We all know how Otis ruined this team, but we often forget some good stuff he did. So here it is my attempt of a fair trial. I won't judge only on how things turned up, but as how they looked at the time when the deals where made.
Otis got to be the Magic co-Gm in May 2005. He got a team with the likes of Andre Barrett, Michael Bradley, Andrew DeClerq, Brandon Hunter, Mark Jones and Mario Kasun. Who he got rid off. None of them turned productive, well done: A
He then Drafted Fran Vazquez without being sure he was even willing to show up. Vazquez did have talent, and while Otis could have talked more to him before the draft, Vazquez surprised everyone with his decision: D
But he also got Marcin Gortar from Phoenix for cash considerations: A+
Got Dooling as a FA, which turned to be a good signing. When his contract ended he let the market put a price on him, thought it was too high, and let him go. It turned to be a good decision: B
First big move: Orlando acquired Darko Milicic and guard Carlos Arroyo from the Detroit Pistons for center Kelvin Cato and a future first-round pick. That pick turned out to be Rodney Stuckey, but it could also have been Acie Law IV which Atlanta selected before Stuckey. A mediocre 1st round pick for a young skilled 7 footer is not a bad gamble at all. Furthermore Darko had a short contract, so if it worked Orlando got a Twin Towers dinasty, if not they would lose a 1st round pick without any further consequences. Also Arroyo was an OK player in his Orlando days and fought Jameer for the starting spot. When Darko contract was up, many thought he was a promising player and would want to re-sign him for a huge contract. Otis instead didn't fall for it and let someone else make the mistake of wasting millions in the human victory cigar. I give him a B+.
Got Rid of Francis while getting Ariza AND cap space, awesome deal. A+
Drafted JJ Redick. He would then re sign him to a big contract, which proved to be the right decision. Yeah, he could have picked Rondo instead of Redick, but so could have 10 other GMs, no one has the crystal ball. B+
Signed Keith Bogans as a free agent. Meh: C.
Traded a 2007 2nd round draft pick (Stanko Barac) and a 2008 2nd round draft pick (Darnell Jackson) to the Miami Heat for Stan Van Gundy (coach) (LOL). A+
Extends Jameer Nelson contract for 5 years and 35 Millions. Fair deal for an NBA starter entering his prime and who was a season away from being an Allstar. B
Signs a not that young Rashard Lewis to a 118M contract. Yes he was a great player. Yes he took us to the finals. But he was overpaid. He was not the allstar Diwght needed and his massive contract prevented us for getting it. Furthermore by doing a sign and trade at the last minute Otis gave him more money for more years. Once again he gambled "a strecth 4 would give us an unique offense, sometimes you have to overpay to get unique talent". Instead of using the cap to get one or several proven players he just gave a max contract to a player who even in a career year wasn't close to being elite, gambling on an experimental offense. Had he signed Lewis (or other player) to a decent contract, he would have had the chance to sign in 2008 FA Josh Smith (R), Andre Iguodala(R), Luol Deng (R), Monta Ellis (R), Corey Maggette (U), or any other player. There was absolutely no need to put all the eggs in one basket, to go all in, "win now mode" in 2007. We should have done what Chicago or OKC did, get solid proven players to complement your star. You've seen Moneyball, overpaying players doesn't win championships. F
Let Travis Diener go. Never heard from him again B
Traded Trevor Ariza to the Los Angeles Lakers for Brian Cook and Maurice Evans. Ariza turned out to be an above average NBA starter, while Cook and Evans never produced much. Ariza killed the Magic in the finals. It must be said that at the time the deal wasn't that bad for Orlando and Cook and Evans contributed a bit. Cook was later used to get Rafer Alston, key for our finals run: C-
Drafted Courtney Lee with the 22nd pick. That's a steal: A
Signed FA Pietrus and Anthony Johnson too fair contracts. They both contributed to the finals run: B+
Waived James Augustine, a no brainer: B.
Trade Bogans for Tyronn Lue. Didn't hurt us back. B
Letting Hedo go as a Free Agent. Great move. Hedo wasn't young and got an horrible, franchise-crippling bloated contract. It was tough to let go the guy that took you to the finals, but Otis made the right call, Turk was not worth the money he was asking. A+
Traded Rafer Alston, Tony Battie and Courtney Lee to the New Jersey Nets for Ryan Anderson and Vince Carter. Great trade. Courtney Lee was good, but not awesome. At the time of the trade it was thought that Vince Carter could be the piece Orlando was missing to win it all. Evan said on this blog "Vince Carter will do the stuff Turk used to do, but better". Everyone was excited back then. While Vince failed to be "the man", he wasn't a bad role player at all. By no means worse than J Rich or Turk this years. Vince had 2 years left on his contract, so if things went wrong no harm would be done. If Vince failed to meet the expectations it was because people expected him to deliver, it wasn't just Otis. It was a low risk, high reward trade, and he also got a steal in Anderson. A+
Re-signed Marcin Gortat. The contract seemed expensive at the time, but it turned out to be a good call. A
Signed Restricted FA Brandon Bass to a good contract by tricking Dallas: B+
Signed Matt Barnes and Jason Williams. While none was spectacular, they proved to be cheap, reliable role players that got the job done. B
2010/2011 The beginning of the end.
