The Orlando Magic are trading forward Aaron Gordon and Gary Clark to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Gary Harris, RJ Hampton and a 2025 first-round pick according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The pick will be top-five protected in 2025, 2026 and 2027. The move ends years of speculation about Gordon's status in Orlando. The Magic have largely been a lottery team ever since they drafted Gordon in 2014, and while he may have rescinded it, it's worth noting that he reportedly requested a trade in February. He went on to express his frustration at the situation after a loss Tuesday, and now, he'll continue his career on a new team.
The basketball world has long expressed interest in seeing Gordon leave Orlando because of the suboptimal manner in which they used him. Gordon is a natural power forward who, in certain alignments, might even be better as a center in the modern game. However, Orlando's crowded frontcourt often forced him to play small forward in lineups with limited spacing. Orlando has had a hole at point guard for seemingly Gordon's entire career, and without a playmaker to set him up, the Magic have never truly been able to take advantage of his remarkable athleticism.
For the Magic, this is just the latest trade of the day that will help them prepare for the future. Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier are also gone, and now Orlando can focus on its youth the rest of the season. Trading away impact players like Gordon, Vucevic and Fournier also put the Magic in a better position to land a top draft pick this year. With a 15-29 record, which is fourth-worst in the league, Orlando will have a decent shot at the No. 1 pick.
Let's take a look at the trade grades for this deal.
- Protected 2025 first-round pick
Nuggets trade grade: B+
In Denver, Gordon has found an ideal situation in which to blossom individually. He never had even an average point guard to create shots for him with the Magic. The Nuggets have Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray to get him good looks. At the very least, those two should be able to get him plenty of easy dunks off of lob passes, and the space that they generate alongside Michael Porter Jr. should get him plenty of open 3-point attempts.
This was a trade made for defense, though. Denver lost Jerami Grant this offseason, and without him, they have no real answer for the Western Conference's best forwards. Gordon solves that. He has, at times, been among the NBA's best defensive forwards, and should give them a realistic option to throw at players like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard. At only 25 years old, he fits neatly into the Jokic-Murray timeline as well. Gordon is exactly the sort of player that the Nuggets needed.
Magic trade grade: B
There were reportedly several suitors for Gordon leading up to the deal made with the Nuggets, with the Celtics being seen as the front runner. It's unclear exactly what the Magic could've gotten from the Celtics or any other team in the mix, but this is a decent haul for the caliber of player Gordon is. Hampton could end up being the most interesting piece in all the trade packages they've accumulated today, as he may have the highest ceiling as someone who was seen as a high lottery pick before he fell to the No. 24 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He'll get a bigger role in Orlando to showcase his skills, and Harris provides some more depth in the backcourt, which has suddenly become very crowded for the Magic between him, Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony.