Two-way guard Arron Afflalo seems like the sort of player who could be worth quite a bit in trade talks. He’s in his prime, coming off of a career year, his shooting, ball handling and post up skills have steadily improved as the years have dragged on, and he remains a stout defender despite the increase in minutes and the advancement of his scoring skills. Earlier in June, it was reported that the Chicago Bulls were interested in dealing for the off guard using any combination of first round draft picks, and because of the paucity of productive two guards in the NBA at the moment, it felt like his value would skyrocket higher and higher as draft season turned into the free agency period.
Instead, Orlando appears to have sold low. Appears to.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports was the first to report that the Magic have dealt Afflalo back to the Denver Nuggets for shooting guard Evan Fournier, and the 56th pick in Thursday’s draft. The two active players have a large discrepancy in salaries, so Denver had to use the trade exception it acquired when it dealt Andre Iguodala to the Golden State Warriors in the summer of 2013. Iguodala, you’ll recall, was acquired by Denver in 2012 in the deal that sent Afflalo to Orlando in the four-way transaction that tossed Dwight Howard out of Florida.
If that feels like a frustrating turn for the Magic, you’d be correct in that response, but this is how the team’s front office has to work after taking the Dwight Howard-inspired body blow. Afflalo played terrific ball for Orlando and had a very tradeable (obviously) contract at $7.5 million last and next season, but his age and status were out of place on a rebuilding team. Arron turns 29 this autumn, and he will more than likely opt out of his contract next summer, making him a free agent. Had the Magic re-signed Afflalo, they would be paying him well into his mid-30s, a needless move for a team building around youth.
As it stands, the Magic will now have heaps of cap room to work with during the offseason, which they may choose to roll over into the 2015 free agent turn. As such, they can help facilitate trades for other teams, earning assets along the way.
Denver, it seems, is not quite ready to tear things up and begin rebuilding. The 21-year old Fournier remains an intriguing prospect in spite of a little second year regression in 2013-14, a good shooter with ball handling skills, but the team appears ready to put its ducks in a row in an attempt to potentially deal for that knockout All-Star that it lacked even while winning 57 games in 2013. Iguodala, coach George Karl and GM Masai Ujiri have all moved on since then, and the team struggled to recover and play consistent ball on both ends under rookie head coach Brian Shaw last season.
Sending Fournier, a second round pick and a trade exception for a player in Afflalo who was a borderline All-Star last season is a terrific move. How it figures into the wider picture in the West, with just about every team outside of Utah looking to make a playoff push in 2014-15, remains to be seen.
(And if the Nuggets are hoping that another team overrates a player who turns 29 in October, and they can move Afflalo on in a bigger deal, then this is an even better move for the Denver front office.)
On paper, this is not the best deal for Orlando, but they truly did make out well. The team cut salary, it acquired two young assets, and it held off on needlessly clinging to a player it didn’t need in Afflalo – just to have something easily digestible to show from the Dwight Howard trade. Many GMs get caught in that trap, compounding the vexation along the way, and it’s a credit to Orlando GM Rob Hennigan and his staff that the team went with the proper long-term basketball move.
Another move, in a draft day that could see quite a few wheels and most definitely some deals. Possibly even steals. Stay tuned.
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