Aaron Gordon has signed a four-year, $92 million contract extension to remain with the Denver Nuggets.
The seven-year veteran was traded to the Mile High City from the Orlando Magic last season. In return, Orlando received R.J. Hampton, Gary Harris, and a 2025 first-round pick. The Gordon deal wasn’t the only move the Magic made at last year’s trade deadline, though, as the franchise doubled down on its decision to blow up a team that had topped out at average at best.
But the fact that Gordon signed a new deal to stay in Denver and Orlando wasn’t backed into a corner to re-sign its 2014 first-round pick is just further proof the franchise is finally making all the right moves.
Over the past six months, the organization has made multiple transactions that will set it back in the short term but finally provide some hope for the long term.
Former Orlando Magic star Aaron Gordon signed a new deal to remain with the Denver Nuggets
Gordon’s new deal will keep him in Denver through at least the 2024-25 campaign. After giving away an expiring contract, a young prospect, and a future first-round pick, the Nuggets were essentially forced to re-sign the Arizona product.
But Gordon has never lived up to his potential, and the Magic dodged a bullet in not being pressured to re-sign the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft.
The now-25-year-old was drafted by Orlando with the hopes that he could become the Magic’s franchise superstar. Gordon never lived up to that hype, however. Over six seasons in Orlando before his trade to Denver, Gordon started 314 games and averaged 12.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. He shot less than 32% from three.
After landing with the Nuggets, he averaged 12.7 points and still shot a below-average 32.1% from three. The Nuggets are hoping Gordon will be their third star alongside Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, but seven years of evidence are proving he’s just not that player.
Now Denver has to pay him more than $20 million per season over the next four years.
The Orlando Magic hit the reset button last year, and Gordon’s new deal is another confirmation it was the right decision for the franchise
The Magic also sent Nikola Vucevic to the Chicago Bulls in a separate deal last year that brought back Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr., and a 2023 first-round pick. Carter has underwhelmed in Chicago but will get a second shot in Orlando. Porter’s contract expired and he’s now a member of the Golden State Warriors, and the Magic also picked up an additional first-round pick for their trouble.
Orlando also traded Evan Fournier to the Boston Celtics at last year’s deadline for Jeff Teague, who was subsequently waived.
After Harris’ deal expires at the conclusion of the upcoming season, the biggest contract on Orlando’s books will be Jonathan Isaac’s $17.4 million salary. The franchise will have $54 million in cap space heading into 2022-23 and owns all of its picks, in addition to the Bulls’ 2023 first-rounder and Denver’s 2025 first-rounder. The Magic don’t figure to be competitive the next few seasons, so the team’s own first-round picks should fall near the top of the lottery.
The organization already had a brilliant 2021 draft, landing point guard Jalen Suggs and versatile forward Franz Wagner (with the other first-round pick in the Vucevic trade). The Magic also hired Jamahl Mosley as their new head coach. Mosley has a background in player development, was a favorite of Luka Doncic’s last season with the Mavericks, and ran Dallas’ defense.
The 42-year-old first-time head coach now has a young core at his disposal that plays directly to his strengths. He can use his skills in player development with a raw team that features versatile defensive pieces in Isaac, Suggs, Wagner, and the team’s 2020 first-round pick, Chuma Okeke. The oldest player guaranteed to be on the Magic’s roster after next season will be Markelle Fultz. Fultz will enter his sixth season in the NBA at age 24 in 2022-23.
Orlando is finally making moves to send the franchise in the right direction
The Magic have only made the playoffs twice in the last nine seasons. Orlando hasn’t made it out of the first round since 2009-10. The team has made an admirable effort to remain in playoff contention since but hasn’t found any postseason success and has consistently put itself at the back end of the draft lottery in the process.
Now, stalwarts Gordon and Vucevic have moved on. In the next four years, Orlando has six first-round picks and more than $50 million in cap space to go with a young roster and a new head coach.
After years of toiling away in mediocrity, the organization is finally making the right decisions to put the team on a path to long-term success.