Orlando Magic

NBA Suspends Arron Afflalo Two Games

The NBA has suspended Magic guard Arron Afflalo two games for his role in an altercation with Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica, Shams Charania of The Vertical tweets.

On Tuesday night, Afflalo got tangled up with the 29-year-old Wolves forward and ended up launching a wild haymaker that careened off the back of Bjelica’s head and neck. Bjelica put Afflalo in a headlock before the two were eventually separated.

The suspension, which will be in place for tonight’s Magic-Cavaliers game, targets Afflalo and not Bjelica presumably because Afflalo appeared to be the one to escalate the situation, while Bjelica looked content containing Afflalo and defusing the situation.

Evan Fournier Won’t Ask Magic For Trade

Since starting the season with an 8-4 record, the Magic have dropped 27 of 32 games, and are now tied for the NBA’s worst record. Despite the team’s struggles, sharpshooter Evan Fournier tells Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel that he enjoys playing in Orlando and won’t ask the team to move him.

“Obviously, as a player you want to win,” Fournier said. “But I will never ask [for] a trade or anything. I’m not that kind of guy. I’m a fighter and I’m definitely not a quitter. I don’t know what they plan to do, but I’m a Magic. I feel like I belong here, and for as long as I’m going to be here, I’m going to fight for this jersey and this city, man. It’s that simple.”

Even if he doesn’t request a trade, Fournier is considered a candidate to be dealt before next month’s deadline, which is now just three weeks away. As we outlined on Wednesday when we identified several trade candidates in the Southeast, the 25-year-old has been the subject of several trade rumors already in 2018.

Marc Stein of the New York Times said this week that rival executives expect Orlando to actively shop him; Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders suggested last week that Fournier is the Magic player drawing the most trade interest from rival teams; and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier in January that the Pistons pursued a deal for the veteran swingman. For his part, Fournier is tuning those rumors out, as he tells Robbins.

“I’m not going to think about what’s going to happen or where I would enjoy playing or something, because it’s all speculation,” Fournier said. “That’s why I really don’t read this stuff: because you never know what’s going to happen. I got traded once and I had no idea. It really came out of nowhere. There were no rumors. There was nothing. And out of the blue I woke up one morning and I got traded. So I know this is just all talk. You really don’t know what’s going on upstairs [in front offices], so it really doesn’t matter, honestly.”

Fournier is enjoying a career year in Orlando so far this season, averaging 18.0 PPG with a .463/.396/.890 shooting line in 36 games (all starts). While that sort of production would appeal to many contenders, Fournier’s contract clouds his trade value. He’s owed $17MM annually through at least 2019/20, with a $17MM player option for 2020/21 — if he continues to improve, that’s not a bad price, but it’s a long-term commitment, and the cap number may be tricky for some teams to match in a trade.

Seven Southeast Trade Candidates To Watch

The NBA trade deadline is just over three weeks away, and there’s no shortage of players around the league who could change teams. Over the next week, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of those top trade candidates, breaking them down by division.

While our focus will be primarily on teams expected to be sellers at the deadline, our lists may also include some players on contenders who could be used as trade chips when those teams look to make upgrades.

We’re examining the Southeast Division today, so let’s dive in and identify seven players who could be on the move on or before February 8…

