Orlando Magic: Rookie Moe Harkless Will Struggle to Produce with Poor Support
The Magic had mercy on all of us by finally agreeing to trade Howard in a four-team deal that sent him to the Los Angeles Lakers, while the Magic received Nikola Vucevic, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington and Moe Harkless in return (according to Yahoo Sports).
The city of Orlando is grateful that Howard was shipped 2,500 miles away to the other side of the country, which is understandable, but now they're left with a franchise that will struggle to find a spot in the playoffs thanks to a decline in top-tier talent.
As frustrating as Howard was, there's no denying that his absence has forced Orlando into rebuild mode.
Part of that rebuilding blueprint is now dependent on the rookie Harkless.
Last June, Harkless was drafted No. 15 overall out of St. John's by the Philadelphia 76ers in what was a somewhat questionable pick since the 76ers already had Andre Iguodala on their roster.
Although, Harkless proved to be a valuable commodity for Philadelphia, as he was a key asset in their acquisition of Andrew Bynum as part of the four-team Howard trade.
The Lakers and 76ers used the trade to become serious playoff contenders, while the Magic are being forced to forget the present and look towards the future.
Harkless is now part of that future. But while he had the luxury of learning behind Iguodala in Philadelphia, he'll now be depended on as the future of a franchise.
Harrington is a 14-year veteran and was a solid pickup in the trade, while Afflalo scored 15.2 points per game last season and is in his prime at the age of 26.
However, neither of those players can be depended on to carry the Magic in the near future. They need star power if they want to compete for a playoff spot, which is a luxury they lost with the departure of Howard.
Now, the Magic will be forced to ask their younger players, such as Harkless, to grow up quickly and start producing immediately.
That doesn't mean that there's no hope. At the age of 19, Harkless is still developing and has a very high ceiling. Instant production shouldn't be expected, but it's not out of the question for Harkless to eventually grow into an extremely valuable player.
The road back to the playoffs will be a tough one for Orlando. But if the fans understand that they're rebuilding and are able to keep the expectations low for several seasons, then there could be benefits at some point down the line.
But for now, Harkless and the other trade acquisition will struggle to maintain the level of play that we've come to expect from Orlando.
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