On June 21st, 2012, the Orlando Magic announced Rob Hennigan as their new General Manager.
After spending the last four years of his career as the Assistant GM for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Hennigan was viewed as a fresh change for the franchise and lauded for his patience and unwillingness to allow Dwight Howard to bully him into accepting the first offer placed in front of him.
He was looked upon as a beacon of hope for a team that was left in shambles following a slew of questionable decisions by former GM Otis Smith, which included the criminal act of willingly paying Rashard Lewis and Gilbert Arenas over $100 million. After seven years of Otis, Magic fans were clamoring for change.
Armed with a new GM to go with recently appointed CEO Alex Martins, the Magic looked poised for a makeover. After a series of jarring trades and re-signings, this looks less like a Hollywood makeover and closer resembles one done by your 5-year-old sister.
The new Orlando regime began its tenure by selecting Andrew Nicholson with the 19th pick in the NBA draft, despite the fact that Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones III were still on the board.
While both were red flagged prior to the draft for injury concerns, both were considered lottery talents. Their descent down the draft board left them as low-risk, high-reward picks for teams in the latter half of the first round—certainly risks that the Magic should have been willing to take.
It remains to be seen how any of the aforementioned players' NBA careers will shake out, but you have to think that Orlando could have done better with its pick.
Anderson heads for greener pastures in New Orleans.
After signing Andrew Nicholson, Orlando looked toward the free agency. With Dwight Howard’s status still in limbo, the front office was forced to address other concerns.
Ryan Anderson, the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player, was on the market as a restricted free agent. At just 24 years old, Anderson’s youth, rebounding and three-point shooting made him a highly sought after commodity.
This is why it must have come to the Magic as no surprise that he received and signed an offer sheet with the New Orleans Hornets for four years and $36 million. Despite being the second-best player on Orlando’s roster by a decent stretch, the front office made another puzzling decision by declining to match his offer sheet.
Instead, Anderson was signed-and-traded to the New Orleans Hornets in exchange for productive backup center Gustavo Ayon.
While this was initially decreed a move to free up cap space towards rebuilding, Orlando lost out on a young, productive player that could have been at the forefront of restarting the floundering franchise.
Nelson's $25 million contract sends Orlando in the wrong direction.
Letting Ryan Anderson go was a financial decision that, albeit unpopular, made at least a modicum of sense…up until Orlando used the money that it saved on Ryan Anderson to offer Jameer Nelson a similar deal.
Nelson, who could generously be considered the 25th best point guard in the league, is being paid $25.2 million for the next three seasons. At 30 years old and coasting into obscurity, Nelson (and his bloated contract) left many wondering what direction the franchise was truly headed.
Giving big money to an aging, lower-end point guard instead of to a young, productive big was the biggest boneheaded move made thus far during the Magic’s reboot project. That is, until…
the Dwightmare is finally over.
That was the headline on ESPN’s front page, and it effectively brought the Dwight Howard saga to a close.
With offers of Brook Lopez and MarShon Brooks from Brooklyn, a myriad of draft picks and prospects from Houston and numerous trade scenarios involving the Lakers twin towers, there was plenty of intrigue regarding who would replace Howard.
The answer? Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic and Christian Eyenga. The end result was a four-team trade that involved the Lakers getting Howard, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark, Philadelphia landing Bynum and Jason Richardson and Andre Iguodala putting on a Nuggets jersey.
With options on the table that allowed them to take back the second-best center in the game, Andrew Bynum, or promising talents Lopez and Brooks, Orlando instead chose to take a group of complementary players, only one of which is fit for a starting role. Granted, they also received a handful of draft picks, but the other three teams involved all got better, which should land them in the mid-to-late first round.
Rob Hennigan was quoted as saying (via CBS Sports), "A primary goal for our basketball team is to achieve sustainability while maintaining a long-term vision. We feel this deal puts us in a position to begin building in that direction." This quote is sure to be a dagger in the hearts of Magic fans, as the Magic's offseason moves lend little credibility to his statement.
They overpaid to re-sign Jameer Nelson, failed to unload Hedo Turkoglu’s onerous contract, took back big, long term deals for Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington and failed to attain a player even close to All-Star-caliber.
The team that gave up the best player in the trade failed to come away with one of the deal’s top three players and landed Rob Hennigan in Otis Smith territory mere months into his Orlando tenure. Sadly, the franchise continues to live up to its nickname of the Orlando Tragic, as it continues to break hearts throughout central Florida.
Although Dwight Howard’s departure was imminent, the Magic’s cellar-dwelling future seems just as certain.