There is a huge difrerence between disliking the position we are in following the trade and disliking the trade itself, and that distinction needs to be made clear. I think the majority of rational, intelligent Magic fans don't absolutely hate the position the franchise is currently in following the trade. We could presumably tank the next two years, hope we get at least one star out of those two drafts, and have enough cap space in 2014 to sign two max free agents, to go along with a plethora of young prospects and future draft picks to form a supporting cast. It is certainly within the realm of possibility that in 2 years from now we have a team featuring 3 All-Stars surrounded with a good, cheap, and young supporting cast. We have 2 potential top 5 picks. We have a bunch of young potential role players. We are still a fairly decent FA landing spot. This team is not doomed for failure. There is hope for a fairly quick turnaround.
The crux of the matter for most of us, or at least myself, is the execution of the trade itself. I just can't bring myself to accept the proposition that this is the very best deal that Magic could have gotten. When I look at this deal, there is not a single player or pick that I can look at and say with confidence that there is even a decent chance that this player or pick can be part of the core of a championship team. Every single piece we got back is at best a huge longshot to be a core player, and aside from Afflalo, none of those players/picks are even safe bets to become starters. Hollinger put it best, we traded away a top-3 player in the NBA and all we got back is "flotsam".
Sure we don't know exactly what the Rockets were offering. But I think it's safe to assume that we would have been able to unload a minimum of J-Rich and Duhon, and instead of getting long term money in return we'd get Kevin Martin's expiring contract, which could easily be flipped for a first-rounder. So as far as salaries go, the Rockets' deal is already superior. It was pretty much a given that they would offer the Toronto pick, the main issue was how many of their rookies/prospects they were willing to give up and which ones. But let's disregard the rookies for a second and focus on the Toronto pick, which would likely be a top 10 pick, at worst somewhere in the 8-12 range. That pick itself is already far superior to anything we actually received. But on top of that, we would have received the Dallas pick, and we could conceivably have packaged those two plus the pick from trading Martin to acquire another top 5 pick. Throwing in any of the Houston rookies is just icing on top. Personally, I think a trade of Howard + J-Rich + Duhon for Martin + Toronto pick + Dallas pick + 1 rookie absolutely blows this trade out of the water. And I'm sorry, but there's no way you can convince me that Houston would not have jumped at that deal for either Howard or Bynum.
Now if we were really intent on sending Dwight to the Lakers, how is it that after all the Gasol talk, the Magic did not hold out for Gasol + Bynum? Gasol, whatever you think of him, would surely bring back more assets. We already know Minnesota was willing to offer Derrick Williams for him.
Now if Gasol was off the table and we were just gonna get Bynum, you're gonna tell me we couldn't turn him into more than Afflalo, Harrington and a bunch of mid to late first rounders? We couldn't find any other landing spots for him? The Rockets and even the Cavs could have offered us higher draft picks and better prospects.
And if we couldn't find a better trade partner and Philly was the only option, you're telling me that the only player Philly was willing to offer was Iguodala, a guy who clearly didn't fit into a rebuilding plan? We couldn't get Jrue Holliday instead? Or even Thad Young? Or hell, even Evan Turner? At least Turner still has the potential and is young enough to turn it around and develop into a star, unlike Afflalo. I've always imagined the Sixers to be a potential trade partner in a 3-way for either Gasol or Bynum, because they were rife with young talent. Yet somehow we managed to fail to get receive any of it in return and instead got their oldest and highest paid trade chip?
And if Philly was really unwilling to part with any of their younger players, and all they were willing to offer was Iggy, are you really telling me that we couldn't find any other teams that wanted him? Are you telling me that the best we could get for Iggy, an All-Star player, was Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington? Out of 27 other teams, not a single one could top an offer of Afflalo and Harrington?
And as far as this myth of cap flexibility goes, this trade really didn't do anything for us that letting Dwight walk wouldn't. All we got rid of was Duhon and J-Rich. For 2013 offseason, we go from paying Duhon and J-Rich 8.5M to paying Harrington and Afflalo 15M. Where is the cap flexibility there? By 2014, when Duhon and Harrington come off the books, we could have stretched J-Rich and been on the hook for 6.6M over 3 years. So there really is no flexibility created by this deal. And don't try to sell me on some TPE. It is useless anyways. We will be at least 20M under the cap next offseason anyways so there is no advantage to a TPE, unless we're planning on acquiring about 40M in salary next year.
Until this point I had been very optimistic with the way Hennigan was handling things. I am still optimistic about the direction the franchise is headed in. I truly do believe Hennigan has a vision and a plan in place to build a successful, sustainable operation. His execution of this plan, however has been disastrous. From jettisoning Ryan Anderson only to proceed to resign Nelson at 8M/year, to the atrocity that is the Dwight Howard trade, I have no choice but to view Hennigan's first offseason as GM as a failure.