Shaq. Penny. T-Mac. Dwight.
If you were building a Mount Rushmore of the Magic, those four names would likely fit. Each of those players, at some point wearing an Orlando uniform were the best, or among the best players in the NBA. Shaq, Penny and Dwight came close to winning titles while playing for the Magic. All three made an NBA Final and three eventually moved on. Tracy McGrady never got to make a championship run with the guy who was supposed to take him along for the ride, Grant Hill.
Nikola Vucevic doesn't have the wow factor of those first four Magic legends. He doesn't have television commercials across the country. He doesn't have a sneaker line that kids line up for hours to buy or are reselling online. He "only" has 105,000 followers on Twitter.
But one could make the case that Vuc might be one of the best players to wear a Magic uniform because of time and production while in Orlando.
Jameer Nelson spent 10 seasons with the Magic. Vucevic is in his 9th season in Orlando. Shaq? Four. Penny? 6. Tracy McGrady? 4. Dwight Howard? 8.
Shaq's prime came in Los Angeles where he won multiple titles and one of the NBA's greatest players. Penny's injury limited what would have been an amazing career. T-Mac was never surrounded by a decent team in Orlando and in Houston had a few great scoring seasons but could not lead his team deep into the playoffs.
Dwight? We all can remember the team that went to the finals and we all know how it ended.
It ended with Rob Hennigan's best move as GM in Orlando. He traded Dwight because ownership told him to. And that deal brought Vucevic to Orlando. In his 9th season with the Magic, he is one of the best bigs in the NBA. He is arguably the second best three-point shooter on the Magic outside of Terrance Ross. He is a double-double machine.
The problem Vuc has is the team he plays on. Nikola Vucevic has played in 11 playoff games in entire career and one of them came in Philly. He has spent most of his career on teams that were among the worst in the league. The Magic's record since he arrived is 242-432. That's a win percentage of .359.
All this brings us to the thought of whether the Orlando Magic should trade its best current player and one of its best in franchise history.
First, his stats and production make him a desired player. Second, his salary and contract are also something teams would not run from. Vuc has two years remaining after this season at $24M and $22M.
But what can you get for Nic Vucevic? And if you are going to trade him, why are you trading him?
The Magic remain one of the worst shooting teams in the league. Can they land a productive, young scorer who you can build around and believe can be an all-star? Would you look at acquiring as many draft picks as possible to rebuild and accept the current plan is not working? The question is who would you be trading with and where will those picks be?
Should the Magic keep their best player? Vuc loves Orlando. He now has a family here and isn't there something to keep someone that produces at his level? Do the Magic dump Mo Bamba and decide that pick was a waste? If you trade Vuc, is Mo ready for major minutes?
Boston fans are having fun with the thought of the Celtics dealing for Vucevic. The Celts are struggling at 13-13 and desperately need a big man. But would Boston be willing to part with Jaylen Brown? Doubtful. Brown has become one of the NBA's better players and is averaging 26.0 per game. Does Marcus Smart, Payton Prichard and a few first round draft picks tempt you?
The Celtics would be one of many teams interested if the Magic decide to make a move. But that moment is approaching. The NBA trade deadline is March 25th. The Magic injuries have mounted to a level where the team will not be in position to make any run. Even battling for a play-in playoff spot is a stretch.
And would anyone blame Vuc if he told Jeff Weltman he wants to be traded? Vucevic has been through many losing seasons. He has seen too many teammates go down with injuries. If he wants to be traded to a team that might be able to make a deep run, is he owed at least that for his almost nine seasons with the Magic?
Part me applauds Vucevic for his loyalty to the team and there is something to keeping players that produce like he has. But the Magic simply don't have many assets to get better. The injuries to Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz have set the Magic back years. No one know how they will return.
The Magic must get the value of not just Vuc, but Terrance Ross, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and Mo Bamba. The current plan is not working. The question is what can you get? Is it time for a gamble or two?
All good things come to end. Shaq left. Penny left. T-Mac left. Dwight left. Is Nikola Vucevic next? I think so...
Final thought: Nikola Vucevic was the 16th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. The 15th pick? Kawhi Leonard
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