With the LeBron sweepstakes in full bloom, rumor and whatever the crystal ball or magic eight ball have to say carry almost the same weight as hard facts. Even after James verbally commits to wherever, I am sure there will be reports saying he is leaning back toward another team. Otis Smith and the Magic will surely be watching the moves James and the other free agents in this star-studded class will make — especially after Miami and Chicago worked so hard on draft night to shed cap space to make a run at two or possibly three of them.
The landscape of the Eastern Conference is shifting a bit. Many believe the Magic cannot reach a third consecutive conference finals without making a splash and joining in the fun.
I do not believe this to be completely true. Orlando has plenty of tweaks to make and needs to fill before the season begins and, while the team will not react or overreact to what other teams are doing, it knows it has to do something to keep up with the Jones’ (or James’ in this case).
It was not surprising that the Magic have been at the center of several trade rumors as they look for that elusive scorer who can support Dwight Howard and dominate the end of games when Howard’s free throw shooting makes him too much of a liability. What I think is with all the big names in free agency, everyone is getting a little star struck. Any big name that can be moved seems to be up for grabs and, as a courtesy and in part doing his due diligence, Otis Smith is inquiring about them.
Smith has already reportedly received and fielded calls inquiring about Hedo Turkoglu, Luol Deng, Chris Paul and Gilbert Arenas. This is officially the season of rumors. But the odds of any one of these deals happening has to be considered pretty small. Orlando does not really have the pieces to make any of it happen.
To get any of these players the Magic would likely have to trade Vince Carter and his expiring contract and then either Marcin Gortat (who would start for most teams) or Brandon Bass. Whatever they get back could affect whether they can re-sign JJ Redick and certainly whether they can re-sign Matt Barnes.
The most delectable rumor involves the acquisition of Chris Paul. Paul is widely considered one of the top five point guards in the league. Acquiring him would undoubtedly mean Jameer Nelson’s departure in that deal. Orlando would trade its strong scoring point guard for a pass-happy one. It would undoubtedly add a new dimension to the team.
But is Paul a good fit? Orlando already moves the ball pretty well. Paul would add a great penetrator and a guy who wants to push the ball. The Magic could become those early 2000s Suns teams with a much better center. If there were a way to make this happen, it definitely needs to be explored.
The other rumors might be simple folly and a need to fill copy.
Gilbert Arenas? Almost the exact opposite of what Orlando needs. He is a small shooting guard who favors his own shot. It was difficult to convert Vince Carter into the type of team player the Magic needed. Arenas could be even more difficult to “train.”
Not helping him — or Paul for that matter — is his history of injury. Paul has missed significant time the last two seasons with various leg injuries. Not anything that seems to be recurring, but they happen often enough to be somewhat concerning. Of course, Arenas has missed the majority of the last two seasons with his knee injury and then with his suspension. He did not seem close to recovered when he did play last season.
But Smith’s past relationship with Arenas will keep that rumor circulating.
Hedo Turkoglu’s desire to return to Orlando is going to be stonewalled by Carter’s previous relationship with Toronto. No Raptors general manager would make a deal to reacquire Carter unless a buy out was part of a condition of the trade. It is that unlikely.
There really are very few combinations that would allow Orlando take on Turkoglu’s behemoth contract. Whatever deal they make would have to replace whoever they give away. Trading Carter and not receiving a shooting guard in return would greatly hurt Orlando’s depth at that position.
It seems though that a lot of the talk is wishful thinking. Smith is holding his cards close to the vest and waiting to see what happens and where the dominoes fall. He has said he is willing to stand pat and make little changes as necessary rather than do any major overhauling.
But, as always, if the right deal comes along, Smith is ready to make a deal.