Rebuild from the ground up or rebuild instantly through trade
The Orlando Magic front office is faced with the very possible, and if one believes the national media, imminent trade of its franchise cornerstone. Though still only hypothetical, the looming question is wether to rebuild from scratch (by trading for young players and draft picks) or engineering an instant rebuild via free agency.
At first glance, most analyst and fans adhere to the youth movement strategy of rebuilding. Yet the Magic are faced with two extenuating circumstances that alter that line of thought. Magic owner Rich Devos is in his late 80's and it is no secret that his biggest wish is to see the Magic win a trophy. In addition, the Magic front office is confronted with the task of filling their shiny new $500 million dollar arena every game night. If you remove Dwight Howard (or an equivalent talent), neither of those circumstances seem very likely to occur.
This leads me to believe that the only trade scenario that works for what the franchise needs (right now), is a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers. I made myself sick uttering those words, but the only way to accomplish both a rebuild and remain a contender is to maneuver LA into exchanging their championship front line for Dwight and Hedo. This is a trade that if you listen to Laker fans, hurts and in fact various sports media have questioned wether Howard is worth that - that tells you a lot about the potential transaction. Both sides sacrifice, both sides get what they need.
If you contrast the Laker front line with the other centers that have been rumored, it is clear that combined (Bynum and Gasol) offer a pretty close - if not better - skill set to Howard's. The star power is not quite as high, but nowhere near the drop off of Bogut or Lopez.
I argue that a front line of Gasol and Bynum would keep the Magic in contention for at least another 2 year window. In the East, the more balanced and versatile combination of Gasol and Bynum (+ Davis and Anderson) attacks directly at the Achilles heel of the Heat. It also matches the Knicks freshly minted front line. And of course, trading Howard to the West, also keeps him far away out the Magic's path to the trophy for most of the way.
Hypothetical roster in 2012-13:
Nelson / J Rich / Clarke / Gasol / Bynum
+ bench of Davis / Anderson / JJ / Wafer / Harper / Q / Hughes / Duhon / Liggins
AFTER THE JUMP view a stat comparison of the centers that have been rumored as Dwight's replacement in trades:
*Salaries begin with 2011-12 season *Stats = 2011-2012 / Career
(26yr) 6-11 265 Salary = $18.1m / $19.5m (final year player option)
• PPG 22.9 / 18.2 • RPG 14.1 / 12.9 • BLKPG 2.4 / 2.2
• PER 26.13 • DEF RTG 94 /98 • PASS RTG 1.2 • BALL HAND RTG 4.7
(24yr) 7-0 285 Salary = $14.9m / $16.1m (final year team option)
• PPG 11.3 / 10.5 • RPG 9.4 / 7.1 • BLKPG 2.0 / 1.5
• PER 21.14 • DEF RTG 100 / 103 • PASS RTG 2.0 • BALL HAND RTG 7.4
(31yr) 7-0 250 Salary = $18.7m / $19m / $19.28m
• PPG 18.8 / 18.8 • RPG 10.2 / 9.1 • BLKPG 1.6 / 1.7
• PER 23.33 • DEF RTG 103 /104 • PASS RTG 4.6 • BALL HAND RTG 15.6
(27yr) 7-0 260 Salary = $12m / $13m / $14m
• PPG 12.8 / 12.7 • RPG 11.1 / 9.4 • BLKPG 2.6 / 1.6
• PER 16.77 • DEF RTG 97 / 104 • PASS RTG 2.5 • BALL HAND RTG 9.2
(23yr) 7-0 265 Salary = $3m / $4.2m (restricted free agent)
• PPG 20.4 / 17.4 • RPG 6.0 / 7.6 • BLKPG 1.5 / 1.7
• PER19.33 • DEF RTG 110 / 109 • PASS RTG 1.7 • BALL HAND RTG 8.3