A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

The Orlando Panic

with 5 comments

Yesterday was one heck of a day for the Orlando Magic.  Not one but two blockbuster trades.  Away go two of the team’s starters (Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis) plus two more rotation players (Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus).  In come Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu & change.  Stunning, I cannot remember a team so drastically remaking itself so quickly after so much success.

My initial thought was that this wasn’t wise.  Typically when we see teams that almost win the whole shebang do violent changes to themselves in the name of “we’re still not good enough!”, it doesn’t work.  A great team that functions a particular way isn’t likely to be able to re-made with a very different set of talent and become significantly better, and it has a very good chance of getting worse.  If the franchise really believes that the team’s current slide signifies that the team’s better days are behind it, then I get why they’d make the change – but why would you react so dramatically after such a small sample size?

More likely is that the team had simply been unhappy with Lewis and Carter because of their poor play in last year’s playoffs and they just wanted them gone for comparable talent.  I get that, but if I were running the franchise I’d try to look at very specific weaknesses and address them with as minimal disruption as possible.

The most interesting part of the trade to me is the acquisition of Arenas.  To be honest, when I watched the Magic struggle against the Celtics last year, the thing I kept thinking about was not Lewis or Carter, but Jameer Nelson.  Nelson was playing better than Lewis and Carter at the time, but Nelson’s issues to me seemed more systematic.  The best thing you can do for Dwight Howard is get him guy’s with great court vision.  If Howard had a Rajon Rondo (or obviously a Nash, a Kidd, a Paul, etc), I think he has those super-dominant games we see him have against every team much more consistently.  Do that, and the Magic probably win some titles.

So what do the Magic do?  They keep the mediocre-passer, great-scorer Nelson, and acquire another mediocre-passer, great-scorer in Arenas.  Yikes.  It’s as if they read in the manual that it’s good to have a great combo guard scorer 6th man, without considering that that really only makes sense when your starting point guard isn’t also a combo guard.

Sigh.  Well, I’m certainly not going to guarantee this won’t work.  The team is going to end up looking significantly different, and there’s always the chance that it settles into a functioning system that is superior to what was before, but I really doubt I’ll ever come to the conclusion that these trades were the result of a master plan.

As far as the other teams involved.  Washington clearly made a smart trade – the goal was to reduce their long term cap hit from Arenas who couldn’t possibly fit into the Wizards’ future.  Phoenix, unlike Orlando, is far enough away from contending that a big shake up makes sense presuming they want to become contenders again – it may or may not work, but with Nash at the helm, at this point it seems a lock that the offense will always be good, and Gortat may give major help to the defense.

5 Responses

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  1. Hey man, great post I’m defs glad I took the time out to read it. Anyways, I was just shocked to see this big blockbuster trade go through and it just makes the NBA season that much more exciting. Hedo Turkoglu going back to the magic with Gilbert along with J-Rich. The Magic really needed a shakeup and I think it will be good for them. Actually, I think it works out pretty decently for all the teams. They seemed to have gotten what they wanted, or gotten rid of what they didn’t want for that matter lol. Also, you think you could check out my blog, cuz I really wanna hear what you have to say. http://chrisross91.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/win-win-win/

    Chris Ross

    December 19, 2010 at 12:39 pm

  2. I think they should have strictly made the Arenas trade and kept Gortat and Carter, then shipped out Jameer for depth or a shooting guard and started Carter at the 3, he’s probably better served there now that he’s slowed down anyway.


    December 21, 2010 at 8:21 pm

  3. I think I’ll definitely go with you to the extent that I’d feel better for the Magic if they’d only done 1 of the 2 trades. Trading Lewis for Arenas by itself may or may not work out, but it’s just one trade of one player. The other trade is bigger, but still on its own doesn’t smack of desperation.

    As far as a plan to essentially replace Nelson with Arenas, I dunno, maybe. My issue with Nelson is that he’s not enough of a point guard, so to me replacing him with someone even less of a point guard is something I’d only consider if I had come to the conclusion that Nelson was a lot worse than the rest of the league thinks.

    Matt Johnson

    December 21, 2010 at 11:12 pm

  4. I felt Arenas for Lewis was a decent risk worth taking, but giving up Gortat and a 1st to switch Vince for Hedo and JRich just made no sense to me.

    I think Orlando needed to get tougher and bigger, they actually lost size in this deal and got no more playoff dependable guys. I’d have tried a Vince for Rip Hamilton type deal before this and then gone after Anderson Varejao


    December 22, 2010 at 4:39 pm

  5. […] this. When the Magic essentially blew up their supporting cast earlier this season, I labelled it a panic move. Regardless of whether it was, it has certainly pushed the Magic into an even worse position […]

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