NEW YORK – In a move designed to add more perimeter shooting and scoring punch to an offense that has lagged for weeks, the Orlando Magic acquired small forward James Ennis III from the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday just prior to the NBA’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Ennis III is a career 35.6 percent shooter from 3-point range in five NBA seasons. The Magic will be the seventh NBA team that the 29-year-old Ennis III has played for since being the 50th pick of the 2013 NBA Draft out of Long Beach State (Calif.). In his career, Ennis III has averaged 6.4 points and 3.2 assists with his best extended stretch coming in the 2018-19 season when he averaged 7.4 points on 36.7 percent 3-point shooting in 40 games with the Houston Rockets.
``Experienced guy, terrific competitor, he’s played in playoff series and he’s got good versatility, so I think he’ll fit in well,’’ said Magic head coach Steve Clifford of Ennis, who he will meet with on Friday in Orlando. ``(Defense), to me, is the thing that really stands out because he’s a really good competitor. He has the quickness and length to defend multiple positions, which is obviously a big help for any team.’’
The Magic dealt the lower of their two 2020 second-round picks to Philadelphia for Ennis III, who averaged 5.8 points and 3.1 rebounds while shooting 44.2 percent overall and 34.9 percent from 3-point range this season in 49 games with the 76ers.
To make room for Ennis III, the Magic waived Amile Jeferson. The power forward appeared in 18 games this season – mostly in mop-up duty.
It is the second straight season that the Magic and Sixers have made a deal at the deadline. Last season, Orlando acquired point guard Markelle Fultz for Jonathon Simmons and a protected first-round pick.
Orlando came into Thursday ranked 29th in the NBA in scoring (103.3 points per game), 29th in field goal percentage (43.2 percent) and 27th in 3-point shooting (33.7 percent). The Magic shot 53.8 percent overall with 14 made 3-pointers and a season-best 35 assists in Monday’s defeat of the Charlotte Hornets, but they dropped back to 42.7 percent with 17 turnovers in Wednesday’s loss in Boston.
This season with Philadelphia, Ennis scored in double figures eight times, including on Nov. 13 against the Magic when he had 10 points by making four of six shots. He scored a season-best 20 points against the New York Knicks on Nov. 29 by making four of five shots, three of four from 3-point range and nine of nine from the free throw line.
``He’s had seasons where he’s shot the ball really well,’’ Clifford said of Ennis, who was with the Miami Heat during the 2014-15 season when Orlando assistant coach Pat Delany worked there. ``They always say you don’t know a guy until you coach him, but I’ll use the day (on Friday) and try to get caught up a little more (with Ennis).’’
It was almost a year ago – Feb. 7 to be exact – that the Magic pulled off what proved to be a blockbuster by acquiring Fultz from the 76ers just prior to the 2019 trade deadline. The move was a brazen one for the Magic considering that Fultz – the No. 1 pick of the 2017 NBA Draft – was out of action at the time with a serious shoulder injury.
The Magic stood by Fultz’s side throughout the rehabilitation process, going as far as sending therapists and coaches to work with him throughout the offseason last summer. That patience and persistence has paid off in a big way this season as the 21-year-old Fultz has morphed into one of the NBA’s most stirring comeback stories while becoming the difference-making point guard that the Magic have sought for years. Magic coach Steve Clifford said that the Magic’s move to acquire Fultz will be remembered as a bold and creative one and a transaction that could potentially alter the Magic’s direction for years to come. Clifford said Weltman and GM John Hammond are to be commended for the guile shown in dealing for Fultz and showing the patience to get him healthy and back on the court.
``Jeff and John (made) a great move,’’ Clifford said. ``A year from now, who knows (how much more improved Fultz will be)? Listen, he plays better, and every two or three weeks, he makes another jump. There’s a reason that he was the No. 1 pick in a really talented draft class.’’
As for Fultz, he entered Thursday’s game in New York averaging 11.5 points, 4.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.28 steals in 50 games. Fultz said he will forever be grateful to the Magic for believing in him when he was injured and for giving him the platform with which he could revive his career this season.
``It was huge, and for me, it was another opportunity and a fresh start with unfamiliar faces and a chance to leave a new impression,’’ Fultz said prior to Thursday’s tip off at Madison Square Garden. ``For me, (the trade to Orlando) was a blessing. I’m extremely grateful for it and I think I show it every time I step out on the floor trying to play as hard as I can. I appreciate the opportunity because you never know when (basketball) is going to end, what could happen or that you’d move on to another team. But, again, I’m just thankful and I’m blessed.’’
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