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Creating a Trade for Channing Frye

In one of Zach Lowe’s recent columns at Grantland, Lowe dropped the gossip-nugget that the Orlando Magic are willing to trade stretch 4 Channing Frye (tip of the hat to RealGM). Assuming that the rumor is true, this would be a bona fide setback in the slow-but-steady rebuilding plan that’s transpired for the entirety of General Manager Rob Hennigan’s three-season tenure. It was only 15 months ago when Hennigan signed Frye to a four-year,$32 million contract in unrestricted free agency. While Hennigan has spent more money on a single contract in restricted free agency —see Tobias Harris’ $64 million deal from this summer—the pact with Frye is definitely the largest sum that Hennigan has invested in the open market.

This isn’t an advantageous situation for the Magic because Frye’s trade value is probably at an all-time low. In 2014-15, Frye’s first year with the Magic, he set career lows in PER and shots and points per minute. Seeing as Frye also had the second-best three-point accuracy of his career (39.3%), the other low statistics are probably a function of how he was (mis)used under former coach Jacque Vaughn last season, and not necessarily a sign that Frye is too far past his prime at age 32. Either way: Orlando faces an uphill battle when it comes to receiving full value in return.

Using the ESPN Trade Machine, I’ve come up with three trades that I think would benefit both the Magic and their trade partner. I used the Trade Machine to ensure that the salaries balance out: Frye has three years and $23.4M remaining on his contract, so the player(s) coming to Orlando would have to have similar contractual value.

1. Orlando trades Frye to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Tiago Splitter (2 years, $16.75M).

Last season, the Hawks constantly stretched the floor by playing a rotation of Pero Antic and Mike Muscala behind starting center Al Horford. This offseason, Antic returned to Europe and Splitter and rookie Walter Tavares are now on the roster: two “conventional” centers who play tough defense but with limited shooting range. By bringing Frye to Atlanta, the Hawks would be able to restore a lot of the floor spacing that left with Antic. Plus: Antic shot 31.4% from deep in his two NBA seasons, while Frye has a career average of 38.6%.

The Magic actually have a connection with Splitter: Hennigan was in the San Antonio Spurs organization when the silver and black made Splitter their first-round pick in 2007. New defensive-minded coach Scott Skiles would certainly enjoy having an intelligent veteran like Splitter anchoring that end of the floor.

2. Orlando trades Frye to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Andre Roberson (1 year, $1.2M; $2.1M team option), Dion Waiters (1 year, $5.1M), and Steve Novak (1 year, $3.7M). 

I don’t really know what Frye’s trade value is around the league: this trade assumes that his value is much lower than being dealt straight-up for Splitter. For the Magic, the centerpiece of the trade would be Roberson, a high-energy defender with currently limited offensive skills —exactly the type of player that Hennigan has felt comfortable drafting in recent seasons. Seeing as Roberson has only averaged 15.7 minutes per game in his first two seasons with the Thunder, it seems that Oklahoma City doesn’t place a huge value on him. Waiters and Novak would be included for salary ballast, with Waiters a likely candidate to get cut before appearing in an Orlando uniform.

In Oklahoma City, Serge Ibaka has been developing a three-point shot in recent years, and Frye’s presence would stretch the floor and allow plenty of driving space for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Again, Hennigan has personal connections in this deal: He and Thunder general manager Sam Presti worked together in their first NBA job, with the Spurs.

3. Orlando trades Frye to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Zaza Pachulia (1 year, $5.2M) and Dwight Powell (1 year, $0.84M). 

Pachulia hasn’t really been in high demand around the league. The Mavericks traded for him this summer only after they whiffed on DeAndre Jordan, and the Milwaukee Bucks were willing to trade him for a future second-round pick that will likely never convey (read: they were willing to trade him just to clear cap space).

Pachulia offers both stout defense and a short-term contract for Orlando. Powell is an intriguing seven-foot prospect who has never been given a chance to succeed in the league. He’s already been traded three times in his NBA career that’s not even a year-and-a-half old. The one year remaining on his contract effectively works as an audition: If it goes well in Orlando, the Magic could inexpensively retain him in restricted free agency. As for Dallas, having extreme stretch lineups—with Dirk Nowitzki and the revitalized Charlie Villanueva also in the rotation—could add some intrigue to what could be a rough season.

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