Over the past few days, the talk has been predominantly circling around DeMarcus Cousins’ blockbuster trade to the New Orleans Pelicans, or Magic Johnson’s hiring as the President of Basketball Operations in L.A. However the Orlando Magic are taking a new approach towards their desperately needed rebuild, in which they’ve been under the radar.
On Valentine’s Day, Serge Ibaka was dealt to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Terrence Ross and a first-round pick in the upcoming draft.
Orlando has agreed to trade Serge Ibaka to Toronto for Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-round pick, league sources tell @TheVertical.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 14, 2017
With Ibaka coming-and-going like the passing of the wind, the Orlando Magic will have to look for another player to spear-head their offense. An exceedingly heavy amount of responsibility will be dumped on Evan Fournier and new acquisition Ross, in tandem.
While to the naked eye, this trade looks incredibly one-sided in favor of the Raptors. Ross can be a valuable asset to the Magic, as the small forward will bring a wealth of talent and experience with him. He provides soem efficient scoring abilities from all areas of the court, as well as his remarkable athleticism.
On top of this, the Magic acquired another first-round pick in a loaded draft class, yet another indicator that their rebuild is off to a promising start. Losing Ibaka was obviously a bitter pill to swallow for Orlando, but it’s not as bad as some may make it.
With this trade, the Magic now have an actual scoring forward, more so a player who they can depend on in the clutch. Granted, Ross didn’t have the most successful debut against the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night, turning in a underwhelming 13-point, 4-rebound performance. But regardless, it takes time for players to settle into unfamiliar rosters.
Just look at Kyle Korver at the Cleveland Cavaliers for example. Korver scored a combined four points in his first two games for Cleveland. The 13-year veteran is now averaging 11.5 points a game off the bench, and is shooting 52.3% from three ever since. In Toronto, Ross was always hidden in the shadow cast by All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. He now has room to breathe and showcase his talents as he takes on a much larger role in Orlando.
The 2013 Slam Dunk contest winner has been averaging a steady 10.4 points a game this season for Toronto, shooting at an efficient 44.1% clip from the field. He showcases robust efficiency, and with more minutes, with more opportunities of the ball, it’s only a matter of time before his scoring numbers soar.
Terrence Ross gets his first bucket as a member of the Magic. pic.twitter.com/AcGKvN2hc5
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) February 24, 2017
In short, change was desperately needed for a franchise slumped second bottom of the Eastern Conference at 21-38, and this trade offers Orlando a breath of fresh air. Aaron Gordon, a predominant power forward, was being utilized as the starting 3 prior to this trade, and it’s fair to say it wasn’t yielding the best results. Gordon isn’t a strong shooter, that much is clear. The Dunk Contest participant excels defensively, but stalls on offense. It was painstakingly obvious he was being utilized uncomfortably out of position, and now with Ross’s arrival, Magic fans can take a collective sigh of relief in knowing that Gordon will now revert back to the starting power forward.
This trade also frees up the rotation to allow prospect Mario Hezonja to receive more minutes. A situation that the Magic can afford to try out, considering that it can’t do much damage at this stage. Hezonja’s increased playing time arose as one of the few positives from the Magic’s wayward loss to the Trail Blazers. The second-year swingman shot the ball with pristine accuracy, make all but one of his five jumpers, including two three-pointers. With the Croatian’s offensive ability, he would serve as a solid sixth-man, and would grant Orlando added firepower off the bench if given adequate minutes.
This has been one of Mario Hezonja’s best halves of the season. He’s 4 of 4 from the field with 10 points and two assists.
— Josh Robbins (@JoshuaBRobbins) February 24, 2017
So, while Ross might not be the igniting flame to this franchise, he will definitely provide some spark that the Magic really can’t do without. At this point in time, the Magic should be exercising all their options otherwise. The foot of the Eastern Conference awaits.