Thursday afternoon, the Orlando Magic made a blockbuster deal with the New Jersey Nets to acquire 8-time All-Star shooting guard Vince Carter. The former Daytona Mainland High star is coming home, along with power forward Ryan Anderson. Orlando sent point guard Rafer Alston and power forward Tony Battie--whose contracts expire next summer--to New Jersey along with shooting guard Courtney Lee, upon whose inclusion in the deal the Nets insisted. After the jump, a look at how the trade impacts the Magic, both on the court and in the pocketbook.
On the Court
It's hard to name anyone more qualified to comment on the Magic's style of play than head coach Stan Van Gundy. In this evening's news conference--which featured team President/C.E.O. Bob Vander Weide, GM Otis Smith, Carter, and Van Gundy--the coach discussed what Carter brings to the team that it didn't have before.
"[W]e really didn't have a guy who you could give him the ball up top, on the wing, at the elbow, one-on-one and go get a shot or draw a second defender. We had out of pick-and-rolls or out of post-ups, I think with Vince, you can give him the ball anywhere on the floor and he can isolate and create a shot either for himself or for a teammate on his own.
"Plus, if you look at the numbers like we do all the time and I don't think that he's got enough credit for this, Vince has been throughout his career, one of the best fourth quarter and end-of-game guys in this league, in terms of production. He's been a guy that has always come through down the stretch in games. I think that's huge."
Curious that the two things Van Gundy mentions--shot-creation and end-of-game scoring--are what the Magic previously relied on Hedo Turkoglu to do. Orlando might not have been able to re-sign Turkoglu, who will opt-out of his contract on July 1st, so dealing for Carter ensures the Magic will have a productive scorer on the wings next season. Indeed, Carter's responsibilities will largely include things Hedo did during the last 2 years in Orlando, and Carter does those things better. It's hard to argue otherwise. For instance, look at how the two stack-up in terms of clutch production last season:
|Vince Carter and Hedo Turkoglu Clutch Statistics, 2008/2009 NBA Season|
|Statistics from 82games.com, which defines "clutch" as "4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points."|
While Turk contributes more rebounds and fewer turnovers, Carter scores at a much more efficient rate. And, empirically, he is a much more lethal offensive player than Turkoglu, no matter the score or situation. He is, in other words, an upgrade.
I mention Turkoglu as though he's already out the door. He's not, officially, and his agent says he and the Magic will remain in touch. But it's hard to imagine the Magic being able to retain Turkoglu in addition to filling all their other roster holes. We'll discuss the finances momentarily, because there's the matter of covering the other player Orlando received in this deal.
That's Ryan Anderson, a sweet-shooting power forward in the Brian Cook mold, who was high on Orlando's draft board last season. New Jersey snapped him up with the 21st pick. The Magic snagged Lee with the 22nd pick, which worked out well for them. Comparisons to Cook won't go over too well in Orlando, where he bombed, but Anderson's range will go a long way toward ensuring the team is able to space the floor at all times. Here's Van Gundy on Anderson:
"I think another part of this deal with Ryan Anderson was crucial. I think what we had, and you guys watched it this year, was when Rashard [Lewis] came out of the game and we went to the bench, we really had to play a different way because we then could not spread the floor out. And when we tried to move Rashard back to the three, you couldn't stretch the floor with your four, so he couldn't get any room and now you get another guy that can really stretch the floor, and I think it gives us even more flexibility to both swing Rashard back to the three or when Rashard is back on the bench getting a rest, which he didn't get much of, we can play the same way. So I think that's crucial as well."
So Anderson will replace Battie--the "your four" in Stan's comments--as the Magic's primary reserve power forward. Despite his rep as strictly a three-point shooter, Anderson can hit the boards. He grabbed a tidy 14.1% of available rebounds when on the floor last season, compared to 13.0% for Battie. So Anderson is an upgrade over Battie in two ways: he spaces the floor and he rebounds at a slightly better rate.
The trouble with Anderson? His complete inability to finish at the rim. Anderson converted only 39.3% of his shots within 6 feet of the basket, and had an astonishing 30% of his shots blocked in that range. That part of his game is a work-in-progress. Fortunately, he's a mere 21-years-old, which means there's plenty of time for him to bulk up and improve his inside touch.
That's the thing: the outside touch is okay. His effective field goal percentage of 50.6% on jumpers is roughly in line with Lewis' (52.6%) and a vast improvement over Battie's (41.0%). So even without a great interior game, Anderson can help the Magic on offense. He's a solid role-player, and by no means a stiff.
Here's where it gets tricky. Orlando has only the following 8 players under contract next season. Bear in mind that the NBA minimum is 13 players, and the luxury-tax threshold is estimated to be $69 million:
|2009/2010 Orlando Magic Salaries, as of June 26th, 2009|
And the projected depth chart, which makes the cupboard look even more bare:
|2009/2010 Orlando Magic Projected Depth Chart, as of June 26th, 2009|
There's no question that the Magic will have to pay the luxury tax next year. That was a given even before the Carter trade, when management indicated it would pay the tax if it meant bringing a championship to Orlando. The Magic will need to fill the roster with at least 5 players, likely on deals for near the minimum salary, in order to comply with the league's mandated 13-player roster minimum. Stay tuned to 3QC Friday afternoon, when my colleague, Eddy, will look at potential moves the Magic could make to fill-out their roster.
Ultimately, it's apparent that the Magic have re-asserted themselves as serious championship contenders. Were they content with merely appearing in the Finals, as they did last season, they would not have made this trade. They're confident that Carter can put them over the proverbial hump, as they were only 3 wins away from a title, after all. Trading a prospect such as Lee must have been a tough decision, but New Jersey would not part with Carter otherwise. The Magic made the tough choice to jettison a promising, young player and their two most valuable trade chips. Whether or not it was the right choice remains to be seen. But based on what we know about Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson, they're improvements over the men they'll replace in the rotation. That's reason enough for encouragement, even accounting for the loss of a brilliant youngster.