At this point, it’s a forgone conclusion that the Magic will finish towards the very bottom of the Eastern Conference, earning themselves a prime spot for the 2013 lottery.
With that said, they could really be something in a few years. The young talent on this team is quite impressive. Second-year center Nicola Vucevic is already averaging a double-double and his stats are getting better every week. He’s a beast on the boards and as the season has progressed he’s looked like more and more of a scorer, someone who could easily thrive in the pick-and-roll.
Vucevic is already one of the better centers in the game and his potential to get even better is off the charts.
No one expected Vucevic to do this well and when he was included in the Dwight Howard trade, it was a bit of a throwaway. First-round pick Moe Harkless wasn’t highly regarded either, but when given playing time, he’s shown flashes of brilliance. Between this and the solid scoring of Arron Afflalo, the Magic did much better in this trade than any of us would have guessed at the time. Their young players are doing so well, it begs the rather unlikely question, did the Magic actually win the Dwight Howard trade?
Let’s consider a few things here; Howard was always leaving. Despite all his words about “loyalty,” he never wanted to stay in Orlando long term.
Trading him was the only way the Magic could get anything for him, since he was almost certainly bolting for free agency in 2013. Secondly, Howard hasn’t really been all that good with the Los Angeles Lakers. Sure, he’s been solid and still better than the majority of NBA centers, but he’s clearly not his old self. His back troubles have obviously affected him, making him far from the dominant power-dunker we saw for years in Orlando.
Suppose he never gets his old form back. In that scenario, is it so strange to imagine that three years from now, Vucevic could actually be the better center? Considering he wasn’t even the main piece Orlando was receiving, his value is enormous.
And what about the other big pieces they could have gotten in the trade? Many expected that the Magic would swap for Howard for either Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum. One of them is having his worst season in years, while the other hasn’t even stepped on the court this season. The Magic dodged a huge bullet not trading for Bynum and had they received Gasol, it’s doubtful that he would have been the dominant first-option they would have been looking for.
You can make a case that the Magic would have been better off getting Andre Iguodala instead of Afflalo, but he’s not the scorer he once was, and really, it’s not like they would have any more wins that they do if they had went that route.
As hard as it is to believe, the Magic have done better with this trade than any other team that was involved. The Philadelphia 76ers are a mediocre team watching their alleged savior sit on the bench with a new hairstyle each night, while the Lakers might be the most disappointing team in NBA history.
The Magic have a ways to go before they can be contenders again, but the Howard trade was an excellent start. They traded a player who had grown disinterested and became nuisance, and received a set of solid guys who could be essential players for the Magic for years to come. They may not be much right now, but the Magic have an extremely bright future, and getting rid of their All-NBA center is a big reason why.
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