Who would of thought the Magic would have been the winners of the four-team blockbuster deal that sent their franchise cornerstone Dwight Howard away from the franchise that drafted him first overall? After all, the NBA community saw Orlando essentially trade Howard for veteran role players, solid prospects and a few draft picks.
The key absence in the haul the Magic received was a star, which may be a blessing in disguise. Many wanted to see Orlando add a new face for the franchise, but the fact that the team decided to pursue another path will put them in a perfect position for rebuilding.
If the team added a star to take Howard's place in Orlando, the team would be stuck in mediocrity for years to come. Additionally, the Magic would have to shell out max-level money to a player who would probably not even be considered in their long-term plans. So, Magic fans should rejoice that the roster doesn't contain either Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol.
Let's examine further into why Orlando won this eye-popping trade.
Acquired: Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson
Lost: Moe Harkless, Nikola Vučević, Andre Iguodala, one conditional first-round pick
Honestly, my first reaction to this giant transaction was how the Philadelphia 76ers made out like bandits. Adding the second-best center in the entire Association for a small forward whose skills and athleticism are on the decline will almost certainly always work out in a team's favor.
The key word in the aforementioned sentence is "almost".
Bynum has yet to play one possession this season for his new franchise. Due to a knee injury that the public knows few details on, the big man has been unable to contribute to a roster that has been somewhat successful without a star presence in the middle.
Will Bynum break up the chemistry with his prima donna attitude? Does his play style mesh with the team? Will the seven-footer ever be as dominant? Could the trio of Moe Harkless, Andre Iguodala and Nikola Vučević, all traded away in the deal, have been enough to catapult the team to the top of the East?
More questions than answers arose from this deal, and I personally don't think Andrew Bynum is worth the risk.
Acquired: Andre Iguodala
Lost: Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, second-round draft pick from Denver next year, a first-round pick in 2014
After a miraculous Olympic showing, Andre Iguodala has struggled in his first year in Denver. Not only has he taken another step back on offense, but he really hasn't shown why his value is higher than Afflalo's.
After all, the former Nuggets swingman is younger, more athletic and more offensively skilled than Iguodala. Additionally, the team lost depth with the departure of Al Harrington. Lastly, the Nuggets also gave up two picks for the future for Iggy's services.
While the team did gain future cap space with the swap, they also lost an opportunity to take control of a weaker Western Conference. Outside of the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, the West is up for grabs, and the Nuggets could have been in perfect position to possess that slot.
That's not to say the team can't do that now. If Iguodala starts playing more like the franchise was hoping he would, then this team could be dangerous. That's a big question, though, as even the new franchise cornerstone knows that he is behind the "learning curve," as he told Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post:
“I’m probably behind the curve,” Iguodala said. “It’s been a roller-coaster as far as comfort level, the ups and downs of the NBA season, but that happens in transition. The main thing is to stay positive, continue to do the little things well and hopefully once out of slumps faster instead of letting them linger on.”
Los Angeles Lakers
Acquired: Dwight Howard, Earl Clark, Chris Duhon
Lost: Andrew Bynum, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, conditional second-round pick in 2015, a conditional first-round pick in 2017
It's hard to hand over a bad grade to a franchise that obtained the NBA's most dominant center while keeping Pau Gasol and enough assets to add Steve Nash. However, the Los Angeles Lakers are doing everything in their might to make this a bad trade for the team.
Howard hasn't just struggled in his first season in Hollywood, but he is constantly making headlines for his goofy personality that causes drama in the city. Whether it be a mysterious Kobe-Dwight feud, firing back shots at former Laker Robert Horry or getting ejected from games, Howard is starting to wear out his welcome with his new organization.
Sitting at a mediocre 17-23, the Lakers were supposed to contend for Western Conference supremacy. It seems that Howard has done more bad than good in his new town, as his averages of 17 points, 12 boards and 2.5 blocks per contest weren't able to put the Lakers over the hump.
While fans of the Lakers will point towards the injury bug that has plagued the roster this season, as Nash, Gasol and Howard have all missed significant time, there is no excuse for Los Angeles to possess a worse record than the Houston Rockets (21-21) and the Milwaukee Bucks (21-18).
It truly is a shame that four possible Hall of Famers may not be able to take their team to the playoffs.
Acquired: Moe Harkless, Nikola Vučević, Al Harrington, Arron Afflalo, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, a second-round draft pick from Denver next year, a first-round pick from either Denver or New York in 2014, a conditional first-round pick from Philadelphia, a conditional second-round pick from the Lakers in 2015, a conditional first-round pick from the Lakers in 2017, a $17.8 million trade exception to use over the next year
Lost: Dwight Howard, Earl Clark, Chris Duhon, Jason Richardson
Oh my, how the tides have turned!
The Magic, once considered the losers of the Howard deal, have actually thrived with their new roster. Sure, the lack of Howard's presence has soured the team's record, but a semblance of a young core is starting to form, with most of these pieces acquired through the four-team trade.
Nikola Vučević and Moe Harkless look like legitimate building blocks for the franchise.
Harkless, a 19-year-old small forward from St. John's, is probably one of the smoothest, most confident players on the roster. The fact that he is contributing solid minutes in the rotation as a teenager is nothing to scoff at.
Nikola Vučević, on the other hand, is a bit more developed, but is still young at 22 years old. Unlike Harkless, the seven-footer is putting up huge numbers for the team, possibly putting him as one of the favorites in the Most Improved Player award race. Averaging a double-double with nearly 12 points and 11 boards per night, it really makes one think if the Lakers truly got the best center in the long-term.
Anyway, combine those two prospects with power forward Andrew Nicholson, center Kyle O'Quinn, backup small forward DeQuan Jones and combo guard E'Twaun Moore and the Magic have one of the most productive young units in the league.
The future looks magical in Orlando!