The Orlando Magic ended their year-long struggle with incumbent superstar Dwight Howard over his vacillating desires to either remain a part of the franchise or of course leave for greener pastures (greenback pastures?). They suffered through an awkward post-practice interview of then head coach Stan Van Gundy with Dwight Howard, Howard's subsequent trade re-re-demand, Howard's sub-subsequent opt-in, Howard's reiteration of his trade demand, then a few more reiterations, then a narrowing of the contenders, then an almost trade (Brooklyn), a few more almost trades (Brooklyn and now gutted Houston), then a stalemate and then finally the trade. And Dwight Howard goes to...the freaking Los Angeles Lakers. It's tough to quantify just how devastated I am as a Kings fan. And it's probably tough to quantify just how every other fan who isn't a Laker fan feels right now. So let's just focus on the Magic. The 4-team trade was between them, the Lakers, the 76ers and the Nuggets. So what did they get? Igoudala? Gasol? Lawson? Bynum?
(slamming head into desk)
So, the Orlando Magic went through all of the above traumas to come away with Arron Afflalo (a do it all guard who stopped doing a lot of the all after he got paid), Al Harrington (and his man boobs), Nikola Vucevic (a scrappy big man with some potential), Moe Harkless (a rookie who Orlando apparently coveted), and then scraps (Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga). Saying they received half of Dwight's value in return would be a stretch. This trade absolutely tanked. And the uproar is only going to get worse for new GM, Rob Hennigan who apparently didn't leave on necessarily good terms when he departed San Antonio for Oklahoma City. Time will only tell if this trade gave the Magic the assets they coveted at the beginning of this saga: cap space, young players and draft picks. The draft picks will have to come from their own doing, those protected first rounders aren't going to have nearly as much value as the draft picks the now awful Orlando Magic will provide themselves. The cap space at first is seemingly non-existent, considering the Magic had hoped to rid themselves of some of their worse contracts but instead chose to compound the departures of Jason Richardson and Chris Duhon with the re-signing of Jameer Nelson and the additions of Afflalo and Al Harrington. Safe to say some interesting thought went into this decision by Rob Hennigan. Or this cave by Rob Hennigan?
Magic Grade: D-
So how did the other teams do? The 76ers swapped out their best player, Andre Igoudala in return for enigmatic center Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson. The latter of which is FAR from washed up in my opinion and could have a few relevant moments in the playoffs of 2013, sneaky good pick up for the 76ers there. The real gauge of success with this move will come from how much Andrew Bynum either embraces or disgraces the role of best player on this particular team. The influence of Doug Collins should have a positive effect on Andrew. The Philadelphia media should give Bynum no leash for his usual line of bullshit. The opportunity to prove that he's worth the touches and attention he's come off as craving should get his ass into high gear. And if all those things happen, then the Sixers just became a scary team. Then again...
Bynum is the same guy who just until last year, had missed a chunk of virtually every season with an awful knee injury. He has one year left on his contract and then can explore free agency. Is he at 25 a lesser risk on a long term deal than Igoudala at 28 or whoever else you could have traded Iggy for on a long term deal? The Sixers took a huge risk in dealing perhaps the league's best perimeter defender and a do-it-all guard/forward for a player like Bynum. But he's the second best center in the NBA, and now he's the best center in his conference again. He could easily embrace the fandom of Philadelphians like nobody since Allen Iverson. The Sixers were poised to be stuck in that "fringe playoff team who keeps getting bounced in the 1st or 2nd rounds" position, but instead they got aggressive and swung for the fences. And I'll always respect a team like that. They'll be fun to watch next season.
Sixers Grade: B+
Speaking of fun to watch next season, the Denver Nuggets just added Andre Igoudala. Better yet, they only had to ship away Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington to do so. The latter of which, just clogged the frontcourt of a team that had little to no use for him anymore, and Igoudala is just a more cost-efficient long term and better version of Afflalo. Arron Afflalo was owed about $34 million over 4 years and Al Harrington was owed $21 million over the next three years and now the Nuggets are only on the hook for 2 years and about $30 million of Igoudala who hold at or around the same production as both of those players. The Nuggets now have the flexibility to go small with Igoudala at the 3, or go big with Iggy at the 2 and play the Gallo-Faried-McGee trio in the frontcourt. Regardless of whatever lineup they choose, Igoudala's perimeter defense wizardry and fastbreak, open court skills will be absolutely unleashed in that hectic Nuggets's system, and the Nuggets could be poised to quietly slip into that 3rd spot in the Western Conference. Now if only they didn't play in the same conference as Oklahoma City and LA.
