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Rob Hennigan might be smarter than we think

AP Photo/DayLifeIt has been a week since the Dwight Howard trade became official. The reaction still remains mostly negative, but not as negative as it was the moments after the trade. Most people have come to realize that Hennigan collected a lot more assets and the deals he was weighing were not as enticing as originally believed.

More than that, Magic fans are trying to move forward and get a sense of what the team will be like next year, the year after and well into the future. The process is still unfolding in front of us.

Orlando fans want to believe there is a reason the Magic won this deal in any way. that might be tough at this point since much of what the Magic did was creating future flexibility and Dwight Howard is one of the top five players in the league. There just is no winning in the short-term on that kind of deal. As has been repeated numerous times by Hennigan himself, this was about building assets and creating flexibility after years of overspending and wasteful drafting.

It is very clear in the Hennigan hire that Orlando wanted to change its ways. You hear it every time Alex Martins speaks about Hennigan. Orlando is hoping to establish long-term, sustained success and depart from the free-wheeling ways that put the Magic in the trouble they were in. As Sam Amico of Sports Illustrated relates, Hennigan completely blew away the Magic brass in his interview to a point that seemed completely unreal compared to other candidates.

“He’s unflappable, OK?” Martins said. “I was most impressed with him six or seven days into the job on draft night. Clearly you can understand what would happen in the dynamics of the league with a brand-new guy who just came on board who everyone says is young and some have identified as not as experienced as you would expect, so everyone’s calling up and trying to take advantage of the guy.

“I was sitting right next to him, and I was so incredibly impressed by how unflappable he was. He wasn’t going to get pushed around. To me, in that first week, that solidified and gave me the confidence that we made the right decision.”

The praise within the Magic organization is high for the Magic’s new general manager and they have presented a united front of support for him.

Still, the questions remain — even after a week — about where the Magic are going. David Thorpe of ESPN.com wrote a nice piece (Insider only) explaining that player development will be the key to the rebuilding project, not necessarily the luck of the ping pong balls. Coming from the Spurs and Thunder family suggests that player development and smart drafting will happen. It is this change that the Magic really want to occcur, as Amico relates that the Fran Vazquez fiasco really bothers and embarrasses the organization. Orlando wants to put more focus on the draft and no longer wants to be the team that has a reputation for winging it on Draft night.

This is certainly where the Spurs make their money. Everyone constantly points to their selection of Tony Parker, which Amico reports Hennigan was a big part of internally for the Spurs, and the selection of Manu Ginobili. Those were diamonds in the rough. The real genius of the Spurs was in the drafting of George Hill, Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard. They have grown their role players, as Thorpe suggests the Magic should.

AP Photo/DayLifeWhenever anyone deals with the Spurs nowadays, they always feel like they are getting hosed in some way. Like the Spurs know something the rest of the league doesn’t. This is the background that Hennigan comes from and he is, I guess, trying to build that feeling and that tradition of making the right deal over and over again.

Maybe that process has already started.

Eric Pincus of HoopsWorld went into extreme detail explaining how the Dwight Howard deal worked and was completed. The important piece that most readers have asked me about is the $17 million-plus traded player exception the Magic acquired in the deal. As Pincus explains, the teams in a trade are allowed to account for the players involved in the trade any way they can regardless of how other teams account for it, so long as it is legal. This makes things a little complicated, unless you know what you are doing.

It seems like Orlando may in creating this record large traded player exception. Here is how Pincus explains:

In exiting Howard, the Orlando executed the following:

  1. Christian Eyenga and Josh McRoberts via the $4.35 million Anderson TPE, leaving a negligible remainder of $40,920.
  2. Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington for Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark.
  3. Mo Harkless via the Brandon Bass TPE, leaving a remainder of $1,018,040 which expires on December 12
  4. Nikola Vucevic for Dwight Howard, generating a TPE of $17,816,880 which won’t expire until next August 10, 2013.

So in simplistic terms, Howard was traded for Nikola Vucevic and whatever that massive TPE yields over the next year.

That is the long and short of it for the Magic. They framed the trade in a way that netted them this massive asset. How they will use it, if they do at all, is anyone’s guess.

Like it was here, the exception could be used to assist in acquiring other players, helping salaries match to make deals work. Alternatively, it could be used to bring in a big player without giving up a whole lot. That is not likely as that goes against the progressive rebuilding plan Orlando states it wants.

More likely it will be used to facilitate deals for other teams and bring in draft picks or large expiring contracts. The Magic then would renounce whatever is left befor it lapses taking in that remainder as free cap room for the summer.

The genius of the deal might be in the timing. The trade exception does not expire until August 2013. Most of the NBA’s major transactions are done around the trade deadline (February), at the draft (June) or during the first weeks of free agency (July). Hennigan has given himself plenty of time to use it without worrying about missing any three of these windows for doing business. He can take his methodical approach and find a way to help Orlando improve using this asset.

Remember, Hennigan was looking for flexibility in this deal and nothing should give him more flexibility than this trade exception. There is a lot he can do with it.

While the players may leave a little bit wanting in the Dwight Howard deal, at least to many expecting something resembling equal value, the Magic gained a pretty powerful and flexible tool to start the rebuilding process.

The plan is just unfolding. Rob Hennigan deserves a little more credit than he seems to be getting. The plan is still unfolding.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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