Apr 18, 2013 12:45 PM EDT
A winning record to reach the playoffs wasn't necessary this season in the Eastern Conference, which demonstrates how far the below list of eliminated temas are from becoming contenders without addressing significant issues this offseason.
The Big Questions:
- Will they get the No. 1 overall pick?
- Can a frontcourt with a core of Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson and Maurice Harkless compete in the East long-term?
- Can they find another team who will give them an asset for Al Harrington’s partially guaranteed deal?
Notable Free Agents: None
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Round and Golden State’s 2nd Round (own 2nd round held by Cleveland)
The Lay of the Land: The Magic have a fascinating group of young players and a serious chance to add more assets. With a tie for the most ping pong balls, Orlando should be able to bring another high-level talent into the fold. While point guard stands out as the biggest long-term need, the team would be wise to take the best player available since they still need depth and quality at every position. Another interesting piece for Orlando this summer comes in the form of Al Harrington- because his contract is only half-guaranteed for the final two seasons of the deal, the creative Magic front office could use that to try and gain an asset from another team in exchange for the cap savings of a contract that counts on the book for more than the payment amount until he is cut. Considering Orlando already has a ton of money on the books for 13-14, it could even be a way for them to reduce their burden for the following years.
The Big Questions:
- Will they get the No. 1 pick?
- When should they use the amnesty on Tyrus Thomas?
- How much are they willing to pay to keep Gerald Henderson?
Notable Free Agents: Gerald Henderson (Restricted) and Byron Mullins (Restricted)
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Round, No 2nd Round (held by OKC)
The Lay of the Land: While the Bobcats have two potential lottery picks coming from Detroit and Portland in future years, in all likelihood neither of those will make it to Charlotte this season. That could be for the best considering how weak this class is on the lower end of the lottery. That said, the choice to take on Ben Gordon’s extra year to get a pick from Detroit means that Charlotte will have some money this summer but not enough to go after elite talent. The Bobcats do still have their amnesty available and have a perfect target in Tyrus Thomas, though they could still see some potential value in him since they would still need to pay him even if he comes off the books from a salary cap perspective. I’m guessing they wait one more year to push him off on an ice float though doing it now would be fine.
Beyond that, both Byron Mullens and Gerald Henderson will be restricted free agents this summer. The team needs to draw a line in the sand on long-term contracts for both players since while each has value they are not strong enough players to warrant tying up cap space when the team can make big moves in 2014 and beyond.
The Big Questions:
- Do they want to use their cap space this summer or wait until 2014?
- Will there be a good market for Anderson Varejao? Would the Cavaliers want to trade him now?
- How can they best use their two picks in each round?
Notable Free Agents: Wayne Ellington (Restricted)
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Round, Miami’s 1st Round, Own 2nd Round, Orlando’s 2nd Round
The Lay of the Land: Unlike pretty much every other team on this list, Cleveland might have more resources than they can deal with effectively. Carrying four picks in the first 35 on top of four other players on their rookie deals might be a little too much to handle. Fortunately, the team can combine assets and try to find the right fits at varying positions and roles.
The figure looming over the entire off-season has to be LeBron James. Considering how much trouble the Cavaliers have had acquiring high-level talent outside of the draft, it would make sense for them to try and woo the high-end guys in this class and then save most of their flexibility for the chance of LeBron James wanting to return home. Since Kyrie Irving still has another two years on his deal and then would have a reasonable cap hold, the Cavs would be wise to take on some short-term money and get a pick or two if the elite members of the 2013 free agent class choose to go elsewhere.
The Big Questions:
- What extension will the team offer John Wall and would he accept less than the max at this point?
- Will either Emeka Okafor or Trevor Ariza decline their lucrative options for next season?
- Can the team bring back Martell Webster on a reasonable deal?
- Would any team be interested in giving up a long term expensive talent for an expiring contract?
Notable Free Agents: Emeka Okafor (ETO), Trevor Ariza (Player Option), Martell Webster (Unrestricted)
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Round, Own 2nd Round, New York Knicks’ 2nd Round
The Lay of the Land: The largest consequence of the trade with New Orleans last year was the reduction in salary flexibility for the 13-14 season assuming Okafor and Ariza pick up their options. Either one could choose to go after a longer-term deal though neither should expect to get more per season than what Washington is committed to paying them on their current deals. The challenge for the Wizards would be trying to make the right deal for either should they choose to go for a longer contract since they have value but the team needs the flexibility because next year is the last with John Wall on his rookie deal.
I fully expect the Wizards to offer Wall a generous deal that falls short of the max (more than Curry, Holiday, or Lawson signed for last summer) and have absolutely no idea whether he will take it or not. Considering the Wizards can and should match any four-year deal he could get in restricted free agency in 2014, they have plenty of reason to wait to see if Wall can build on his strong second half.
The Big Questions:
- Can Joe Dumars use his newfound cap space responsibly?
- Will Greg Monroe and the Pistons come to an agreement on an extension?
- What will Andre Drummond’s role be next season?
Notable Free Agents: Jose Calderon (Unrestricted), Jason Maxiell (Unrestricted), and Corey Maggette (Unrestricted)
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Round, Own 2nd Round, Clippers’ 2nd Round (possibly)
The Lay of the Land: After the Tayshaun Prince trade, the Pistons actually have a remarkable amount of cap room this summer. That number will only increase when the team finally amnesties Charlie Villanueva and clears his $8.58 million off the ledger. Without a ton of money committed for 2014, Joe Dumars can afford to be patient with the space they have and go after all sorts of options this summer from signing a free agent like Andre Iguodala or taking on a long-term deal like the Raptors did with Rudy Gay in the aforementioned trade.
The other big potential decision for Detroit centers on Greg Monroe. He is clearly a good player but we still need to see how he can play with franchise building block Andre Drummond. The Pistons should make a low but reasonable offer to Monroe this year and spend most of next season trying to figure out if he can play with Drummond for years to come, ideally making a decision before the trade deadline since Monroe would have value if the team chooses to go in another direction.
The Big Questions:
- Can they get meaningfully better this summer?
- Will they use the amnesty on Linas Kleiza?
- Where will Terrance Ross fit in with Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan?
Notable Free Agents: None
2013 Draft Picks Held: None (1st Rounder to OKC via Houston, 2nd Rounder to Memphis)
The Lay of the Land: By making the trade for Rudy Gay, the Raptors committed to their current group of players for 13-14. Using the amnesty provision on Andrea Bargnani or Linas Kleiza would not alleviate the cap limitations though it could affect how tightly they push against the luxury tax and the apron. The Raptors will need to add a backup PG and likely one more swingman in order to complete their team.
The Big Questions:
- What the heck do they do with Andrew Bynum?
- What the heck do they do with Evan Turner?
- Can they find swingmen that make sense long-term with Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young?
Notable Free Agents: Andrew Bynum (Unrestricted), Nick Young (Unrestricted), and Dorrell Wright (Unrestricted)
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Rounder, Own 2nd Rounder, New Orleans’ 2nd Rounder
The Lay of the Land: After all of the moves that the Sixers’ front office has made over the past 12 months, the only real constant they have moving forward is Jrue Holiday. They have long-term money committed to both Thaddeus Young and Jason Richardson but either can move around in the rotation based on who else the team has in future seasons.
While Andrew Bynum looms largest over this summer, the three-pronged choice for Evan Turner might actually affect the team more directly since they have so much more power over the decision. Turner is eligible for an extension and still has value as a trade asset, so the front office needs to decide whether they want to do one of those options or just hold onto him another year and punt the decision on both keeping him and the extension until the deadline or next summer.
Mar 19, 2013 2:20 PM EDT
MILWAUKEE – Nikola Vucevic felt restricted and tense at times in his first NBA season, bogged down by the game-to-game pressures under Doug Collins. The Philadelphia 76ers had traded Vucevic last offseason in the Dwight Howard deal, gambling – and, ultimately, losing – on Andrew Bynum and his knees. They had no idea Bynum’s knees were ailing to this extent, but to provide further regret has been Vucevic.
With an increased role and elevated minutes for the Orlando Magic, Vucevic doesn’t allow his mistakes to put him down. Instead, the focus has been on not letting errors or losing dent his confidence, but finding correction.
Vucevic couldn’t consistently become part of the 76ers’ rotation a season ago, but he has cemented himself as a significant role player this season. He’s earned the respect and appraisal of LeBron James, putting up two 20-point, 20-rebound performances against the Miami Heat. For Vucevic, there was no pressure to replace Howard as the next Magic center, but he knew he had to prove himself in a way he insists even the 76ers projected.
“No pressure at all, because you can’t replace Dwight,” Vucevic told RealGM. “He’s the best big man in the NBA and I knew coming in here that I wasn’t going to replace him. I just wanted to come to Orlando and show what I can do and get a chance to play.
“Philly knew what I am capable of.”
For his part, Vucevic credits a boost in playing time and the Magic's coaching staff. The emphasis on getting to the playoffs last year helped Vucevic learn during critical parts of a season and a playoff run. And even so, he was encouraged about joining a team on which he could play free, play to develop without constraints.
“I improved over the summer and last year by getting experience in the NBA, and then worked hard in training camp,” Vucevic said. “I’ve gotten better, but I think the main thing is I got minutes. I’m able to play out there, play through stuff, and I don’t think about [mistakes] as much so it’s a lot easier for me to play.”
The Magic played their biggest game of the season last Tuesday when Howard returned to Orlando, losing in front of a sold out home crowd. Still, Magic veterans believed Tuesday had the anticipation of a critical regular season game, never mind the immense media presence. As Jameer Nelson told RealGM, “It was fun to play. It was a big time game and the atmosphere was great, and it was an opportunity for these guys to actually play in a packed arena at home.”
In the days leading up to the game, Vucevic heard people saying he could turn out to be the best player in the trade, due in large part to Howard’s struggles at times with back and shoulder issues. Yet, Vucevic wasn’t fooled – despite how terrific the praise sounded.
“It’s nice to hear that, but I still think Dwight is a better player than I am and I still got a lot of ways to go to get to where he is,” Vucevic said. “It’s nice to hear stuff like that.”
Vucevic put behind him Sunday back-to-back efforts with at least 20 points and 14 rebounds against two playoff teams, and he already has a grasp on which areas he’ll need to continue to improve. At seven feet, he plans to add strength in the offseason, but also sharpen the accuracy on his mid-range jumper – a stroke that has balance and needs growth by getting constant repetition.
“I’m going to put a lot of time in the weight room and work on my post game and add a couple moves to that,” Vucevic said.
“Definitely, the [jumper] is something I work on every day and I’m going to keep working on it. That’s something that’s really going to help my game, just being able to stretch our offense and help my game as well as the team. If I can stretch the floor, the guards have more room to drive. It’s definitely going to help.”
The 76ers knew what they lost in him, Vucevic insists, and still there has to be some regret over trading him. Now, he’s headed toward consideration for Most Improved Player, an award he says isn’t particularly a goal.
As Bynum is lost for the season with surgery on both knees, Vucevic continues piling up double-doubles, tied for fifth-most in the league. Maybe Philadelphia indeed understood Vucevic’s capabilities, and yet leaving has released some tension, allowing him to play and learn through his mistakes, develop and focus on his game.
Feb 21, 2013 6:54 PM EST
To clarify the deal in case anyone got confused in the scramble, the Milwaukee Bucks traded Tobias Harris, Doron Lamb and Beno Udrih to the Orlando Magic for JJ Redick, Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith.
The Milwaukee Bucks Perspective
In essence, the Bucks traded two young players for a rental and a tactical advantage in re-signing J.J. Redick.
Discussing this trade then centers on three components: how much Redick helps the Bucks for the remainder of the season, if/how much acquiring Redick helps them retain him this summer, and how much you like the pieces Milwaukee traded to get him.
I see Redick as a very nice piece for the Bucks to have at a time where he can absolutely provide some use. It feels like no one wants the last few playoff spots in the East and the trade absolutely makes the Bucks better in the short term. Redick allows the Bucks to stretch the floor better and actually provides good effort (and some skill) on defense. He solidifies them as a postseason team even though it feels incredibly unlikely that the move propels them any deeper than a first round exit given the strength at the top of the conference.
Over that time, Milwaukee needs to decide what they would be willing to pay Redick to bring him back and how that fits into their overall strategy. With Brandon Jennings sticking on the team after the deadline, the Bucks have made it clear that he will be their point guard of the future since they can use Restricted Free Agency to match any offer he gets. As such, they likely have to choose between Redick, Monta Ellis, or neither this summer while the players choose between Milwaukee and everywhere else.
I have no personal insight into what Redick wants most in his next deal because he likely will have to choose between money and team success since the best teams could not offer him the maximum amount of dollars either total or per season. It is entirely possible that Milwaukee provides a middle ground which they could have been even without acquiring him. As such, it feels more like an evaluation period than a true asset long-term since a sign-and-trade appears so unlikely given the circumstances.
The players the Bucks gave up in order to get Redick have their strong suits, but both feel like rotation players at best under their current deals. While both could end up being more than that eventually (particularly Harris, though I do not feel that rising above a low-end rotation player seems likely for either), that sort of move would likely come late enough that they either would not be under their current contracts or just ready to get a meaningful raise in free agency. Since their value to Milwaukee was more prospective and vague than Redick’s, I totally see the deal from their perspective. Plus, I like both Ish Smith and Gustavo Ayon for them especially since both are signed very inexpensively for next season and they play positions where having cheap players like that makes even more sense.
Grade for Milwaukee: B
The Orlando Magic Perspective
The Magic ran into a problem when they made the Dwight Howard trade: they had two different perimeter players in Arron Afflalo and JJ Redick who should spend a vast majority of their time guarding opposing Shooting Guards while being valued support players but not lead scorers on offense. That logjam coupled with Redick’s pending free agency made making a move the smart decision considering Redick's rumored desired salary.
Keeping all that in mind, Orlando made a fine deal but not one with much meaningful upside. Beno Udrih provides some value this season but will not be there long-term while Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb have two more full seasons under their rookie deals. Both are fine players who could also have some value on the trade market because they are so cheap for multiple years. Interestingly, both Harris and Lamb are signed to cheap contracts until 2015, giving Orlando plenty of time to make decisions and zero reason to move quickly if they do not want to. At the worst, the Magic get a chance to evaluate the two of them with relatively little pressure as they try to win the derby for whatever player they want at the top of the lottery (Sink for Shabazz? Not Win for Nerlens? Crash for Cody? Lose for Len? Ben or Bust?). Orlando has so few players that are a pivotal part of their long-term future that they can afford to take some fliers even though it seems possible they could have gotten some with higher upside.
Grade for Orlando: C+
Jan 23, 2013
J.J. Redick has come a long way since his rookie year when then coach Brian Hill wouldn’t give him a consistent chance to play. He’s now a valued NBA commodity and a central part of Orlando's transition period.
Dec 12, 2012
As we move forward with “Amnesty 2.0,” we will see the fascinating possibilities that the provision brings even as the number of teams and players left dwindles with time.
Oct 30, 2012
Alec Burks, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, Jimmy Butler and Jordan Hamilton are five players that didn't play in the Rookie Game last season that are poised to have breakout campaigns in their second NBA go-around.
Oct 25, 2012
Glen Davis will be one of the Magic's go-to guys, a challenge he has wanted for many years. The spotlight, and everything that comes along with it, will be on him this season. He can't wait to get started and is eager to prove he can handle the responsibility of being in a featured role.
Oct 19, 2012
The Southeast Division could have one team that wins the 2013 NBA Finals (Heat), and four teams that fail to even make the playoffs in the Wizards, Hawks, Magic and Bobcats.
Sep 10, 2012
While the list of current surefire Hall of Famers is rather obvious, the candidacies of the next ten (Chris Paul, Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, Dwight Howard, Tony Parker, Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, Tracy McGrady and Steve Nash) will be fascinating developments over the coming years.
Aug 10, 2012
There is no doubt the Lakers, 76ers and Nuggets improved significantly with the four-team Dwight Howard trade, but here's why the future of the Magic is immediately more promising as well.
Jul 19, 2012
The Heat, Thunder and Lakers appear to be a cut above the remainder of the NBA, but how do the 27 other teams rank?
Jul 09, 2012
In dealing Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic should look for a package similar to the one David Stern got the New Orleans Hornets for Chris Paul: a star-caliber talent, a high draft pick and no long-term salary obligations.
Jun 29, 2012
Whle the Pistons, Blazers, Bobcats, Nets, Thunder and Bulls headline the 'Great Drafts', the caboose of 'Bad Drafts' is comprised of the Cavaliers, Suns, Bucks, Wolves, Heat and Knicks.
Jun 28, 2012
The Andre Drummond/Perry Jones effect on this draft before we make sense of picks seven through 30 just hours before a flood of draft-day trades shreds every mock.
Jun 21, 2012
The 2012 NBA Draft is a week away and nothing is certain beyond Anthony Davis going to the Hornets with the first overall pick even though several scenarios are beginning to crystalize.
Jun 19, 2012
There are two core reasons why players outperform their pre-draft expectations, while there are two main paths for prospects to underachieve.
May 23, 2012
While every team in the lottery can bring their Anthony Davis jersey if they win the first overall pick, the gap between Thomas Robinson, Bradley Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Andre Drummond is extremely narrow for me and highly intriguing.
May 23, 2012
The Magic are positioned to lose Dwight Howard and come out looking like they did everything in their power to keep him. In the meantime, Howard’s image will take another hit.
May 07, 2012
The Pacers delivered a knockout punch in their series against the Magic, taking Game 4 on the road 101-99 to move one win away from advancing to the second round.
May 03, 2012
It took three games, but the Pacers finally looked as many expected they would against a Magic team missing Dwight Howard. They led by as many as 29 points and never trailed en route to a 97-74 victory, taking a 2-1 lead.
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