Like many Americans, the Orlando Magic did some last-minute Christmas shopping this weekend, trading away Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat, a first round pick and a bag o’ cash to acquire Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark from the Washington Wizards and the Phoenix Suns. Let’s do a team-by-team analysis to see how each franchise came out:
The Orlando Magic
First off, kudos to them for making these two big trades. As Bill Simmons, The Sports Guy, often says, sometimes it seems like the NBA stands for the “No Balls Association.” Well, power to Magic GM Otis Smith for whipping his big guy out and tossing it on the table to go for the glory. The Magic, as they were constituted, were clearly a top 6 team in the NBA, but they also clearly seemed long shots to win the title. They were in the same limbo that the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets have been in over the past five years. And with Dwight Howard in his prime (plus being able to opt out of his contract in 2012 and do a Carmelo/Chris Paul), Smith pro-actively made some big moves to show the Magic are willing to do what it takes to go all the way.
The last several years the Magic have been phenomenal defensively, which has allowed them to utterly dominate some teams in the playoffs like the Charlotte Bobcats and the Atlanta Hawks. However, they weren’t too successful last year when they hit a hard-hitting defensive squad in the Boston Celtics with maintaining their own offense. After their surprise run to the Finals in 2009, they were understandably hesitant to pay Hedo Turkoglu $10+ million for the next five years, not simply because they felt it was more than he was worth, but also because they felt they might need a little something more to get them all the way over the top. Instead they opted for Vince Carter, a player capable of creating his own shot at the last second (versus Hedo needed a pick-and-roll to create a shot, which can be tough if there’s only say four seconds left on the clock). Predictably, as he had throughout his career, Vince Carter withered under the spotlight. When it was clear that Rashard Lewis spent the off-season working on learning Carter’s disappearing act, there was trouble in town with a capital T.
Many believe that Hedo will flourish in his return, which I’m not convinced about, but he should be better than the stinkbomb he’s been in Toronto and Phoenix. ‘Cuz even if he hasn’t lost any athleticism and genuinely still has all the same abilities he had when he was last there, they’ve basically replaced ’09’s Courtney Lee & Rashard Lewis with Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas & Brandon Bass, so I expect Hedo to have a bunch less offensive opportunities (& with Bass on the boards instead of Lewis, there should be less rebounds for Hedo too). Also, remember that early in Turk’s Orlando career he tended to be great when Grant Hill was out, but when Hill started, Hedo tended to be pretty ineffectual. I fear, as he may’ve confirmed with the Raptors and Suns, that he’s one of those players who needs the ball all the time to be effective.
That said, while I’m undecided on Hedo, I’m a big fan of the other parts. They were not going anywhere with Vince Carter shrinking when things get tough. Jason Richardson has hit big shots in the playoffs, and truthfully all they need him to do is be consistent and not disappear. But he’s a better three-point shooter (particularly after his time with the Suns) so I think he’ll be a big upgrade. And with the way ‘Shard was playing, Bass getting more minutes should be a plus. Then throw in Arenas off the bench, who’s another person who has hit big shots in big games, and I think they’ll be dangerous. I mean Orlando’s problem wasn’t their defense. They beat LeBron & the Cavs with Hedo covering him because Hedo has height at 6’10” to make outside shots tough, and then when LBJ drives past him, there’s that guy Dwight (by the way, how wrong is it that the most intimidating shot blocker in the league is named Dwight? Guess it’s better than Eugene. No offense, Eugene “Pooh” Jetter). Also, the Magic still have Q Richardson who’s a solid defender on swingmen.
So I’m a big fan of the Arenas/’Shard trade. I like the Carter/Richardson swap, but I do think the Hedo&Earl Clark for Gortat, Pietrus, $ and a first rounder wasn’t great. The four year contracts of Earl Clark, Q & Chris Duhon are gonna be nearly $10 mill each year, and since they’re over the cap, they’ll be basically playing $20 million for those dudes. This is the world the Knicks lived in for the past decade. Like you convince yourself that maybe paying a bit more for Shandon Anderson isn’t the worst thing in the world, but when you add up a bunch of Shandons, plus the actual big bucks you need for studs (or supposed studs like Allan Houston, Marbury, ZBo), that’s when your salary cap goes sky high and you’ve got no wiggle room if things don’t work out perfectly. I mean couldn’t the Magic have held out for a better deal with Phoenix? They not only took on the worst unmovable contract in the deal (Hedo), but they also gave up perhaps the best contract in the bunch (Gortat), plus a first rounder. Plus, Jason Richardson’s contract ends after this year, and if he’s good, then they’ll have to pay him a bunch more money to stay.
Bottom line: Overall, very good, and very necessary trades for them, but they should’ve haggled a bit over some of the fine details. Or they should’ve made smarter moves in the past. Is Duhon really gonna be worth nearly $4 million in 2013-2014? Forget that, is he really worth $3.25 mill now, when similar players like Anthony Carter or Earl Watson get paid the minimum?
Even though Rashard Lewis gets paid more than Arenas this year and next, his contract ends after that year, one year sooner than Gil. So overall, the Wiz save money and can be players in free agency a year earlier. That’s okay, but unless Rashard Lewis shows he still has something left, I’m not enamored with the move. Then again, it’s hard to know what Arenas’ influence was actually like in the locker room. Reporters and outsiders have clamored for him to be ousted, but I never heard any complaints from his teammates. While his methods were clearly wrong, he even faked an injury in pre-season to allow teammate Nick Young the opportunity to get more minutes and show what he’s capable of doing. Ironically, Young did such a good job that after barely seeing the court in the first few pre-season games, he now will be the one who takes Gil’s starting spot. Personally, I always felt like Gil got crucified a bit too hard for the gun thing, as I’ve written before. We’re a hypocritical society that loved his silly antics until it broached a subject that we feel is verboten: guns. I mean, they weren’t loaded, so there wasn’t any danger, but we draw arbitrary lines at what’s acceptable and what’s not. And with John Wall being injured so often to start this season, Arenas was seeming very, very useful.
Bottom Line: Not bad. But I tend to not be a fan of trades that are more about getting rid of stuff rather than getting stuff.
They were on the playoff perimeter limbo, and stuck with Hedo’s awful contract. I’ve felt that not only is Gortat the best backup center in the league, but that he’s better than half the starters. When Dwight’s missed games, even in the playoffs, Gortat’s been huge. Like double-double huge. And big men are hard to find. Or is it that women say it’s big to find hard men? Sure it’s a downgrade to go from Jason Richardson to Vince Carter, but considering you also get rid of the useless Earl Clark and get in return Pietrus, a solid three’s-and-d man (aka the perfect Phoenix Suns), it’s a home run. Many people initially felt this would mean Steve Nash would be shipped out next, but once the new players get fully comfortably incorporated, I think this will be a stronger version of the Suns than they had two days ago. Plus, if Carter’s mediocre, they can let him go early with a small penalty this summer, while Jason Richardson had already shown he had earned a new contract which would’ve given the team less flexibility going forward.
Bottom Line: Excellent trade. Okay, sure, I just said I’m not a big fan of trades that are more about getting rid of stuff, but it wasn’t like in order to get rid of Hedo’s contract they only had to take a slightly less miserable contract. They got only good, movable stuff, plus the first rounder and the always useful bag o’ cash. That’s a trade I can get behind.