But let's all take a step back to appreciate the so-far genius of Masai Uriji, the Denver Nuggets GM. I say "so-far" because we've seen the reputations of GM's in the past take as far a nosedive as their decision-making does, so let's hold out judgement until we see this team in it's full capacity. They've done a terrific job of retaining their assets and shelling them out in the future for players they actually want. In the summer of 2011 they easily could have let Nene sign with any number of teams but they re-upped him to a then-insane amount of money and counted on a sucker wanting to take him on at or around the February trade deadline. Well that sucker turned out to be Washington, and the Nuggets turned 5 years and $67 million of Nene into 4 years and $44 million of JaVale McGee. This year it was Arron Afflalo, who was signed to a somewhat modest 5 years $43 million contract, only to be packaged out with another relatively steep contract for a player that the Nuggets actually coveted. Now they have a nucleus heading into next season of Ty Lawson, Igoudala, Gallo, Wilson Chandler, Faried, McGee, Jordan Hamilton, Andre Miller, the Almighty Timofey Mozgov and Corey Brewer. Shit, that's a versatile lineup. Most of the development in future years is going to have to come from within, or whatever happens with Wilson Chandler in a trade perhaps, but this team is very well set up to contend for the next 3-4 years at a level previously thought unimaginable in the Mile-High City.
Nuggets Grade: A-
And last but not least...the Los Angeles Lakers. The Los Angeles Lakers gave up the second best center in the NBA, Andrew Bynum as well as the very best white jumper in the NBA, Josh McRoberts for Dwight Howard. Only a team with the Lakers magnitude could've pulled this off. This point has been beaten to death over and over by talking head in the national media, the Lakers always find a way to reload. Wilt in '68, Kareem in '75, Shaq in '96 and now Dwight in '12. The Lakers always find a way to reload, to jump back into the national spotlight. This summer has been quite different though in terms of overall magnitude. The Lakers coupled their addition of Dwight Howard with the addition of Steve Nash, a championship hungry veteran who will love the change of scenery to Los Angeles just as much as Dwight Howard will. And not only will those two enjoy the scenery together, but they'll also enjoy numerous pick and roll opportunities as well. Not so much pick and rolls with each other, but can you imagine Nash getting in a pick and roll with Gasol, fooling the defense and drawing Howard's man just for a lob to Howard. If that opportunity doesn't present itself, you have the pick and roll maestro making a decision to pick out the defenses weakest point whether that be dumping it off to Gasol, attacking the basket or I don't know, hitting the 2nd greatest SG of all time in Kobe Bryant. Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash are going to get beat alot this season on the defensive side of the ball, but teams could attack the basket when it was Gasol-Bynum. Gasol-Howard on the other hand? That's a whole different level of big now. The Lakers are huge. And they're going in a whole other direction stylistically than almost every other team in the league right now. For a greater understanding of what I mean by that, check this piece out.
The Lakers faults right now are still relevant. They need to get a little more athletic on the wings. Their perimeter shooting can still stand to get better, and no the recent signing of Jodie Meeks isn't going to solve those problems entirely. Kobe Bryant will have to defer a lot of the ball handling responsibilities now that Steve Nash is on board and the Lakers still have two of the best big men in the league. Whether he can stomach that is yet to be seen, then again it's already been seen, and so far he hasn't done so. So here's to another year of it!
Lakers Grade: A
This Dwightmare is a whole different animal than The Decision was two years ago. This wasn't about blatantly alienating an entire fan base and organization as a Free Agent. This was about doing those same things from within the organization itself. From holding the very same organization hostage that you praised in your Lakers introductory press conference, who drafted you with the 1st overall pick in 2004 when many thought Emeka Okafor of all players was the better prospect. The very same organization who gave you your first NBA Finals appearance, and subsequently your first taste of bitter defeat. The very same organization that met with you just two weeks ago to see if you'd still like to play for them even with all the shit you put them through. Through it all the Lakers are back in the spotlight though, it took them a few years to get it down, but they're back. They always find a way of doing so.