Group 1: See You in 5 Years (or Never)
I.Last Season in Review
In effort not to fully relive the neverending escapades of the Dwightmare, I’ll keep this simple in the form of the annotated adventures of Zaron Zoro Ducksauce (if you don’t watch Game of Thrones you don’t deserve to live, let alone know what’s going on here).
1.Ducksauce demanded a trade before the season to the Nets.
2.Ducksauce rescinded his trade request and waived his early termination option right before the Magic allegedly were going to send him to LA at the deadline (ironic).
3.Ducksauce then, with his vault full of loyalty (in actuality that **** was obviously dead empty), tried to publicly deny his disdain for the organization and express his willingness to stay in Orlando to win the fans over. Ducksauce hates being hated, but haters gonna hate, especially when you can’t figure out what to wear in the morning.
4.Ducksauce proceeded to purposefully injure his back in his hellbentness not to play another game for the Magic (or he just blew it out in the sac).
5.Finally, Ducksauce ran his coach out of town, while the Magic suffered an inevitable first round blowout at the hands of Indiana, who would have swept them decisively had the Pacers not come out flat in game one (do you really think THAT roster sans Dwight was winning a game against anyone in the playoffs?).
I’m not sure if all the above events or true, or in order. And I don’t care. Dwight’s ridiculousness last season was ruinous and frankly, made LeBron’s “decision” look saintly. Alas, as you all know, Dwight has joined the alliance now, and can’t be chastised anymore, by me, that is. So, we’ll leave at Dwight was a little ***** last season, and he better pull a LeBron and win a title in order to regain his respectability. Good thing he “chose” the right destination. But more on that later.
You get the point though. Last season for the Magic was the Dwightmare, and there’s really no point in analyzing anything beyond the adventures of Ducksauce, because there was nothing else (OK, that was my last crack). Moving on..
In: Jameer Nelson (Re-signed), Arron Afflalo (Trade), Al Harrington (Trade), Nikola Vucevic (Trade), Moe Harkless (Trade), Josh McRoberts (Trade), Christian Eyenga (Trade), Gustavo Ayon (Trade), Ishmael Smith (Re-signed), Andrew Nicholson (Draft), Kyle O’Quinn (Draft)
Out: Dwight Howard (LAL), Ryan Anderson (NO), Chris Duhon (LAL), Earl Clark (LAL), Jason Richardson (Philly)
Everyone knows about THE TRADE involving Dwight, but perhaps the most impactful move on Orlando’s part this offseason (which obviously spawned the Dwight trade that was consummated) was Rob Hennigan replacing Otis Smith’s sorry excuse for a living organism as the Magic’s GM. The allure of Hennigan, cut from Spurs and Thunder stock, was obvious. Groomed as God Presti’s second fiddle, how could it not work out? Everything the Spurs or Thunder touch turns to gold. He was supposed to be the golden boy. So what in the blue hell happened? Before we explore, I’d like to illuminate one key point: knock Henny all you want, but if there’s one thing he has, it’s a plan, a plan to without any possibility for a semblance of success run Orlando into the ground, and so far, he’s been damn consistent in abiding by it. Hell, it’s why he got the job in the first place. Why didn’t we all see this before?
Henny’s first major move of the offseason was going HAM to re-sign Jameer Nelson to an $8.6M deal annually over two years (third year is partially guaranteed at $4M), essentially to be a glorified lock room presence and positive force while the Magic embark on their tanking mission. That must be it, because Jameer is at best a fringe starter in the league now. He’s still a respectable offensive player, albeit with noted vision/passing limitations, but defensively, he’s an atrocity, allowing .91PPP on pick and rolls last season. This was a clear overpay from talent perspective, but, you guessed it, fit the plan.
Henny then followed up by deciding he didn’t want to pay Ryan Anderson slightly less money than Jameer cumulatively over the first two years of his contract, so he signed and traded him to New Orleans for 27 year old Gustavo Ayon. Ayon is a respectable big, given his passing prowess (he posted an 18 assist rate, good for #5 in the league among qualified power forwards last year) and showed flashes of being a dependable producer offensively rolling to the hoop. At least Orlando, in desperate need of bigs, got something for Anderson. But let’s be real. They didn’t want to A) pay Anderson for 4 years/lose cap flexibility and B) more importantly, Anderson was way too good to have on a roster that’s going to face-plant. More plan-fitting.
