A feature of any NBA rebuilding project begins with collecting assets.

The Magic have assembled some young pieces since trading Dwight Howard, and you have to look at Thursday’s draft as collecting another for the war chest.

Perhaps the Magic can use the pick – even a No. 2 pick – as bait to acquire a veteran star down the road.

The Celtics did it with Al Jefferson, their No. 15 pick in 2004, sending him to Minnesota in a deal for Kevin Garnett in 2007, for example.

Jefferson had blossomed into a potent low-post scorer for the Celtics. As much as they hated to give him up, it was the only way the T-Wolves would part with KG – and Minnesota gave Jefferson a five-year, $60-million contract.

Teams aren’t concerned where players are picked, focusing more on their impact as pros.

We should be reminded that Darko Milicic was the No. 2 pick of the Detroit Pistons in 2003 – and he was a colossal bust.

The Magic also have been trying to trade their lottery pick before this draft. They are willing to move down to perhaps pick up another asset in a draft that apparently offers no sure-fire stars.

Let’s look at the Magic’s assets and their worth:

C NIK VUCEVIC: Vucevic was culled from the Howard trade, arriving from the Philadelphia76ers in the multi-team deal. As the Magic’s most promising young player – and a coveted big  --- you’d think he’d be untouchable. But he is not, which tells you that the Magic will look at all avenues to build a playoff team. They are not likely to move him, but the Magic are willing to listen to offers. He’s their best asset.

SF MAURICE HARKLESS: He, too, was acquired in the tentacles of the Howard deal as the 76ers’ 2012 first-round draft pick. Philadelphia used both Vucevic and Harkless as assets to land veteran center Andrew Bynum from the Lakers, but the move backfired. Bynum was injured and missed all last season. As for Harkless, he showed enough flashes to become a sweetener in any future deal. The Magic will wait to see if he's a keeper.

SG ARRON AFFLALO: Afflalo has been linked to a trade to the Clippers in a deal for point guard Eric Bledsoe. He was acquired from Denver, along with Al Harrington, by the Magic in the Howard trade. He is their best veteran asset. If the Magic can receive Bledsoe in return, they can also shed Afflalo’s salary (three more years on the books at about $7.5 million). Bledsoe would then become the heir to Jameer Nelson, a nice coup for Orlando.

PF TOBIAS HARRIS: Magic fans shouldn’t fall in love with all the young players that GM Rob Hennigan has brought in just yet. Harris came over from Milwaukee in the J.J. Redick trade and looked promising as a second-year scorer. He could either be a guy who latches onto the Magic for a while – or becomes a career hired gun. But if he continues to develop with playing time – or showcasing, whichever term you prefer – Harris could be included in a trade for a veteran when the time comes. Like Vucevic and Harkless, what is also appealing about Harris is his rookie-deal salary – still under $2 million annually.

PF ANDREW NICHOLSON: Nicholson was the Magic’s first-round pick last year, but he already has played his way into trade scuttlebutt. Reports mention him as a player tossed into the Afflalo-Bledsoe deal between the Magic and the Clippers. If Nicholson helps net you Bledsoe, then the Magic have accomplished their mission as an asset collector.

POINT GUARD JAMEER NELSON: Nelson could have value this season for any team that needs veteran help – or that loses its point guard because of injury. Nelson is owed $8 million this season, but next season only half of that is guaranteed. What the return for Jameer might be is the question. But the Magic would at least ask for an expiring contract or contracts.

POWER FORWARD GLEN DAVIS: There’s probably not a big market for Big Baby. He’s an effective scorer and solid defender. Maturity issues might still haunt him, although last season he was impressive as a team leader. He has two years left on his deal at an average of $6.5 million – not a scary number by NBA standards.    

 

Brian Schmitz is the Magic Insider for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him at bschmitz@tribune.com. And you can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@magicinsider.