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The trade the Magic had to make – and won’t regret. Goodbye Dwight Howard.

2012 August 12
by Brian Serra

Dwight Howard in his final Orlando Magic game, April 7th, 2012.

It’s over. Dwight Howard, the franchise centerpiece of the Orlando Magic for the last 8 years is officially out. 621 regular season games, 57 playoff games and 1 trip to the Finals. 11,435 points scored, 2,361 missed free throws and 1 echo of the ghost of Shaquille O’Neal.

The old thought on Dwight to L.A. was please do anything but create Shaq 2.0. Anything but trading Dwight to the Lakers and watch another all-world franchise center lace up in Laker purple and gold. Yet the trade has finally come and the main trade partner is the evil Lakers. And with Houston’s alleged deal being debunked by Rob Hennigan (not willing to absorb contracts after Lin/Asik signings), LA ended up as the best potential Orlando trade partner.

Magic fans won’t get the deal.  Most NBA fans won’t get the deal. Most analysts won’t get the deal. But they are wrong. This is a good deal. At a minimum, it’s a decent deal and it’s one that the Magic had to make.  Why, you say? Here’s why:

StayDwight Didn’t Work

Dwight Howard was gone. He was gone the day after he re-committed to waive his Early Termination Offer (ETO). He was threatened, or bullied depending on who you ask, into re-upping for one more year. He knew the team was going to ship him off and believe it or not, even at that March 15th deadline Dwight was still torn on what to do moving forward. His handlers, agent and no doubt his endorsers wanted him in Brooklyn. Dwight wanted to be in Brooklyn. And if he hadn’t foolishly waived that ETO, he would have been in Brooklyn. The DeVos power play on March 15th was the final straw in Dwight’s head and he knew at that point that he was never coming back to Orlando.

Trade or Let Him Walk

If Dwight Howard was gone, then you had three options. 1) Play out this season with a lame duck superstar and severe fan apathy. Wait for the best deal at the trade deadline. 2) Let him sit at home, play out the season with $19M in salary sitting on the sideline and hope for the best deal at the trade deadline. 3) Trade him now. Move on. End the circus. Why delay the inevitable for a marginally better deal? You are never getting a superstar in return. Hit the reset button.

The team wisely chose option 3. The back-and-forth, he-said-she-said, is over.

Fits the Mold

New General Manager loves the word “process”.  He probably said it at least 10 times per press conference so far in his brief time with the Magic. He said the team was looking for the best deal that provided a combination of cap flexibility, young players and draft picks. This trade provides all of those things. Take a look at the deal:

Los Angeles Lakers: Dwight Howard, Chris Duhon, Earl Clark

Denver Nuggets: Andre Iguodala

Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson

Orlando Magic: Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, Nikola Vucevic, Christian Eyenga, Moe Harkless, a $17.8M trade exception and 3 first round picks (1 from each team).

Cap Flexibility

With the trade the Magic actually GAINED long-term salary commitment ($64.8M over 5 years coming in versus $46M over the next 3 years going out). However, that doesn’t paint the complete picture.  Al Harrington’s contract will likely be bought out after this season and while having 3 years remaining, only 50% of that contract is guaranteed for the final 2 years.  The team can also buyout Hedo Turkoglu after this season.  The team also holds Team Options (in blue below) next season for the following players: Christian Eyenga, Nikola Vucevic, Gustavo Ayon and Kyle O’Quinn. By buying out Turkoglu and Harrington and declining ALL Team Options, the team could potentially sit at $31M of cap space in 2013 and a potential $43.6M in 2014.

Summer 2013 w/ full house cleaning
Hedo Turkoglu BUYOUT BUYOUT
Arron Afflalo $7,750,000 $7,750,000
Al Harrington BUYOUT BUYOUT
Jameer Nelson $6,566,666 $6,566,666
Glen Davis $6,400,000 $6,400,000
Quentin Richardson $2,808,600 $2,808,600
Mo Harkless        $1,809,840            $1,809,840
Gustavo Ayon $1,500,000
Andrew Nicholson $1,482,000 $1,482,000
Nikola Vucevic $1,793,520
Christian Eyenga $2,119,213
Kyle O’Quinn $788,000
Cap Space  $    25,026,161  $         31,226,894

The semi-expiring contracts of  Turk, Harrington and expiring deals of J.J. Redick and Josh McRoberts give the Magic even more flexibility in the trade market as they continue to work through roster changes moving forward. (i.e. flipping one of these pieces for a backup PG)

Young Players

The two center pieces returning to Orlando come by way of Arron Afflalo (who spells his name horrendously) and Maurice Harkless. Afflalo will be entering his 6th season in the league this year, but has increased his productivity every season. He gives the Magic a solid core player to build around who can shoot and defend. Despite having 4 years remaining on his deal and being the most expensive salary commitment returning to the team, I’ve read quotes from multiple executives who love Afflalo and think he has a great contract.  In comparison, Landry Fields who is significantly worse just signed a $6.25M deal with Toronto.

