The Orlando Magic find themselves in a difficult spot as the 2012 NBA trade deadline approaches. The future of the franchise hangs in the balance as it decides what to do with All-Star center Dwight Howard. Does management heed the trade request he made during training camp, or instead retain him, hoping he can be convinced to re-sign when he becomes a free agent in the summer? Can the team make a trade for a high-level star before Thursday to appease Howard's request for a stronger supporting cast and boost its chances of competing with the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls atop the Eastern Conference?
In this series, Orlando Pinstriped Post runs down the roster to look at the Magic's assets. All salary information comes from ShamSports.
Part one focuses on Howard and Ryan Anderson, the Magic's two best players.
Age: 26; Position: Center
Contract details: On a veteran contract worth $19.5 million through 2012/13, with an early termination option for the summer of 2012.
Key career stats: 22.5 Player Efficiency Rating, 18.3 points per 36 minutes, 12.9 rebounds per 36 minutes, 2.2 blocks per 36 minutes, 60.2 percent True Shooting.
My take: Howard is the domino that'll start all the activity around the league at the trade deadline. If the Magic ship him out, then expect a lot of deadline-day deals throughout the league. If they retain him, hoping he'll re-sign long-term in the summer--or at least decide against using his ETO--then the deadline may be more quiet than we expected.
The pros and cons of keeping Howard beyond the deadline have been debated to death, and I won't rehash those arguments here.
No combination of players and draft picks will give the Magic equal value for the league's best center. It's long been my position that if Orlando elexts to trade Howard it needs to unload some bad contracts in the deal, as well as obtain at least one young player with All-Star potential and seveeral draft picks. Doing so will enable the Magic to fast-track their post-Howard rebuild.
Age: 23; Position: Power Forward
Contract details: On a rookie contract worth $2.2 million through this season.
Key career stats: 18.3 Player Efficiency Rating, 16.9 points per 36 minutes, 8.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, 57.5 percent True Shooting, 39 percent three-point shooting
My take: Orlando has a sort of problem that other teams would love to have: it must decide the fates of its two best players in the same summer. Orlando declined to offer Anderson a contract extension before the January deadline, and now will have to wait out the restricted free-agent process.
The only scenario in which the Magic part with Anderson before Thursday's deadline involves his being the centerpiece of a trade that would bring back a star player to complement Howard.