  1. EvanFournier verticalEvan Fournier, SG (Magic): Fournier has been the subject of several trade rumors already in 2018. Marc Stein of the New York Times said this week that rival executives expect Orlando to actively shop him; Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders suggested last week that Fournier is the Magic player drawing the most trade interest from rival teams; and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier in January that the Pistons pursued a deal for the veteran sharpshooter. Fournier, who is scoring a career-high 18.0 PPG this season to go along with a very respectable .396 3PT%, would certainly be an intriguing addition to a contender, but his contract may complicate matters. He’s owed $17MM annually through at least 2019/20, with a $17MM player option for 2020/21. Matching that salary with contracts the Magic are willing to take on won’t necessarily be easy for Fournier’s suitors.
  2. Nikola Vucevic, C (Magic): Vucevic, Fournier’s frontcourt teammate, has the more palatable contract of the two — he’s earning $12.25MM this season and then will make $12.75MM in the final year of his deal in 2018/19. That single year of control beyond this season may make him attractive to teams that want more than a rental but prefer not to make long-term commitments. Vucevic is also enjoying a nice bounce-back year after struggling in 2016/17, averaging 17.4 PPG and 9.3 RPG. He has even added a semi-reliable three-point shot to his game. However, a broken hand suffered last month throws a wrench into the Magic‘s chances of moving Vucevic. That injury is expected to sideline the big man for six to eight weeks, which would put him on track to return around the time of the deadline, or right after it. Any team with interest in Vucevic will be keeping a very close eye on his recovery process over the next few weeks.
  3. Dewayne Dedmon, C (Hawks): While DeAndre Jordan‘s name has popped up in trade rumors more frequently, Dedmon looks to me like a more prudent investment for teams targeting centers. With an increased role in Atlanta this season, Dedmon is enjoying a career year, posting 10.8 PPG and 7.8 RPG. And after attempting just one three-pointer in his first four NBA seasons, Dedmon has made 16 of 39 (41.0%) from outside in 2017/18. Although he missed 19 games with a left tibia stress reaction, Dedmon is back on the court now, and at $6MM, his cap hit makes him an attractive target for contenders with potential luxury-tax concerns and a need at center, such as the Cavaliers and Bucks. The only downside is that his $6.3MM player option for 2018/19 means he’ll probably opt out this summer and would be a rental for any club acquiring him.
  4. Ersan Ilyasova, PF (Hawks): Like Dedmon, Ilyasova has a reasonable $6MM cap charge for this season, and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer. However, Ilyasova figures to receive interest from teams looking for a different sort of skill set — he won’t offer much rim protection or rebounding for a big man, but Ilyasova’s ability to shoot three-pointers (.393 3PT% this season) is valuable for a club looking to stretch the floor and give another frontcourt player more room to operate down low. A return to the Sixers might make some sense for Ilyasova. I could also see him fitting in with the Thunder in the role that Patrick Patterson has struggled to fill. Ilyasova is unlikely to push a team over the top, but he’s the sort of player who should be capable of making an important shot or two in the postseason.
  5. Marco Belinelli, SG (Hawks): Speaking of shot-makers, teams in need of outside shooting may prefer a backcourt option like Belinelli over a stretch four like Ilyasova. The Italian swingman has been as effective as ever from three-point range this year, making 39.2% of his attempts, and playing for a new team is unlikely to derail him — he’s currently suiting up for his eighth NBA squad, so he’s accustomed to bouncing around. At $6.6MM, Belinelli is yet another Hawk with an affordable expiring deal, and I expect him to be on the move in the coming weeks if Atlanta can extract a solid second-round pick from a trade partner.
  6. Marvin Williams, F (Hornets): Identifying the top trade candidates on the Hornets is tricky. Some of the team’s higher-paid players, including Nicolas Batum, have negative trade value, but Charlotte likely won’t want to move a bargain like Kemba Walker or a prospect like Malik Monk. If the team wants to cut long-term costs and avoid flirting with the luxury-tax line again next season, Williams would make the most sense as a trade chip. He’s well-compensated, but at $14MM in 2018/19 and $15MM (player option) in 2019/20, his contract isn’t as pricey or as lengthy as Batum’s. Williams is also enjoying an excellent season as a three-and-D wing in Charlotte, with career highs in FG% (.485) and 3PT% (.448). There haven’t been many rumors swirling around Williams yet, but the Hornets are generally active at the deadline, and the former UNC standout is one of a small handful of Charlotte players that would appeal to contenders — and that the Hornets might be open to moving.
  7. Hassan Whiteside, C (Heat): Whiteside’s super-sized contract, which will pay him $25.4MM next year and features a $27MM+ player option for 2019/20, would be a major roadblock to a deal. There have also been no legitimate indications that the Heat are interested in dealing him. Still, Bam Adebayo has been impressive in his rookie season, and Miami’s go-to fourth quarter lineups no longer include Whiteside. Since returning from his knee injury last month, Whiteside has averaged just 23.6 minutes per game, way down from the 32.6 he averaged last season. I don’t expect Whiteside to go anywhere at this point, but there are hints that the Heat would consider the possibility.

Here are a few more potential Southeast trade candidates to monitor:

  • Elfrid Payton, PG (Magic): Rival executives reportedly expect the Magic to shop Payton and Mario Hezonja.
  • Kent Bazemore, G/F (Hawks): Bazemore is said to be drawing some interest, and the Hawks are open to listening.
  • Justise Winslow, F (Heat): Winslow has been identified as a potential trade chip and probably makes more sense in a deal than Whiteside.
  • Kemba Walker, PG (Hornets): Walker almost certainly won’t be dealt by February 8, but the Hornets appear lottery-bound and the point guard’s free agency looms in 2019, so he’s worth watching.
  • Ian Mahinmi, C (Wizards): The Wizards surely wouldn’t mind moving Mahinmi and his over-sized contract, which is out of proportion with his modest role. He has negative value though, so Washington would likely have to attach draft picks to ship him out.

Front Office Will Aggressively Pursue Trades

The Magic will likely be in firesale mode approaching the trade deadline, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times. Rival executives expect Orlando, which has sunk to the bottom of the conference standings, to shop guards Evan Fournier and Elfrid Payton and swingman Mario Hezonja, Stein adds. Fournier is signed through the 2020/21 season at $17MM annually. Payton can become a restricted free agent in the summer, while Hezonja will be an unrestricted free agent after the team declined to pick up his fourth-year option in October.

Magic Recall Khem Birch From G League

  • The Magic have recalled rookie big man Khem Birch from the G League, the team announced today (Twitter link). Birch is coming off a 15-point, five-block performance on Saturday for the Lakeland Magic, Orlando’s affiliate.

