reported that he requested a trade, one that’s he’s now been granted. The athletic forward, who’s delivered some of the best NBA Dunk Contest performances in league history, played seven seasons with the team after being the fourth overall selection by the club in the 2014 NBA Draft, averaging 12.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game over the course of his stint in Orlando.

“We also want to thank Aaron for everything he gave to the organization during the last seven years, both on the court and in the community,” Weltman added. “We wish Aaron good luck as he continues his career.”

The final move of Orlando’s whirlwind trade deadline day came as the Magic sent Fournier to the Celtics in exchange for two second round selections, Jeff Teague – who will not report to the team – and a resulting a $17 million trade exception.

“We want to thank Evan for all that he has done during the last seven years, both with the organization and in the community,” Weltman added. “Evan has been a true professional and we wish him and his family all the best moving forward.”

Fournier, who was acquired from the Nuggets in 2014 in exchange for Arron Afflalo, was also playing some of the best basketball of his career this season, averaging 19.7 points, 3.7 assists, and 2.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 46.1 percent from the floor and 38.8 percent from three-point range. He’s delivered two season-high 31-point performances this month and converted one of his four game-winning shots with the franchise in his final game with the team, a 112-111 victory over the Phoenix Suns. However, the veteran shooting guard was set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

“I’ve been here for seven years, I had a son here, I got married, it means more than a lot because it’s kind of hard to put words into it,” Fournier said to the media after last night’s game, amid speculation that he would be traded. “I got traded here when I was twenty-one only, now I’m a totally different man, a totally different player. I have a lot of love for the franchise and the people that work here – you guys (the media) included.”

Vucevic, Gordon and Fournier were all key factors in helping Orlando snap a six-year playoff drought and reach the postseason two straight years.

“Losing is extremely frustrating, but when you go from losing to making the playoffs and you go through what we’ve been through, you create bonds that last for a very long time,” Fournier said. “That’s why I am really attached to the coaching staff, the players, so I (had) a great time here.”

However, the franchise was unsatisfied with just first round playoff appearances. This season with injuries piled up and the team falling short of expectations made it clear that the best chance at building a title contender would come from hitting the reset button and building around their young core.

The Magic are confident that under the leadership of head coach Steve Clifford and his staff that the team will be able to build upon a group that has exhibited a competitive and defensive-minded spirit since his arrival and will make the next chapter in Magic history one that will make Orlando proud.

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