2011-12 Record: 37-29, third place in Southwest Division, eliminated in first round of NBA Playoffs by Indiana Pacers
2012 NBA Draft: F Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure, 19th overall), C Kyle O’Quinn (Norfolk State, 49th overall)
Offseason Additions: G E’Twaun Moore (2 year deal), G Aaron Afllalo (acquired from Denver Nuggets), F Al Harrington (acquired from Denver Nuggets), F Moe Harkless (acquired from Philadelphia 76ers), F Christian Eyenga (acquired from Los Angeles Lakers), F Josh McRoberts (acquired from Los Angeles Lakers), C Gustavo Ayon (acquired from New Orleans Hornets), C Nikola Vucevic (acquired from Philadelphia 76ers), General Manager Rob Hennigan, Head Coach Jacques Vaughn
Offseason Losses: G Chris Duhon (traded to Los Angeles Lakers), G Jason Richardson (traded to Philadelphia 76ers), F Ryan Anderson (traded to New Orleans Hornets), F Earl Clark (traded to Los Angeles Lakers), C Dwight Howard (traded to Los Angeles Lakers), Head Coach Stan Van Gundy, General Manager Otis Smith
Re-signed: PG Jameer Nelson (3 years, $25 million)
Projected Starting Line-up: PG Jameer Nelson, SG Aaron Afflalo, SF Hedo Turkoglu, PF Glen Davis, C Gustavo Ayon
OFFSEASON GRADE: F
The “Dwightmare” is finally over.
Unfortunately, the Nightmare is about to begin in Orlando.
In a four-team trade that finally ridded the Magic of their outspoken disgruntled superstar, Dwight Howard was sent packing to the Los Angeles Lakers in a deal that included the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets as well. Orlando parted with backup point guard Chris Duhon and seldom used forward Earl Clark who will both join Howard in L.A. Jason Richardson was also sent to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of this trade.
In return, the Magic received a package that includes players Aaron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic and one lottery-protected first round pick from each of the 3 teams involved.
Yes, that is exactly what the Orlando Magic got for their franchise player.
There is no Andrew Bynum. There is no Pau Gasol. There is no player coming over that this franchise can immediately build around.
The thing that baffles me about this deal is the quality of other potential deals GM Rob Hennigan turned down in favour of this one.
The Houston Rockets had an offer on the table that included a guaranteed, non-protected lottery pick, a combination of the Rockets 3 recent draft picks (Terrence Jones, Royce White, Jeremy Lamb) and a collection of Rockets players (Kevin Martin, Patrick Patterson, Chandler Parsons etc.) that look far more enticing than what Orlando actually wound up with.
The Brooklyn Nets also had a far greater offer available as well, which included Brook Lopez, Marshon Brooks, 1 year of Kris Humphries and 4 unprotected first round draft picks. The only reason I could conjure up as to why the Magic wouldn’t accept this offer is because they didn’t want to play into Dwight Howard’s games and demands and send him to the only team he openly wanted to join.
Either one of those deals would have left Orlando in a far better situation than they currently find themselves in. The Magic would have acquired some quality young prospects, some future potential with the projected lottery picks, as well as some (greater) cap space if players like Hedo Turkoglu and Glen Davis were included in the trade as well (Magic will still have $20 million in cap space in 2014)
Not all of the players Orlando acquired are scrubs though. Aaron Afflalo is a tremendous young talent who has seen his scoring output see significant improvement each year since entering the league. He’s also considered to be one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA today. Moe Harkless, the 76ers first round pick in this years draft, also has a huge upside and will undoubtedly be a part of the Magics long-term plans moving forward.
Even so, what the Magic received in this deal is a far cry from what they could have had in other potential trades. Seeing teams like the Denver Nuggets (Carmelo Anthony) and Atlanta Hawks (Joe Johnson) get fair compensation for their franchise stars makes me wonder why Orlando couldn’t land similar deals for themselves.
Those 3 first-round picks the Magic acquired will more than likely appear within the range of the late teens to late twenties. Draft picks are always a commodity in the NBA, but in what’s predicted to be a weak draft in 2013, those picks will not inspire any confidence in Magic fans.
Why did the Magic fire Stan Van Gundy? SVG is one (or was one) of the best, most respected coaches in the NBA. If you are going to trade the player who publicly wanted him fired, then why fire him in the first place? Shouldn’t the Magic have waited to see how the Dwight Howard situation played out before canning Van Gundy? It was a confusing situation that now looks all the more bizarre with both individuals out the door.
The Dwight Howard trade wasn’t the only debacle this franchise endured this summer.
Apparently in today’s NBA, point guard Jameer Nelson is worth $25 million dollars over 3 years. Nelson averaged just 11.9 points a game last season for Orlando, while shooting a career-low 42.7% from the field.
The point guard position has become the most important and valuable position in basketball as of late, with guys like Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo taking the league by storm.
Nelson is nowhere near that level of player. If clearing cap space is the name of the game, the Magic would have been better suited just letting him walk after he decided to opt out of the final year of his contract.
Orlando also completed a trade with the Hornets this summer, sending starting power forward Ryan Anderson to New Orleans for center Gustavo Ayon. Ayon averaged 5.9 points and 4.9 rebounds for the Hornets, while Anderson put up a career-high 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds on route to being named the leagues Most Improved Player in 2012.
The only thing that redeems this trade is the Magic using their 2012 first-round pick on Andrew Nicholson out of St. Bonaventure. Andrew is essentially a “Ryan Anderson clone”. At 6’9 and just under 240 lbs, Nicholson can crash the boards (8.4), block shots (2.0) and shoot the long-range bomb (43% from long-range). With Anderson gone, Nicholson can now see some steady minutes at the 4 spot, even though he will surely start his career as a reserve off the bench for projected starter Glen Davis.
The Magic’s second round pick Kyle O’Quinn out of Norfolk University was also a nice pick up. O’Quinn is best known for helping lead Norfolk to a NCAA Tournament upset over the #2 seeded Missouri Tigers last year. He averaged a double-double of 15.9 points and 10.3 rebounds in his senior year and was also named MEAC Player and Defensive Player of the Year.
I can “kind of” see what GM Hennigan is trying to do with this team. Ridding the franchise of D12 was the first step in turning this team around. By not landing a big-name star like Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol, the Magic can now concentrate on rebuilding from the ground up with young players and draft picks.
Still, that doesn’t salvage what has been the WORST offseason by any team in the NBA this summer.
There won’t be a heck of a lot of reasons to watch the Magic play live at the Amway Center next season. When Aaron Afflalo (while still a great player) is your marquee name to drive in fans, odds are the interest in your team is going to drop substantially.
The days of the Orlando Magic being a yearly perennial playoff contender in the Eastern Conference are now over.
It’s time to pick up whatever you have left and start anew.
OTHER OFFSEASON RECAPS: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports