Vince Carter often was a target for Orlando Magic fans, but even his most vocal detractors would have to admit that Carter would be valuable to the team right now as a trade chip.

Only $4 million of Carter's $18 million salary for the 2011-12 season is guaranteed through the end of this month. As The Arizona Republic's Paul Coro reports, the Phoenix Suns are expected to buy out Carter in the next few days rather than trade him and be forced to pay the salary of an incoming player or players.

But the Magic could have tried to deal Carter this month to a team that is looking to shed a salary or two.

In December, the Magic traded Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, their 2011 first-round draft pick and cash to the Suns for Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark.

General Manager Otis Smith and other Magic officials had determined that they could not win a title with Carter as their starting shooting guard or with Rashard Lewis as their starting power forward. They thought the deal with the Suns, along with the deal with the Washington Wizards for Gilbert Arenas, at least would give them a chance to compete.

But hindsight is 20-20. The gamble failed.

Not only did the Magic not reach the NBA Finals, but they didn't even advance past the first round of the playoffs. And they're also burdened by Turkoglu's contract, which, according to ShamSports.com, calls for him to make $11 million in 2011-12, $11.8 million 2012-13 and a guaranteed salary of $6 million in 2013-14.