LAS VEGAS – In a flurry of moves designed to better balance their roster and create playing time for rookie center Mohamed Bamba, the Orlando Magic acquired point guard Jerian Grant and reserve center Timofey Mozgov on Saturday night.
A three-team trade that has the Magic sending center Bismack Biyombo and a pair of future second round draft picks to the Charlotte Hornets and the Chicago Bulls getting Julyan Stone also includes Orlando filling a major need at point guard with Grant and clearing playing time for Bamba, the No. 6 pick in last June’s NBA Draft. The Magic, Bulls and Hornets agreed to the three-team, four-player deal on Saturday night from Las Vegas where much of the NBA is headquartered for the next two weeks for the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League.
“We’re excited to acquire both players and obviously we’ve been considering how to best address our point guard position," Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said. "This trade fell into place for us. I think it’s a good move for all three teams."
"There were some elements of (the trade) that we were discussing individually the last few weeks, but the deal actually came together just today," he added. "It was really kind of a quick-hitter.”
Prior to the trade, Orlando had just two true point guards on the roster in veteran D.J. Augustin and rookie free agent Isaiah Briscoe. Grant, who averaged 8.4 points, 4.6 assists and 2.3 rebounds in 22.8 minutes a night last season for the Bulls, gives the Magic some steady depth at the lead guard spot.
Many talent evaluators throughout the NBA feel that the 25-year-old Grant – who has started 60 games in his three-year career – can be a far-more productive contributor if given more of a steady and prominent role. The Notre Dame product’s 4.6:1.2 assist-to-turnover ratio last season proves his efficiency and it should improve even more with a bigger role in Orlando. However, his shooting – he connected on just 41.6 percent of his field-goal tries and only 32.6 percent of his 3-point shots – must improve.
"He’s still young and he’s a growing player and hopefully he can thrive with us," Weltman said about the new point guard addition. "He’s going to get an opportunity. He’s a good defender, he’s got size and he knows how to play.”
The trade brings an end to Biyombo’s mercurial run in Orlando after just two seasons. The 6-foot-9, 255-pound center was brought to Orlando in the summer of 2016 with the hopes that he could transform the Magic’s defense into a fearsome unit. However, his offensive limitations and his lack of fit in Orlando’s defensive system sapped his effectiveness.
Biyombo, 25, played in 81 games in 2016-17 and all 82 games in 2017-18, but he was used only sparingly behind starter Nikola Vucevic. His production this past season (5.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks) fell off and he never reached what he did in Toronto in 2015-16 (5.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks) to earn a lucrative free-agent payday from the Magic. He did register one of the best games of his career this past season with the Magic, scoring a personal high of 21 points against the Washington Wizards on Jan. 12.
Biyombo returns to Charlotte, the franchise that traded for him on draft night in 2011. Biyombo played for the Bobcats/Hornets from 2011-15 with only moderate success before bolting for Toronto. He was recently named a ``Global Good Honoree’’ by BET Network for his leadership in building a school back in his native Democratic Republic of Congo for children in need.
With Biyombo gone, Orlando will have far more minutes with which to use Vucevic and Bamba at the center position. Vucevic is the longest-tenured player on the Magic at six seasons, while Bamba is just joining the squad following last month’s NBA Draft. Bamba, who has the longest wingspan ever recorded in the NBA at 7 feet, 10 inches, was especially impressive in his Summer League debut on Friday, contributing 11 points, seven rebounds, two assists and one blocked shot in Orlando’s 86-80 defeat of Brooklyn.
“I love Biz, he’s a great person and a hard worker," Weltman said. "We appreciate everything that he’s done for us and wish him nothing but the best.”
Mozgov, 31, has been a man on the move over the past three-plus NBA seasons. Once the starting center on Cleveland teams that won a World Championship in 2015-16 and reached the NBA Finals in 2014-15, Mozgov has played for the Los Angeles Lakers (54 games in 2016-17) and the Brooklyn Nets (31 games in 2017-18) in recent years. He was officially dealt from the Nets to the Hornets on Friday in a swap for former Magic center Dwight Howard, who the Nets have since waived. The 7-foot-1, 275-pound Mozgov, who was born in the former Soviet Union, has two years remaining on his contract – just as Biyombo does now with Charlotte.
"Mozy is a terrific guy," Weltman said. "It’s a move where hopefully a fresh start with a couple of the players (like Mozgov) will work out. It’s all about how they assimilate with their new teams.”
Chicago gets Stone, who has a non-guaranteed contract that could allow the Bulls to create more future salary cap space.
Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.