The parallel careers careers of Dwight Howard and Shaq just got even more paralleled. After already sharing the most intimidating bodies of their times, the same first team, the Superman nickname, and the off court shenanigans, leaving Orlando for the Lakers can now be added to the list of similarities.
But what will not be a similarity is Orlando’s roster following the departure of the Supermen. Whereas the 1996 team was still left with Penny Hardaway and finished their first post-Shaq season 45-37, the best player on their 2012 roster is…Aaron Afflalo? And their record, well, it’s not going to get close to 45 wins.
The Magic traded away a top-5 player in the league and got back a defensive specialist (Afflalo), a chucker (Al Harrington), two unproven youngsters (Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless), and three late 1st round picks. That’s kind of a terrible trade.
Philadelphia gave up Vucevic, Harkless, and Andre Iguodala, who combined make nowhere near the impact as Howard, and still got back Andrew Bynum, a much better piece than the Magic’s whole package.
Several questions arise from this deal. One, why did Orlando not want to take back Bynum or Pau Gasol (or even Iguodala)? And secondly, after all these months of Dwight Drama and nearly the whole league interested, are we supposed believe that Aaron Afflalo and Al Harrington is the best deal Orlando got for Dwight Howard?
The first question might have an answer already. Orlando GM Rob Hennigan has been saying this summer that he wants to rebuild the Magic the “Oklahoma City way,” hoping to build a team from scratch through the draft and with young players. That’s understandable. No point in getting a player like Gasol who is in the later stages of his career if you have no chance of contending for a while. But it’s not like Bynum is an old guy. He’s 24 and already arguably the second best center in the league behind Howard. Sounds like a pretty good young piece to rebuild around.
And it’s not as if they got a ton of good young players instead. Afflalo, the “centerpiece” of the trade for Orlando is 26. Harrington is 32. Harkless and Vucevic are 19 and 21 respectively, but have yet to prove they can contribute. And the three draft pick Orlando is getting come from the Nuggets, Sixers, and Lakers who all got better in the trade. Those picks will get Orlando a marginal role player in the late first round. Maybe the Magic just want to be really terrible and hope the lottery goes there way (which I’m sure will miraculously happen this year with absolutely no involvement by David Stern).
Regardless of the draft picks, the Magic should have came away from this deal with the best pieces to build around seeing as they gave up the most. Instead they got the least in return. Even within the trade they made, there was a better deal to be had for Orlando that could have gotten them Bynum.
So if Orlando ends up getting the short end of the stick in this trade, why make it? There were plenty of trade options available to them over the past year that could have given them a better young core to build around.
The Nets didn’t have a great offer for Howard, but the Magic could have gotten Brook Lopez, a solid young center, in return.
The Rockets had a ton of young pieces to offer, including Royce White, Patrick Patterson, Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones, Chandler Parsons, and Kevin Martin (not really young, he’s 29). I’m not sure which of those Houston was willing to part with, but a package of three of those players plus a few draft picks would given Orlando some young talent that is slightly more proven.
Golden State reportedly dangled Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis at Orlando, offering a package centered around one of those two players. Both those players have more star power than Afflalo.
The Hawks made Josh Smith and perhaps Al Horford available, while clearing a ton of cap space to be able to resign Howard in his hometown. Smith or Horford alone would give Orlando a better piece to build around than what they got.
While it’s doubtful the Heat ever came close to offering this, many people believed Dwyane Wade for Howard would be a logical trade for both teams. From rumors of getting Wade in return to actually getting a few role players and picks shows just how miserably Orlando failed in this trade.
The saddest part is that Orlando eventually traded Howard to the team that had the best player to give back in return. But somehow, Andrew Bynum did not end up on the Magic.
On the bright side, we have a full season ahead of us with no chance of any Dwight Howard trade rumors. Then the drama can start all over again when Dwight’s a free agent.