Inevitably every offseason the question has to be asked (and then bitterly swallowed and shaken off as if it were never asked). Perhaps the biggest mistake in Otis Smith’s tenure as general manager (or assistant general manager) continues not to hurt Orlando much, but also continues to be a specter full of promise but ultimately disappointment.
But here we go again, just before the season starts with another round of Dancing With Fran Vazquez.
Brian Schmitz of The Orlando Sentinel reported Sunday that Vazquez is starting to warm up to the idea of coming to Orlando and could be in a Magic uniform as early as next season. At 27, Vazquez is entering his prime and has been an important part of Regal Barcelona, one of the best teams in Europe. So if there was ever a time for him to test the NBA waters, now is the time. If he is not ready now, he never will be.
His career arc mirrors Arvydas Sabonis, who spent the majority of his career overseas as Portland held his rights after drafting him in 1986 and came over to the U.S. as a 31-year-old rookie in 1995. Sabonis though has a very different skill set than Vazquez.
Vazquez averaged 7.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game while shooting 68 percent from the floor in Euroleague last year. Not overly impressive numbers, but if you have seen any video of him you know he is an extremely athletic, defensive-minded post player. In the NBA games in Europe, Vazquez scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds (and fouled out) in a game against the Lakers earlier this month.
Clearly whether Vazquez comes over or not, there is still some fine tuning to do with the 6-foot-10 power forward.
But certainly Magic fans will be excited with the prospect of Vazquez finally coming over. It appears Otis Smith and the Magic have been in constant contact with Vazquez and have given him the time to make his decision. That kind of good faith should count for something when he finally does come across the Atlantic Ocean. A lot of the barriers that kept Vazquez from coming over appear to be breaking down — he has spent the last four or five years in a big city, Barcelona, and has even learned some English.
This appears to be happening … or not.
Remember, Vazquez sort of leveraged his selection in the NBA Draft to get a bigger contract in his native Spain. Could this be another similar move for a bigger deal?
Why is this story coming out now right before the season? Could this be a move from the Magic to increase his trade value? As Schmitz reports the Magic have been fielding trade offers for Vazquez, although they have been very patient with things.
It is no secret young players are very valuable, and it is no secret Vazquez and Marcin Gortat have similar skills. They are both defensive-minded post players with a little offense thrown in there. Gortat is probably better at defense at this point and Vazquez is probably a little more developed offensively. Gortat is the better fit for Orlando right now.
But Gortat is almost as available as any player on the roster (him and Brandon Bass). Vazquez will certainly come cheaper — whether he can be had for the rookie scale or not — than what Orlando is paying Gortat and Bass. And you kind of get the feeling the Magic might be amenable to cutting salary seeing as they have the second highest payroll in the NBA with no guarantee of reaping the fruits of a title.
Even with Vince Carter’s contract coming off the books, Orlando needs to maintain flexibility to resign Dwight Howard and, possibly, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson in the summer of 2013. Bringing in Vazquez, along with a ready Daniel Orton, could be part of the “master plan” for the future of the Magic. It is very easy to see an Orlando front line of Howard with Orton and Vazquez behind him.
As you can see, this dance has a lot of intrigue and mystery around it. Maybe, Vazquez comes over. Maybe, he does not.
At this point who knows.