Drafted Daniel Orton with the 29 pick, didn't turn out well, but you can't expect to always hit the jackpot this late in the draft: C.
Signed Chris Duhon to a huge multi year contract. Horrible, horrible choice. F
Signed Q Richardon to a not that huge, but still multi year contract. He was supposed to be a starter, he ended up being a cheerleader: F
Scared because of some loses, traded Rashard Lewis to the Washington Wizards for Gilbert Arenas. Traded Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, cash and a 2011 1st round draft pick (Nikola Mirotic) to the Phoenix Suns for Earl Clark, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu."
If a string of losses causes you to change your plans, then I'm in the wrong job," Otis Smith 2012.
Yeah, you were in the wrong job! As MoveThoseChains brilliantly stated it back then:
"Otis Smith, what you've just done is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard of. At no point in your rambling, incoherent trades were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone on this blog is now dumber for having witnessed it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."
But lets try to be kind. Otis probably thought: "I take my chances that Arenas can return to being an allstar if given the chance. Under SVG Turk could also return to allstar level. And Jason Richardson is a proven scorer". Well, there was absolutely no reason at all to think that Turkoglu or Arenas could return to being their former selves. While Richardson was not getting younger and couldn't create a shot by himself. Not only he got two horrible contracts, but he also gave away Marcin Gortat (the team's best asset after Dwight) without getting any decent backup C. Just when the franchise was about to get rid of Rashard Lewis contract via amnesty, he doubled the damage. TRIPLE F.
Signed Larry Hughes: As the Bleach Report put it: "When I found out that Larry Hughes was still in the league, I think my jaw nearly hit the ground and cracked the ground below it. Larry Hughes was signed by the Magic a few weeks before the season started, and inexplicably, he made the team.": Grade D.
Amnestied Gilbert Arenas. Duh... F for bringing him in the first place.
Traded Brandon Bass to the Boston Celtics for Glen Davis and Von Wafer. Davis and Bass are similar players, while Bass was a better fit alongside Dwight Howard and had a cheaper, shorter contract. Von Wafer never made it to the rotation: D.
Resigning J Richardson for 4 years. Too long, too much money, not worth it. D
Willing to trade Dwight Howard for Brook Lopez potential: F, Do I need to explain why?
VEREDICT: As you can see, most of the moves Otis made before 2010 were not bad by themselves. The players he let go never turned to stars somewhere else (but Ariza). The players he re signed to big contracts ended up contributing to the team. He didn't find gold, but you could say drafting was decent. The big problem was that his whole concept was flawed. The Darko trade wasn't a bad trade by itself, it had little risk involved. But you have to wonder, why gamble on this unproven guy when there are solid players in the market?
Otis was a gambler, when there was no need at all to gamble. If you have a great player you just surround him with reliable proven players, no need to try weird stuff. If you are winning by 20 you milk the clock and take the win, you don't want to run like crazy, commit turnovers, fight with players and argue with the ref. Instead of getting reliable players Otis bet that a failure like Darko Milicic could turn around his career. He couldn't so he rised the stakes, he bet ALL HIS MONEY that a good SF could turn into an Allstar PF and win a championship with an unproven undersized 4-1 offense. This wasn't Stan, Smith wanted Lewis before signing Van Gundy, who didn't play 4-1 in Miami with Shaq. Yeah, it almost worked, but why going all in with Lewis? No need of that at that point. This is a guard's league. Games are won by players throwing themselves against big guys and getting fouls called. But Smith invested all his money in a spot up shooter. In the finals Kobe showed Orlando needed a go-to guy, but it was too late. It was all patching after that, the damage was already made.
The Rashard + Dwight gamble had failed, so Otis bet once again. He couldn't get a proven scorer in his prime, so he made a bigger gamble "let's hope Vince Carter can resuscitate". It failed. So he went double or nothing and hoped to win a championship around a guy who had more guns than knees. He bet that the same Turkoglu he had rejected while being younger and better would turn around his game under SVG. He tried winning with Darko, Vince, Arenas, Turk, Richardson; when you have a young Allstar you need players whose careers are going, up, not down, up!
Otis told the Sentinel "If trying is a sin, then I have sinned". If you ask me, if you try to win an NBA championship with Gilbert Arenas, then yeah, you are a sinner. The veredict of course, is guilty. Otis failed in understanding the basics of sports: if you are winning you need to play it safe. If you had the best Center in the league, there was absolutely no need to gamble. You gamble when you are desperate, not when you have great young players and cap. Otis Smith took unnecesary risks which didn't pay off, as a result the team ended up with below average role players, no backup center, no reliable scorer and several untradable contracts. Dwight Howard will probably leave because of this, as the final prove of Otis Smith failure to properly run a basketball team.
Thanks for reading, excuse me for the typos, and while you might not share my opinion, I think it's pretty cool to rememeber all the major trades that got us here.