The other returning piece is Mo Harkless, who was a player that Rob Hennigan had targeted in the draft but was off the board before the Magic selection. Harkless was picked 15th overall (ahead of the Rockets selection of Royce White and Terrence Jones) after playing one season at St. Johns.  The 6’8″ SF averaged 15.3ppg and 8.6 rpg on the injury depleted young Red Storm team. You can read his draft profile here.

Draft Picks

The Magic were able to pick up 5 total draft picks in the deal, with 3 of the 5 being 1st rounders. The Magic received a 1st round pick each from Philadelphia, Denver and Los Angeles. The fine print on each pick is rather verbose, but you can see the details here. The earliest the Magic would likely not see the Philly pick until at least 2015, the Denver pick is in 2014 and the Lakers pick likely won’t make it’s way to Orlando until 2017. Orlando also received Denver’s 2013 2nd round pick and LA’s 2015 2nd rounder. Not much to get excited about here at the moment, but that’s the point. It’s long term flexibility.

Time to Move

Ultimately, the team had to make a move. The franchise was stuck in neutral and without a bottoming out – and trading a Top 3 player in the league for pennies on the dollar is bottoming out – they couldn’t begin to move forward. Hell, the team couldn’t even bring in a free agent and tweak the roster for next season until this saga was settled. They couldn’t afford to wait any longer. It’s easy to point the finger and say “hold out for more” but the team knew where the market was, and that market was rather non-existant. They were able to secure the partnership with Philadelphia and Denver in the last week and had to run with it. It was time to move. If not for anything else, to purely hit reset.

We’re Moving, It’s Just a Process

Process is Rob Hennigan’s favorite word. He LOVES it. He HAS to love it. You don’t become the youngest General Manager in the league without being to prove to people that you have a clear vision and that you are willing to stick to that. When you trade a star player, you are going to get back pennies on the dollar. There is just little more you can say about that. And with star players wanting to play only in LA, NY, or Miami recently, the whole leverage thing quickly goes out the window. With that considered, it’s not fair to judge this trade in August 2012.

You can’t realistically or accurately judge this trade for at least a year or two. Ask New Orleans. Ask Memphis. These teams aren’t competing for championships, but check those franchise values. Going up. And will continue to do so. New Orleans, and David Stern, was killed for the Eric Gordon/CP3 trade and for not taking the initial offer from LA and Houston. Well, look at them now. They have an extremely promising nucleus and most importantly, their team has hope.

Magic fans have zero of that hope at the moment but it will come. Unfortunately, this fan base has been slapped in the face repeatedly by each superstar that has come through town. Perhaps that is a tell in itself. Even if so, it’s a tell of the past. The light at the end of the tunnel may be dim now, but it was the same in 2003.  Five years later the team would be heading into the start of a season where the Orlando Magic would be making a trip to the finals.

Believe

The Orlando Magic franchise will be entering it’s 24th season in the NBA this year. In only 9 of the first 23 seasons did the team fail to make the playoffs. This year will make 10 of 24 seasons sitting home in May. But that doesn’t matter. Would you be any more excited next season to lose in the 1st round with a disgruntled, two-faced Dwight Howard leading the charge onto the floor? I highly doubt it. So it’s time to hit reset and trust the franchise that has reinvented themselves so many times already in their brief lifespan.

The fresh faces of Alex Martins, Rob Hennigan and Jacque Vaughn will be shaping the future and the youth movement that is encompassing every aspect of the organization. Dwight Howard is out, but in the next few years the team will have another new identity and a new shot at greatness. The journey may feel rough at times, but I have confidence that the organization has the vision and plan in place – and a little of that special Pat Williams luck – to bounce back. This trade is just the necessary beginning.

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3 Responses Post a comment
  1. George permalink
    August 12, 2012

    Nice spin to a bad inherited situation. The GM’s player moves have yet to give the fans confidence that he can do better than Otis Smith. He chose to keep Nelson instead of Anderson and got no significant player for Howard.

  2. August 12, 2012

    1) Nelson is cheaper than Anderson 2) Plays a much tougher position to fill 3)Means much more to the organization and 4) Are we evaluating the GM on a month and a half of work?

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