This week (and likely part of next) is going to be spent looking back at the season that was. The 2010-11 season was extremely disappointing for everyone with the Magic and quite possibly was the most disappointing season in team history. That is not hyperbole, either. But that post is for later in the summer.
The immediate concern for Otis Smith, Stan Van Gundy, Rich DeVos and Magic fans is how to get things right again. It won’t be easy, that much is for sure.
Orlando lacks the four things any team needs to rebuild quickly: cap room, friendly contracts, youth and draft picks. That is a hard truth and Orlando has backed itself into something of a corner entering this offseason. The uncertainty of the collective bargaining agreement and the conditions upon which free agency and even trades will work make the future that much more difficult to predict.
Because Orlando already has committed so much money to next year — Jason Richardson and Earl Clark are the only free agents of note — under the current rules Orlando has only the mid-level exception to work with in free agency. Trades are an option, but the Magic don’t have much to offer with only Ryan Anderson as a true expiring contract in 2012 — Dwight Howard, Gilbert Arenas and Brandon Bass each have early termination options.
Again, not much to offer if you are Otis Smith and the Magic. And many times when you make trades, you are simply exchanging one team’s “trash” for another.
As much as fans are frustrated with Smith and Van Gundy right now, neither appears to be going anywhere, receiving assurances from Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide before the Game Five win. And really nor should they.
Van Gundy has created the most sustained success in team history and Otis Smith built the team that got him that. They, perhaps, earned some leeway because of past work. But to be sure, both need to re-prove their worth in 2011-12. The margin for error is incredibly small as the Magic fell from championship contender to first round exit all in about nine months.
The rebuilding process starts with Smith this summer in how he manages the roster he has and spends whatever money DeVos lets him in free agency. The mid-level exception can be very hit or miss. One year it can net you Mickael Pietrus or Matt Barnes. The next year it gets you Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon. A mid-level exception player can also take time to germinate — as it did with Hedo Turkoglu from 2004-09.
Any major change to the Magic is going to come through trade as mid-level exception players can be very hit or miss as you can see. And very few mid-level exception players make the kind of impact Orlando needs.
As Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel briefly touched on Sunday, the Magic’s real trade assets include Dwight Howard (a superstar), Ryan Anderson (a young hot-shooting stretch-4) and Brandon Bass (a backup power forward who can be successful as a starter). J.J. Redick is a good trade asset, but his contract can be considered unfriendly despite having only two years left and a decreasing salary from his front-loaded deal. Jameer Nelson has two years left, but likely the Magic value him more than any other team and so they may not feel they will get equal value in return.
And of course, any trade of these players may bring in longer contracts in a roughshod effort to get the team back to contention.
Everyone else has a long term deal likely worth more than they really are, making trades even more difficult.
The mid-level exception is likely the only place where Orlando is going to make a major impact. And that can be very hit or miss.
What Orlando can get for the mid-level exception — Aaron Brooks (restricted)? Marcus Thornton? J.R. Smith? Leandro Barbosa (ETO)? Andrei Kirilenko? A Grant Hill return? A hobbled Michael Redd? — is anybody’s guess. The names listed above are just a sample of guys who could net the full mid-level exception perhaps. None fixes any of Orlando’s real problems.
Free agency and trades are something to get into much much later in the offseason. Unfortunately, there is lots of time to prepare and evaluate for this time.
Photos via DayLife.com.