Everyone wants to move on. Everyone is waiting.
Now that the Magic have a head coach, have a general manager, the next step is undoubtedly to build a team to play. It is already August and the Magic have added only two players to their roster — Gustavo Ayon and Andrew Nicholson. Kyle O’Quinn remains unsigned, and, more importantly, Dwight Howard remains untraded.
The Magic are seemingly halted from doing anything. They are hampered by the salary cap — $66.6 million is already committed for a cap that has been set at $58 million. There is very little room for the Magic to maneuver. The roster that finished the 2012 season is likely the one that will begin the 2013 roster. The biggest move the Magic can make is trading Dwight Howard. It remains the one move Orlando is expected to make before training camp opens.
It is true, the Magic retain their non-taxpayer mid-level exception, as explained by Larry Coon, but would not be able to use the full amount of it because it would take them above the taxpayer line (if I am understanding things correctly… I may not be). Orlando is in that awkward place of being above the salary cap and below the tax line without the ability to do anything.
Honestly, what free agent wants to walk into the situationt he Magic are in? Is this team heading toward a championship or heading toward rebuilding? Is Dwight Howard coming or going? Free agents do not want to commit until these questions are answered. And the Magic do not really have the room to make the moves they want.
The foundation of what Rob Hennigan is trying to build will be based on what the team receives in return for Howard. Or, if the unthinkable happens, how quickly Hennigan can remove Otis Smith’s mistakes and rid the franchise of some of its awful contracts. The Dwight Howard trade is supposed to help with that process.
It should become clear then that Orlando’s real problem is not getting rid of Dwight Howard. That is more of a means to an end. The real problem is ridding the franchise of poor deals for Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon, Hedo Turkoglu (whose deal is not as bad anymore) and Quentin Richardson. Between those four players, Orlando paid $22.4 million for 7.5 wins produced. So between those four players, the Magic paid $3 million per win produced. It becomes particularly egriegous when you look at them individually — Jason Richardson, $1.9 million per win produced; Chris Duhon, $2.7 million.
Ryan Anderson produced 8.9 wins on his own and Dwight Howard produced 7.7 wins on his own too — the Magic paid $2.3 million for every win he produced. A player like Howard is worth every penny. Duhon? Not so much.
The Magic’s biggest problem the last two years was a lack of talent and a lack of production from whatever talent the Magic thought they had. You can see from the chart below that the Magic got a relative bargain in Howard and Anderson last year. Whereas, Turkoglu and Duhon particularly did not live up to their salaries.
Until that changes, either though personnel moves or players stepping up, Orlando is going to be stuck in limbo. And because the real goal is getting rid of poor contracts, the Magic have to be willing to sell their assets to do it. The only asset is Dwight Howard — maybe J.J. Redick too… maybe Hedo Turkoglu’s partially guaranteed contract for 2014.
There is frustration that the Magic have not been able to begin the rebuilding process. They have not been able to do anything. The feeling might be that if the Magic are not going to clear the decks, they might as well be trying to get better.
The only answer to that is patience. Orlando still has not made the big move it needs to open up that space and that ability to make the moves necessary to move forward. Quite literally, waiting to make the necessary Dwight Howard move has left the Magic in a state of paralysis. Orlando knows it does not have a championship team (even with Howard) as currently constructed. With no option to move forward, the best option is to step back. This is definitely what the Magic have decided in working to rid themselves of Howard.
Until Howard is traded, Orlando remains in paralysis waiting for change to be made.