You all know the next part. After Moe Harkless’ 30 day trade ineligibility window post signing his rookie contract expired, the Magic finally put an end to everyone’s agony and dealt Dwight in the middle of the dog-days of the NBA offseason. I’ve actually warmed up on this deal for Orlando a degree, but only a degree. The following is what the Magic should have done, in order:
1.Trade Howard to LA for Bynum. This was the clear no brainer move. The Magic were allegedly terrified of Bynum pulling a Howard repeat act in a year when his contract similarly expires. Clearly they don’t understand the psyche of someone who has let it be known on record that he’ll play for any city with a bank. There was a 0% chance, and I mean an effing 0% chance, Bynum was leaving $30M on the table via a full bird rights deal along with no state income tax to walk. No shot. The Magic were also hesitant due to Bynum’s knees, again leading me to believe they can’t differentiate between freak accidents and chronic knee issues. Regardless, you need stars to win in this league, and your every move should be in effort to acquire those requisite stars. Bynum is the clear-cut #2 center in basketball and a top 20 player. There is a miniscule chance the Magic ever land a player of Bynum’s caliber by playing lottery roulette. That was the move, even if you re-signed him and traded him again for more assets once he was locked in. Colossal missed opportunity.
2.Trade Howard to Houston for prospects/picks. The Rockets weren’t willing to sell the farm like some reported, but you have to think they could best the offer Orlando actually received depending on how you feel about Moe Harkless. The Rockets at the very least had a 2013 surefire lottery pick they received from Toronto in the Kyle Lowry trade. Every pick the Magic received in the deal they consummated was lottery protected. A package built around Florida native Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lamb, and fillers, along with the Toronto pick was the superior move long term if Orlando was absolutely hellbent to bottom out.
3.Consummate the deal they did.
4.Countless other unreported options for young talent/picks. Note: I didn’t include Cleveland because I hate Cleveland, and no one wants to deal with them because everyone also hates them. SORRY, NO SUPERSTAR DEAL FOR CLEVELAND.
5.Trade Howard to the Nets for Brook Lopez. Absolutely anything was better than the Nets deal that involved a maxed out Brook Lopez, paying Kris Humphries $9-12M (if he even agreed to a sign and trade), the 7 other scrub players Brooklyn needed to sign and trade to even make the numbers work, and no lottery picks. Bottom line is this: you’re either going the star route or the rebuilding route. Slowpez is in the mid-teens in terms of centers in the league and MIGHT be the fourth best player on a title team. He isn’t a star, or even in the same stratosphere as one. If you can’t rebound, are slow as **** and are one of the worst interior defenders in the league, you can’t survive in today’s NBA as a big man (as a quick aside it’s going to be fun to see Miami run Slowpez off the court if they meet in the playoffs). So scratch out star. That leaves rebuilding, where Slowpez doesn’t make sense either, because you don’t want to pay someone that will help you win just enough not to completely bottom out $58M over 4 years, and lose that cap flexibility. But most importantly, you just don’t want Brook Lopez on your team..
But back to the deal Orlando actually consummated. Arron Afflalo is a solid role player and most importantly for the Magic, not nearly good enough to carry a team to a respectable record. While he did start to create his own shot last year and developed a really nice midrange game, he’s still pretty limited offensively as a third of his shots last season came off spot-up opportunities (he did shoot a respectable 40% on spot up threes). Unfortunately, his defensive metrics plummeted last year, and that’s really supposed to be his calling card. Regardless, he’s a high character guy, a hardworker, and like Jameer Nelson, will help ease the transition into the abyss. He can also likely be flipped in a few years for a pick because floor spacing wings with a defensive reputation always have value. But by the time Orlando is on the map again, Afflalo will be over 30, wherever he is.
Vucevic is a career backup center. Outside of offensive rebounding, he doesn’t bring anything to the table, save for his size of course. Al Harrington should be owned in every fantasy league this year. That’s all I’ll say in that regard. The black hole will rise again, that is, before Orlando cuts him after this season when his contract is only 50% guaranteed. McRoberts and straight out of the Congo Skyenga are clearly just fodder.
Moe Harkless is really the only interesting piece in the deal. He’s the quintessential OKC pick given his length and athleticism, attributes those with Thunder ties value above all others. He’s far from a polished offensive product, especially shooting the ball, but defensively he’ll not only be able to contribute immediately but he possesses “stopper” upside. I don’t see star potential, but he has the physical gifts to be a solid NBA rotation wing. He’s in the Ariza/Batum floor/ceiling realm.
