Archive | February, 2013

Are the Orlando Magic building OKC 2.0???

28 Feb

The Orlando Magic has followed a consistent pattern over the franchise’s 24 year existence.  It’s a dance all to familiar to Magic fans, features the dirtiest word known to a fanbase and it goes something like this:  struggle, excel, rebuild!  Through expansion, Shaq, Penny, Heart and Hustle, T-Mac and Grant Hill, Jonny Davis and Chris Jent, Weisbrod,  Dwight Howard and 2 trips to the NBA Finals, the Magic have never seem to be able to consistently remain a contender for an extended period of time.   I, like many, have always been skeptical when the next rebuilding plan was laid out before us.  But I think the Magic and their forward thinking front office may finally be on the right track.  The track to becoming Oklahoma City 2.0.

I still believe that the Magic did not get anything close to equal value for the Howard trade.  I do really like a few of the pieces they received (Vucevic, Harkless), but they needed to shed more money (Turk), take on less (Harrington), and get at least a few worthy future draft picks.  Out of the 5 picks received, 3 of them have a combined 11 conditions.  The 2013 2nd round pick from Denver (Golden State’s pick) and the 2014 1st rounder also from Denver (could be the Knicks’ pick), are the only picks that the Magic will 100% be able to use without conditions moving them to future years.  Post Howard trade, the front office in Orlando has done an excellent job in building this team for the future.

With the recent trade of fan favorite JJ Redick, whom the Magic obviously believed wanted too much money this summer as a free agent to return to Orlando, the Magic were able to continue their quest for young, high ceiling players.  And

Of course no one in Orlando wanted fan favorite JJ Redick shipped out prior to the trade deadline.  But with his impending free agency coming this summer, and his desire for a contract that approaches the $7-$10million/year range, The Magic brass felt they needed to get something for the sharpshooter before he bolted for nothing this summer.  So they decided a multiplayer trade with the Bucks was the way to go.  Despite also having to give up promising and inexpensive Gustavo Ayon, the Magic came away with a high ceiling player in Tobias Harris, former 20012 second rounder Doron Lamb, and solid backup point guard Beno Udrih.  This trade gives Orlando a plethora of promising, young players and allows them to remain on their track back to contention…a track that should be fully in view during the summer of 2014.

Its clear by its roster and recent transactions, that GM Rob Hennigan has decided that the Magic will acquire however many  high potential, athletic, young players they can.  This is true in Nikola Vucevic (22), Maurice Harkless (19), Andrew Nicholson (23), Tobias Harris (20) and Doron Lamb (21).  That group, with a median age of 21, represent 4 first round draft picks and 1 second round pick from the last two NBA drafts.  Any team in rebuilding form would love to have 4 first round draft picks in 2 years…and that is precisely what the Magic have.  And with Vucevic averaging a double-double, Harkless showing flashes of a future all-star, Nicholson displaying an already polished post game, and Harris putting up terrific numbers in the first real meaningful playing time of his career, its easy to see why this group has such a bright future.

Combining the new young core, a top 3 pick in the next two NBA drafts, and money flying off the books in the summer of 2014, the Orlando Magic could be back in the NBA’s elite very soon.  The breakdown is simple.  Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Beno Udrih all have contracts that expire before or after the 2014 season.  Jameer has an $8million team option, that surely will not be picked up.  That leaves Aaron Afflalo, Glen Davis, and Al Harrington.  I’m sure the Magic will try to trade Harrington this summer, thus freeing up another $7.6million from the payroll.  Afflalo and Davis will be making a combined $14.1million and they will be 29 and 28 years old respectively.  Figures you can live with all around as both will still be top of the rotation contributors.  Therefore, the Magic will be on the books for roughly just that $14.1million in the summer of 2014.  Now let’s say Orlando picks up the options for Vucevic, Harkless, Nicholson, and Harris for a total of around $8.1million more.  Add in a top 3 pick in 2013 and 2014, and you are looking at around $10million more, for a total payroll in 2014 of around $32million…which should be close to $26million under the cap.

Now Orlando looks great with a good young nucleus, two contributing veterans that will just be entering their prime, and a ton of money under the cap.  But it will take a few more steps to get the Magic back to the NBA’s elite.  Let’s start with the draft.  I have previously mentioned a top 3 pick in both the 2013 and 2014 drafts.  These picks will be instrumental in turning the franchise around.  The 2013 pick should be a point guard.  I believe it will be Marcus Smart from Oklahoma State.  The freshman has great size at 6’4 and possesses that X factor that every front office loves.  Smart could be the point guard of the future.  Now if they Magic decide to go with someone like Ben McLemore or Nerlens Noel, the can always focus on free agency in order to land a point guard following the Jameer Nelson era.  The 2014 draft is loaded with talent and promises to be one of the deepest drafts since 2003.  If the Magic can land Andrew Wiggins, then they have their franchise player of the future.  If they draft below #1, they can still grab a high impact player in Jabari Parker; a versatile combo forward.

Then comes the free agents class of 2014.  With a young nucleus that would then include two top 3 draft picks from 2013 and 2014, signing a max player free agent might not be a high need for Orlando.  Instead, look for the Magic to sign Kyle Lowry (if the don’t draft Marcus Smart in 2013), and/or Andre Iguodala.  Both players, depending on next season, can probably be signed for way less than the max.  Now we are looking at a team that could have a starting five of Marcus Smart/Kyle Lowry, Aaron Afflalo, Andrew Wiggins, Glen Davis, and Nikola Vucevic.  With a bench featuring Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson and other signees.  In 2014, that could be a lineup that may be in contention for years to come.  Of course a lot has to happen in order for all of that to pan out.  And what will happen could be OKC 2.0.

The plan is almost identical to what happened in OKC, as the Thunder built their team through the draft and by acquiring young players.  Those players included Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and former Thunder player James Harden.  All came with question marks, but all panned out.  The team then added complimentary players to their core and took off from there.  Sound familiar?  It should, because former OKC and Spurs disciple Rob Henningan is following that same blueprint for success (a blueprint also followed by the Spurs in draft Duncan, Ginobili, Parker, and Leonard).

So if you are a Magic fan, stay patient.  The next two seasons are going to very tough to watch, but help is on the way soon.   Just remember, its not about wins and losses (well we need a lot of losses to get high draft picks), its now about developing our younger players into the next Magic superstars.  Now all we can do is hope the plan works, the Magic thrive, and Orlando is back in the NBA Finals before we need another new arena.  Oh and hope that our newly developed stars don’t bolt for a certain West Coast destination….again….

*Notes:  The Magic will almost certainly be forced to trade someone from the group of Nicholson, Harris, Davis, Harkless, Afflalo.  If they draft a 2 and a 3 in 2013 and 2014, the SG/SF/PF spots become extremely crowded.

*Notes:  If the Magic draft a PG in 2013, then they will not go after Kyle Lowry.  If they draft a 2/3 and then get either a 2/3 or a 4 in the 2014 draft, look for Lowry to be a very sought after player in the Magic Kingdom.