How one off-season trade has sent the Orlando Magic crashing and tumbling towards the basement and eventual lottery.
First, I should start off by mentioning that the Magic are 2-1 as I write this. I know they have a winning record, but they’ve played three games. They’re serving as kitchen-store lighting at the moment, also known as a flash in the pan. If the season goes really well for the Magic, then the joke’s on me, but on paper and for the future the Magic look anything like their name.
Dwight Howard got traded. I think everyone down to the foul pole at Safeco Field knew it was coming. The question then became, “ok, well what can they get for him?”Obviously, anyone and nearly everyone would at least low-ball the Magic with an offer to take Howard off their hands, even as a rental player, but it probably came down to the Lakers and Nets. Then the Lakers stepped up to the table. How this trade came to fruition, I have no idea, but the Magic got Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, two first-round picks in the next three years and three second-round picks spanning from 2013-17 for Howard, Earl Clark, Jason Richardson and Chris Duhon.
The draft picks are the likely “centerpiece here”; there is no Danillo Gallinari/Wilson Chandler return for Orlando, similar to what Denver got for Carmelo Anthony. The three second rounders are about as unknown as trade fodder goes and the first-round picks belong to Philly and Los Angeles. Those picks are probably going to be in the 20’s with an outside shot at hitting the late teens. The “player” return wasn’t bad, however it wasn’t one that you would expect for the league’s best center and arguable top-five player.
Eyenga is gone first off. He was cut before the season began. Harkless and Vucevic look like solid role players/ fourth or fifth option types, so there is some value with them, but the rest isn’t great. Arron Afflalo is a good player in the NBA, but where the Magic are at right now, he isn’t what Orlando needs for the long term. He’s probably out of Orlando for another dinghy of young players/picks before next season is over. Al Harrington probably has the same fate waiting for him, more likely at the coming trade deadline. McBobs is on an expiring contract and could also be flipped for some future value.
There is just not a lot of future value, or even franchise-carrying or mock-franchise-carrying value here. (By that I mean a player who can carry the team or at the very least make a passable impression of one.)
It generally happens to occur in trades like this, or with these caliber players, the team sending off their face-of-franchise gets someone to take up the “Atlas” role or at least give it a half-decent effort. Minnesota got Al Jefferson out of Kevin Garnett. New Jersey and Utah got Devin Harris to replace Jason Kidd and Deron Williams respectively. The Grizzlies got Pau’s younger brother, Marc, for him in 2008. The whole point is, generally someone comes back in the trade to do a decent job of carrying the team. The Magic didn’t get an “Atlas” back, they got a bunch of two-by-fours to try and hold the team up.
So, you look there at the return, and maybe it isn’t great, but maybe the Magic made the trade to shed salaries. After all, Duhon and Richardson together were being paid nearly 10 million a year on equally horrendous contracts. Clark was probably a throw in to make all the salaries work. I know Howard wanted out, but think about that. This is how bad the league has become financially when a team trades it’s super-star player, it partly does it to shed a whole lot of cash.
Really the biggest asset Orlando got out of Dwight Howard was salary relief. Yes, they do have the means to go after a player in the future who could be a franchise player with all the money that they saved with Howard, but it seems like a hard-sell to convince anyone to come to Orlando at this point.