Kidd Confident That Hammond Will Build A Winner

  • Wizards center Marcin Gortat said his quote about wanting to finish his career in Orlando was misinterpreted, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Gortat mentioned that he would like to return to the Magic so he could end his NBA journey where it started, but emphasized that he has no desire to be traded. “I want to play in Washington,” he said. “Just because I want to finish my career in a year-and-a-half doesn’t mean I don’t want to play in Washington. I think everything today was blown away a little too much.”

Kyler’s Latest: Fournier, Jordan, Mirotic

The NBA’s G League Showcase is playing out in Mississauga, Ontario this week and the event has brought a plethora of league executives under the same roof. With next month’s trade deadline looming, it’s inevitable that the celebration of the NBA’s affiliate league also doubles as an unofficial chance for teams to discuss possible deals.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders has a number of updates from the Showcase, the highlights of which we’ll get into below. For a full breakdown of the trade chatter going down north of the border, check out the full feature here.

  • The Magic aren’t committing to the notion of “blowing the team up” but that’s the impression that teams on the other end of the phone seem to be getting. The club is supposedly going to be active ahead of the deadline and they want to make changes that help them shed salary. Kyler notes that guard Evan Fournier seems to be the player most teams have an interest in.
  • There remains a sense that DeAndre Jordan will be moved ahead of the deadline and the Bucks continue to be mentioned as the team most likely to make that happen. Kyler writes that a possible Jordan-to-Milwaukee deal could yield the Clippers John Henson, a young player and a draft pick. The Clips apparently like Malcolm Brogdon but his inclusion seems to be a non-starter.
  • The Jazz and Pistons are in pursuit of Nikola Mirotic and the deciding factor could possibly come down to Mirotic’s ability to veto a deal. Mirotic supposedly likes the idea of the Jazz and playing for Quin Snyder. At the end of the day, however, a Mirotic-to-Utah deal would likely require a first-round pick heading from the Jazz back to the Bulls, something Utah seems currently reluctant to part with.
  • Kyler notes that there’s belief that Joe Johnson will seek a buyout from the Jazz after the trade deadline if he isn’t dealt to a playoff-bound squad.
  • There isn’t any sense in NBA circles that Pelicans big man DeMarcus Cousins or Thunder forward Paul George could be move ahead of the deadline, although some teams may make an “11th hour run” at George.

Marcin Gortat Wants To Finish Career With Magic

Although he has been a member of the Wizards since 2013, Marcin Gortat‘s NBA career began with another Southeast team, as he played for the Magic from 2007 to 2011. Speaking to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, Gortat expressed a desire to eventually finish his playing career where it started.

“I would love to join the team for maybe two or three months, or maybe half a season at least,” Gortat said of the Magic. “I’m going to be an old guy, so I don’t know if Orlando would be interested or not. But I would love to join the team back again just to wear the uniform, put the white and blue stripes again on me and be able to say I’m a Magic again and just come back home where I belong. That would definitely be a dream come true to do that for me. Whatever the team wants to do — play me, just be in the rotation or just be a bench player — I would definitely be there for the team.”

It’s not uncommon for a veteran player to express a desire to return to a former team at the end of his career — players often sign one-day contracts to retire with a specific club. Still, Gortat’s comments indicate he wants to actually play for Orlando again before he retires, and he went on to suggest the end of his career could arrive sooner rather than later.

“The way NBA politics goes right now, I’m afraid that next year might be my last year,” Gortat said. “This is how I feel right now. Obviously, we’re going to have a summer, then another year of basketball and then I’m going to think about it. But the way I feel right now, it’s like next year might be my last year of my career.

“I’m not saying 100 percent,” Gortat continued. “I would say probably. The way everything goes, the way the NBA goes right now and everything that’s going on, I just don’t feel like I’m going to stay in this league for much longer.”

Gortat’s contract with the Wizards runs through 2018/19, so if the veteran center wants to suit up for the Magic for a few months and doesn’t expect to play beyond his current deal, he’d have to count on a trade or a buyout to get him to Orlando. While that’s a possibility, Gortat may have to stick around beyond next season if he really wants to play for the Magic again.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 1/10/18

Here are Wednesday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Magic assigned center Khem Birch to their Lakeland affiliate, the team announced in a tweet. The rookie has played seven games for Orlando, averaging three minutes per night.
  • The Kings assigned Georgios Papagiannis and Malachi Richardson to their affiliate in Reno, tweets Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee.

Gordon Improves, But Waits For Magic To Win

  • Aaron Gordon is having his best statistical season by far, but it’s not resulting in more wins for the Magic, relays John Denton of NBA.com. Gordon hasn’t come close to a playoff spot in his four years in Orlando, but he remains confident that things will turn around. “[The losing] hurts and it’s not something that I like obviously, but I do my best to continue to focus on the present moment,’’ Gordon said. “Win, to me, stands for What’s Important Now. What’s important now is continuing to get better so that when the opportunity presents itself I’m ready and we’re ready as a team.”
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