In the spirit of giving on this festive holiday, you are being given the ability to hypothetically erase one of the questionable moves the Magic front office has made in the post-Dwight Howard era.
Sadly, there are quite a few to choose from. The Magic, now in the midst of a six-game losing streak, were reminded of that on Monday night when Victor Oladipo returned to Orlando and showed his former teammates, front office and fans what could have been.
One tweet from earlier this year sums up everything quite nicely, all in less than 140 characters…
ORL has Terrence Ross and a first-rounder to show for trading Serge Ibaka, Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Tobias Harris and Moe Harkless.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) February 14, 2017
So, here’s a chance for virtual general managers to get a mulligan on any move the Magic have made since 2012. Simply erase it, pretend as if it never happened, and determine the butterfly effect it could have possibly had on the team.
Here are a few options. Feel free to join the debate below and add other moves that you believe are worthy of a do-over. As badly as you may want to reverse many (or all) of the moves, you can only pick one.
Rob Hennigan, you may want to stop reading.
June 2016 – The Magic trade Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Oklahoma City for Serge Ibaka
Yes, we know that Oladipo, who the Magic selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, was in line for a payday and coming off a season in which he slightly regressed. But he was also 24-years-old and yet to reach his full potential. Sending him to Oklahoma City for Serge Ibaka, who is three years Oladipo’s elder and experiencing a sharp decline in his rebounding and shot blocking ability, made little sense, even for a team like the Magic that was in dire need of rim protection. The Magic throwing in Sabonis, the 11th pick in the draft, to sweeten the deal makes it harder to fathom. Ibaka lasted less than a full season in Orlando, averaging 15.1 points and 6.8 rebounds in 56 games, before being traded to Toronto. Sabonis, at age 21, is developing into a valuable commodity, averaging 12.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Oladipo could be an All-Star this season, averaging 22.9 points on 45.8 percent shooting, both career-highs.
Watching Oladipo slice down the lane and attack the basket while leading the Pacers to a 105-97 win over the Magic on Monday showed Orlando that he has developed into the type of player they now need.
July 2016 – The Magic sign Bismack Biyombo to a four-year, $72 million contract
As we said above, the Magic were in dire need of rim protection. And that is one thing that Biyombo does particularly well. Biyombo’s performance against the Cavaliers in the 2016 playoffs boosted his price, and Rob Hennigan was ready and willing to pay top dollar. Beyond the astronomical annual salary for a player with such limited offensive ability, the addition of Biz created a logjam in the Magic frontcourt in a league that was moving away from plodding bigmen and putting a premium pushing the pace and shooting the three. It also forced Aaron Gordon, the perceived face of the franchise, to play out of position. In Biyombo’s first season with the Magic, he averaged 6.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. His numbers and minutes are down this season. And beyond this season, there are still two more years left on his untradeable contract (assuming he exercises his player option in the final year, which he most certainly will).
Biz seems like a good team guy, and you love his hustle at times, but wiping that salary off the books could go a long way for the financially strapped Magic.
February 2016 – The Magic trade Tobias Harris to Detroit for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova
This was a straight salary dump for the Magic (the money was later essentially spent on Biyombo and re-signing Evan Fournier). Just a few months after re-signing Harris to a four-year, $64 million deal, the Magic shipped him away around the trade deadline for about 10 cents on the dollar. Harris, who was viewed by some as a ball stopper that at times disrupted the flow of the Magic offense, had been averaging 17.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, and was highly valued by the DeVos family and in the community. If the idea was to re-sign Harris and then potentially use him as trade bait at the deadline, why dump him for nothing? Jennings would spend just 25 games with the Magic, primarily as their back-up point guard. Harris, playing under what is now considered a team-friendly contract, is now in the midst of a career year, averaging a personal-best 18.7 points per game while guiding the surprising Pistons to a surprisingly successful season thus far.
The Magic could be well-represented at the All-Star game, by former players at least, if Harris joins Oladipo on the Eastern squad.
June 2014 – The Magic trade Dario Saric for Elfrid Payton
The Sixers drafted Payton, a player the Magic wanted, with the 10th pick. The Magic drafted Saric, a player the Sixers wanted, with the 12th pick. And the Sixers convinced the Magic to throw in a few other assets (a 2015 second round pick and a conditional 2017 first round pick) to make the deal happen. Payton, with limited shooing range and defensive inadequacies, has drawn the scorn of some Magic fans who do not believe he can be the starting point guard for a contending team. Saric, a now 23-year old stretch-four, became a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate last season, albeit in a diluted draft class.
Perhaps if the Magic don’t make this trade, they ultimately find a point guard with a skill set befitting the league’s current style of play.
June 2015 – The Magic draft Mario Hezonja
The Magic wanted Kristaps Porzingis, but he was drafted by the Knicks one pick ahead of them and has since blossomed into a unicorn/All-Star. So instead, the Magic went with Mario Hezonja, who has been a colossal disappointment and recently had his fourth-year option declined by the Magic. Nothing says wasted lottery pick more than a rookie option not getting picked up. Hezonja’s tenure with the Magic likely will come to its merciful end this summer. Revisionist history says the Magic should have drafted Devin Booker, giving them the explosive scorer they so desperately need. However, after playing for a loaded Kentucky team, few saw Booker developing into the pro he has become and he wasn’t selected until the 13th pick. Prior to the Draft, however, he did express his desire to play in Orlando.
Had the Magic gone in that direction – or in any other direction, really - they’d have been much better off.
Which of these moves (or any other) would you pick to undo? Remember, you can only pick one. Join the debate below...