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Orlando trades All-Star center Nikola Vucevic to Chicago

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The Orlando Magic's rebuild is here.

According to both ESPN and Stadium, the Magic are trading All-Star center Nikola Vucevic to the Chicago Bulls for Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter and two first-round picks. The Bulls are attempting to make the playoffs this season while the Magic on Thursday traded Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon after the franchise struggled to be competitive.

Vucevic, 30, is averaging 24.5 points and 11.8 rebounds per game in 2020-21. He’s averaged at least 19.6 points per game in each of the last three seasons and made the All-Star team for the first time in 2019. He was selected to the All-Star team again earlier this season.

He was considered the least likely member of the Magic to be traded before Thursday’s trade deadline behind Gordon and guard Evan Fournier. Vucevic has two more years remaining on his contract for a combined $46 million. Al-Farouq Aminu is also being sent to Chicago in the trade.

Per Stadium, the first-round picks are in the 2021 and 2023 drafts. The pick in this summer's draft is top-four protected.

Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) sets up a play during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat on Sunday, March 14, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic is heading to the Chicago Bulls. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Chicago currently in 10th

The Bulls (19-24) make this trade while occupying the final play-in tournament spot for the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Bulls are one game ahead of the Toronto Raptors in the win column and three wins behind the Charlotte Hornets for fourth in the East.

Adding Vucevic to the team means that the Bulls will have a very good second scorer to pair with All-Star guard Zach LaVine. He made the All-Star team for the first time this season and is currently averaging over 28 points per game. The Bulls are clearly hoping that the trio of LaVine, Vucevic and Lauri Markkanen is enough firepower to be a solid playoff team over the next few seasons.

Carter, 21, was the seventh overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft. While he’s shooting over 50% from the field and averaging nearly 11 points per game he never found a comfortable fit with the Bulls. And has played in just 119 games over his first two-plus NBA seasons because of injury. He’ll be the frontcourt focal point for the Magic going forward, especially if Gordon is dealt before the deadline.

Porter, 27, has been a disappointment for the Bulls ever since he was traded to the team in 2019 for Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis. Porter is currently making over $28 million and is set to be a free agent at the end of the season. He is averaging 9.9 points per game and is shooting 44% from the field.

What's next for the Magic?

It will be a surprise if Vucevic is the only significant member of the Magic (15-29) traded ahead of Thursday's deadline as the team sits 14th out of 15 in the East.

The Magic have been no better than mediocre ever since winning 52 games during the 2010-11 season. The Magic have made the playoffs three times since that season but haven’t won more than 42 games in any of those seasons and made the playoffs in 2019-20 with a 33-40 record.

A teardown of the roster now gives the team the chance to accumulate young players and picks and attempt to win in the future. Vucevic, Gordon and Fournier are the team’s three highest-paid players and both Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac are out for the season because of knee injuries.

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