Hey everybody, this is my first post on OPP but I've been a lurker here for a while so I'm happy to officially join the community here.
Okay, so i know the big question with the Magic these days (and I guess the past year) is will Howard stay or go? I would argue that the more important, while still related, question is what do the magic have to do personnel wise to get back on the path towards a championship? I know a lot of other people have extensively covered the basics in regards to the Magics upcoming offseasonchoices but ill give you guys a short breakdown before getting into the good stuff. The Magic organization essentially has three routes it can take towards its roster:
1. Keep the urgent core intact
What that means: This would mean bringing back the 2011-12 team as we know it today. In order to do this the Magic would need to match any offer sheet from another team Ryan Anderson signs and they may also have to re-sign Jameer Nelson should he not exercise his player optin next year. Additionally, the team would retain backup JJ Reddick for the final year of his contract, which is unguaranteed.
Good idea/bad idea? This would, in my opinion, be an awful decision for the short and long term championship prospects of this organization. I believe this actually would be one of the easier ways to keep Dwight n the team, as I think his decision to not exercise his ETO was very much influenced by the fact Dwight loves his teammates, these teammates. However, the team would be heading nowhere fast for the next three years. With salary locked up long term in freshly inked deals with J Rich and Glen Davis the Magic would be limited to the MLE and their two draft picks for imrprovement in 2012-13. We would be a perennial playoff team but would essentially be squandering the prime years of Dwight's career. This is not a real option.
2. Make a trade this offseason to bring in another piece or pieces
What that means: Use one or more of the assets available not named Dwight Howard to try and entice a team into giving the magic an all-star caliber player to help ease the load on D12.
Good idea/bad idea? The Magic have few assets not named Dwight Howard, and those will not get us a true difference maker. There is a real danger here of simply making a lateral or even backwards move. JJ Reddick, Jameer Nelson, Ryan Anderson and Glen Davis are all players who could command value on the trade market, but to get an actual immediate upgrade for them would require either a combination of those players being shipped out and/or the magic taking on another bad contract.
What that means: An acknowledgment the team as constructed is fatally flawed. Any and all assets would be shipped out and the team goes into "tank" mode as it tries to stockpile draft picks and promising young players.
Good idea/bad idea? I think many fans are too eager to call for their team to start the rebuilding phase and follow the "OKC" model, but what many forget is that for every OKC there are Kings, Bucks, Raptors and a host of other teams that tried rebuilding through the draft and got mired in mediocrity. Yeah, being a perennial 8th seed in the playoffs means your championship chances are almost as bad as those teams I just mentioned, but theres still a chance and your team is at least fun to watch and not say the Washington Wizards.
3a. Rebuild, sort of...
Wait, what? Okay so this brings us to my proposal. I think, along with many people on this blog, that the current team will not win a championship next year. I also don't believe in trading away a once-in-a-generation center because he wants to test free agency. Now, if the Magic get some truly amazing desperation offer from some team wiling to send a potential superstar and other assets our way for Dwight then it makes excellent sense to trade him. Otherwise I think we "roll the dice" and live with the consequences. Either way, simply having Dwight stay long term is no guarantee of a championship.
So, what do the Magic do? We look to move our two longest commitments for essentially any return value. The Magic would then resign the 23 year old Anderson and the aging but still productive Nelson to long term deals, locking up the duo to help in the transitioning period. Turks contract can be more easily moved after next season as an expiring contract, and Magic Fan Favorite Chris Duhon should just be waived at the start of the 2012-13 season for the roster space (the cap hit still hurts, but we'll need that spot later)
This would mean shipping out J Rich's (5.7-6.6M) and Glen Davis's (6.5M) three year deals to whoever can take them while only receiving expiring salary. I think this is much more doable than one would initially suppose, especially when the two are paired together. TRADE: Orlando-Cleveland
The Magic send Glen Davis, J Rich to the Cavaliers for their second 1st round pick (24) and their two second rounders (33, 34) and the last year of Luke Walton's deal (6M). Now despite what that link says the trade will work because it's still counting 2011-12s salaries so when the magic do this deal the cavs will have so much cap space they won't know what to do with it.
Why the Cavs do it:
If they paid any attention to the Magics season after Dwight went down, they'd know that Big Baby not only has all the intangibles and characteristics of a leader and champion that you want mentoring a young team, but he's also a MONSTER in the pick and roll. It's incredible he wasn't featured in it at all at Boston, but I guess that's a product of playing with KG.
Simply put, a Glen Davis/Kyrie Irving pick and roll attack would be pretty devastating and would be the next step towards playoff contention for the Cavs. Let's not forget Davis is young too and a piece to build around. His greatest shortcoming is, well being short and lacking length on defense. But Cleveland has a long defensive minded PF who complements Davis at C very well, so I think it wouldn't be too great a liability. J Rich is almost a throw in for the Cavs, but with Kyrie, Tristan Thompson, and a lottery pick this year predicted to be in the top 5 they have plenty of talented youth to build around. J Rich's skill in transition would more easily translate to a faster Cavs team, and he could serve as a good mentor to Bradley Beal if the Cavs draft him.
Why the Magic do it:
The magic are on the hook at 30 million over the next three years for two players whose styles don't compliment Dwight Howard well and also alone aren't good enough to be the primary pieces in a rebuild. They need to go if Dwight stays or if he leaves. I could see the Magic wanting to retan Baby if Dwight leaves but still it wouldn't be an effective start to rebuilding a team with a championship as the goal.
With this trade the Magic essentially solve their long-term cap issues while also maintaining the core 5 man unit of Nelson Reddick Turk Anderson Howard that was the Nba's most offensively efficiient unit last season. The Bench though would look very very different. One of the most noticeable and frustrating issues last season was lack of depth and the bench's weak production year long. With 5 draft picks (19, 24, 33, 34, 49) and last years two rookies Justin Harper and Deandre Liggins returning there would be a ton of youth on the bench. Our next coach's biggest job would be assessing this youth and trying to find the right combinations and rotations to employ. The 2012-13 season would not be a typical "win now" year, as it's unlikely a bench full of late first and second round picks will be enough to help us to the top. But with the starting 5 essentially unchanged I see the Magic once again being a minimum 5 seed and being competitive in the playoffs.
Maybe we hit a home run with one or two or three of these picks. Maybe we miss completely on all of them. But likely we'll gt 2-4 nice prospects to develop into quality rotation/role players or use as trade bait. The big coup is not The prospect of cheap depth n the bench, but the ability in the offseason after 2012-13 to go out and sign a marquee free agent.
PG Nelson SG Reddick SF Turk PF Anderson C Howard
Above I have the prospective lineups with the bench filled in with prospects that could realistically/likely be on the board by the Magics pick time.
PG Neslon SG Andre Igoudala SF Josh Smith PF Anderson C Howard
PG Marquis Teague/Ish Smith SG Doron Lamb/Deandre LigginsQRich SF QRich/Darius Miller/Earl Clark PF Clark/Harper/Arnett Moultrie C Clark/Moultrie
Above is actually a realistic scenario, but it comes down largely to whether the Magic can sign Anderson and Nelson to reasonable extensions, say 7-8.5M and 4.5-5M respectively. Turk + a prospect could actually be attractive trade bait to 76ers assuming they're postseason magic ends soon and they decide to rid themselves of Iggys 15 million dollar contract.
All in all IF the Magic play their cards right we can be back on the championship track after just one season, but in my opinion to try and swing for the fences in 2012-13 just to keep Dwight will be very counterproductive long term. Also this ended up being wayyyyy longer than anticipated...