I should also note that Orlando, via some nifty cap work, also acquired a $17.8M trade exception from the Howard deal, so much like Presti did in OKC, Henny will be in position to facilitate bigger deals by taking on contracts for picks.
Oh, and the Magic also re-signed Ishmael Smith to man the backup point guard spot in place of departed Chris Duhon. Not that you gave a ****.
Grade: D-. The only reason this isn’t an F is because Henny actually got something for Dwight, which was essentially a year’s head-start on rebuilding with Orlando’s own top 5 pick in the 2013 draft (Orlando’s best asset in this deal) instead of just letting D-12 walk for nothing. Also, Orlando didn’t make the Brooklyn deal, so points for that as well.
B.Draft: Andrew Nicholson (19th Pick), Kyle O’Quinn (49th Pick)
This draft doesn’t jump off the page. As a matter of fact it’s downright unsexy, but I don’t find it repulsive. Nicholson has a sweet stroke with three point range, and that skill as a stretch four is his calling card. He isn’t a great athlete, but he’s long enough (7-4 wingspan) and has the motor to overcompensate. I think he’ll be a solid rotation player in the league predominately because of his shooting. A poor man’s David West is a fair comparison (emphasis on the poor).
I only saw O’Quinn play in the tournament last year (sorry, I’ve got better ******* things to do than watch Norfolk State), but I actually remembered who he was when I looked him up, mostly because he played hard. But bigs with the length to potentially play some center on a team void at center at the time is a reasonable gamble in round two.
Grade: C+. I actually like Nicholson, but I’m deducting a half a grade for every team outside the lottery who let Perry Jones III fall to OKC on principle.
PG: Jameer Nelson,
SG: Arron Afflalo,
SF: Hedo Turkoglu,
PF: Glen Davis,
C: Gustavo Ayon
PG: Ishmael Smith
SG: J.J. Redick
SF: Moe Harkless
PF: Al Harrington (Andrew Nicholson)
C: Nikola Vucevic
IV.Cap Situation: $61-63 Million
The Magic are over the cap this year, but next year could have over $20M in cap room if they release Hedo (final year after this season only $6M guaranteed), Al Harrington, and don’t pick up the handful of their team options. They’ll also gain even more cap room in 2014-2015 when Jameer Nelson can be waived for only $4M guaranteed. Regardless, they’ll have the cap flexibility they desired. It’ll just be a question of how they want to navigate the minimum salary floor and whether to actually acquire talent via free agency, which they better not at this point.
I wouldn’t grab any Magic player before round 8. Afflalo should be the first off the board because he’ll get a ton of usage, and he’s an efficient player who’ll get you threes. The aforementioned Harrington is a good source of points and threes in round 10 if you can stomach the low field goal percentage after the 9th round. I’ve never been a Jameer fan from a fantasy perspective, but if you need threes and decent assists he’s a respectable pick in that same area. Big Baby is a sneaky source for steals but that frontcourt is loaded. Everyone else is a late round flier.
There isn’t a team I’m interested in watching less in the league this year than the Magic. Any team spearheaded by Glen Davis and Afflalo is a recipe for disaster. But hey, that’s what the organization wanted when they hired White Otis Smith. I kid. But in reality, the 2013 Magic are going to be brutal. The roster designed to compliment Dwight is still largely intact, consisting of a bunch of spot up three point shooters who don’t play defense (apologies Big Baby, I must exclude you from this). Save for now, you know, they don’t have that Dwight guy, or even their second (and only other good player), Ryan Anderson. Only Hedo, Al Harrington and Afflalo to an extent can create offense for themselves, or others, and the former two are inefficient as hell at doing so. Bottom line: I don’t know how this team 1) scores consistently (see above point) 2) rebounds at all or 3) stops anyone from scoring. But hey, new coach Jacque Vaughn is also of Spurs decent, so he must be aces.
I’d say the Magic are going to go away for a while, and they may not ever resurface, but the reality is you’ll likely hear about them as the season progresses as they replace all their starters with d-leaguers to try to best the Bobcats in the tank-off. The race will be close, and dare I say not captivating.
Orlando’s season motto is apparently “We Will”. I think “If you don’t give a damn, we don’t give a ****” is far more appropriate.
VII.Projection: 16-66 (4th in the Southeast Division)