Ryan Anderson is going from the Orlando Magic to the New Orleans Hornets in a sign-and-trade that will send the stretch-4 slightly westwards in exchange for the services of Gustavo Ayon, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.
Anderson was a restricted free agent, and the Magic decided that they didn't want to pay for him to ply his trade on a team that wasn't capable of truly contending for a title. As Stein reports, Anderson's new contract will last four years and be worth between $34 and $36 million.
This move has a major impact on the immediate future of the Hornets. With the addition of a great power forward like Anderson and some incoming rookies named Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers, this team can immediately contend in the Western Conference.
However, let's take a look at what this says about the Orlando Magic, now one of the former powers in the conference.
At first glance, it's easy to see this move as a precursor to a trade that would send Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets. After all, the Magic cleared up enough space to take on some of the Nets' solid young players like Brook Lopez and MarShon Brooks, as well as possible sign-and-trade options like Gerald Green and Kris Humphries.
This notion is wrong though. The move is entirely unrelated to the Dwight saga, as told by Ken Berger of CBS Sports:
Sign-and-trade talks between the Hornets and Magic for RFA Ryan Anderson are unrelated to a possible Dwight Howard trade, sources say.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) July 8, 2012
Whether you're looking at the Anderson trade on the surface level or at some deeper one, it's nothing more than an admission of a decline on the NBA totem pole.
Howard and Anderson were the only two players on the Orlando roster even remotely capable of making an All-Star squad at any point in the near future. For Anderson, that's still a bit of a long shot though.
With Howard set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2012-2013 season and Anderson now about to switch uniforms, this team is clearly all-in on the rebuilding process. The only thing that could make that clearer is the now even more seemingly inevitable Dwight trade.
Ayon is not going to just replace Anderson. He's not of the same caliber as an NBA player.
Although Anderson is a great three-point shooter and a solid rebounder, he's not a franchise centerpiece and is really much more of a complementary part than a piece to build around. There's no guarantee that the new franchise player the Magic will inevitably bring in will be compatible with Anderson.
Everything the Magic have been doing lately has been moving in this direction.
We have the Howard rumors, the firing of Stan Van Gundy, the stepping down of Otis Smith, the failure to sign a big free agent and now the Anderson trade. Nothing speaks to continuity in recent days for this beleaguered franchise.
New general manager Rob Hennigan is doing what Danny Ferry did for the Atlanta Hawks, cleaning shop and freeing cap space to remodel the organization, albeit in less glamorous fashion.
Getting rid of Anderson in this fashion ensures that he doesn't get away for nothing. The sign-and-trade at least brings a solid—and cheap—middle-of-the-rotation big man to the team.
As is always the case with major rebuilding processes, this won't be the last piece to fall.