Aaron Gordon trade rumors have been swirling for what feels like years, as Orlando’s swingman has been in an awkward fit with the Magic’s frontcourt-heavy roster for some time. Still, there he remains, but it finally seems like this is the trade deadline that he is moved.
Part of that comes from the fact that he is on a team-friendly deal for next year, as his descending contract makes it so he’s making just over $18 million this year and will be on the books for just $16 million in 2021-22. That makes matching the money much easier, but on top of that, he has finally had enough of his time with the Magic. According to Sam Amick and Jared Weiss of The Athletic, Gordon requested a trade back in February and the Magic have been actively shopping him, but keeping their asking price high heading into this week’s trade deadline.
The Magic have been listening to offers for Gordon going back to last season, maintaining an asking price of multiple first-round picks or a pick with a good young player, per sources. But with Gordon having made it clear last month that he’s ready to move on, and interested teams well aware that he’s eager for a new start in a competitive environment where he can play a pivotal role, it still remains to be seen if a Gordon deal will go down.
Boston, Portland, Houston, Minnesota, and Denver are all noted in the piece as teams who have expressed interest, but the Rockets and Timberwolves certainly don’t fit his hopes of a “competitive environment” at the moment. As such, we’ll focus on the other three landing spots and what those teams can offer, along with some potential darkhorse teams that might get in the mix.
Celtics Get: Aaron Gordon
Magic Get: Tristan Thompson, Aaron Nesmith, 2023 lottery-protected 1st
Thompson is the contract that makes this deal work, although it’s possible they could just send picks and prospects and use the Gordon Hayward TPE to absorb Gordon — however, as The Athletic notes, that would ensure they have a massive tax bill for next year. Gordon going to Boston gets him onto the playoff contender he wants to be on, slotting into the power forward spot after years of being misplayed as a three. The Celtics desperately need some more size, but also playmaking ability and Gordon brings that.
For Orlando, they’re in the unenviable position of feeling pressure to move a star after a trade request which always makes it difficult to assess what the value for that player will be on the market. Thompson gives them some depth behind Vucevic for this year with Isaac out, but really this is about acquiring a young wing in Aaron Nesmith who can hopefully provide some spacing and under Steve Clifford continue developing as a defender. A 2023 protected first plus Nesmith gives them their two first rounders, effectively, and allows them to move on from Gordon with an eye towards the future with Isaac and Fultz.
Portland Trail Blazers
Blazers Get: Aaron Gordon
Magic Get: Rodney Hood, Nassir Little, Harry Giles, CJ Elleby, 2024 lottery-protected 1st
If this offer and the Celtics offer are both on the table, it’d be a fascinating question for Orlando, because they are basically the same deal. Rodney Hood exists in this deal mostly to make the money work at $10 million for this year and next, while Little serves as the young player with upside and a lottery protected future first ties everything up with a nice bow. Really, this would come down to whether the Magic see more value in Little or Nesmith, and which fits their longterm needs, but each provide just about the same offer. It’s hard for the Blazers to sweeten this too much, as they dealt this year’s first for Robert Covington and can’t afford to deal away Anfernee Simons, who would be much more attractive to Orlando and would likely allow them to keep their 2024 pick, but is their only real backup point guard at the moment. That leaves them in the position of just having to ship out Giles and Elleby as well to make financials work.
Portland finally gets Gordon, a player I feel has been attached to them in rumors forever, and the fit is snug. A secondary playmaker from the wing/frontcourt would make a ton of sense, and Gordon’s three-point shooting this year has been more than solid. Gordon gets to be with a contender and truly get that fresh start he seeks, so this would make a ton of sense if Little and a pick piques the Magic’s interest.
Nuggets Get: Aaron Gordon
Magic Get: Gary Harris
This is the alternative to the [salary filler/young player/future lotto protected 1st] model of the first two, which the Nuggets can certainly do with Paul Millsap and RJ Hampton, but I wanted to present a different option. Gordon and Harris make nearly identical money and each have two years remaining on their deals. Harris is currently injured, missing much of this season with a thigh strain, but when healthy he’s among the league’s best perimeter defenders. That’s something Denver needs, but if they feel they can’t rely on him to be there right now, they might take a swing on Gordon, moving Millsap to a reserve role and being less dependent on Michael Porter Jr. for extra creation beyond Jokic and Murray. MPJ is still very much a hot and cold player, and Gordon would bring an upgrade in terms of a steadying presence to Millsap.
As for Orlando, if Harris can get healthy and perform in a more leading role in Orlando to start next season, he might very well be more valuable to a contender as an expiring at next year’s trade deadline than Gordon is now, and they can re-enter the market, dangling a premier defender and might be able to bring more in the way of assets back next season.
Suns Get: Aaron Gordon
Magic Get: Dario Saric, Jevon Carter, 2024 lottery-protected first
The Suns were reportedly in on Gordon last year and couldn’t get it done with a deal centered on Kelly Oubre Jr — which worked out for them in being able to get Chris Paul — but if the Suns think this would be an upgrade and make them an even bigger threat in the West, they should be in the mood to go all-in right now. Saric has been good for them, but isn’t as dynamic as Gordon, and Carter, for as much as Monty Williams loves his grit, has slipped to the back of the pack in the point guard rotation. Gordon would, same as the Blazers and Celtics, provide some secondary creation along with some spacing and positional versatility, particularly on the defensive end.
Orlando gets a quality power forward on a deal that’s not too expensive, as well as some point guard help that Clifford will surely love as Carter is a defense first player. I’m honestly not sure about the pick going back to Orlando, although they’d surely be asking for this, while Phoenix might push for it to just be a second rounder, but either way this is an interesting option.