For trading away arguably the league’s best center, the Magic received stretch forward Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, Arron Afflalo, Moe Harkless, Christian Eyenga and Josh McRoberts. Besides losing Howard, the Magic also gave up sharpshooter Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark. Aside from personnel, they also managed to snag a trio of first-round picks.
Now, although the Magic are 12-16 as it stands, the trade isn’t looking that bad in hindsight.
Afflalo has emerged as the team’s leading scorer, Vucevic is giving them solid minutes and there is an overall semblance of solidarity and unity on this new-look Magic squad. The Magic are eighth best in the league as far as assists per game as a collective unit, so there is no doubt the team is sharing the ball and playing together. Although it’s an obvious downgrade from the days of Howard talent-wise, there is no question that this squad not only has pieces for the future, but it also has the freedom to pursue a new beginning.
The reality is, the Magic were a team that needed a fresh start, and the trade provided them with a new beginning in more ways than one.
Last season, a lot of tension and awkwardness stemmed from the Howard-Van Gundy saga. Had the Magic retained Howard with SVG, it likely would’ve kept the team’s chemistry teetering on the edge of implosion, something that can be more catastrophic than a lack of talented personnel.
Besides new faces on the floor, the Magic also elected to put new faces in the front office as well. Following the ensuing media circus from the aforementioned feud, the Magic relieved Stan Van Gundy of coaching duties, and former General Manager Otis Smith decided to part ways with the organization. The Magic also made an interesting decision in hiring Jacque Vaughn as their head coach—a decision that seemed in line with the Magic’s youthful new-look roster.
The Magic are just a team that you can tell wants to compete night in and night out. Just by watching a Magic game, it’s enjoyable to see the contagious enthusiasm they have for sharing the basketball.
Some of the Magic’s old pieces are still around as well, and once the injured Hedo Turkoglu and newly added Harrington get back into the fray, they could become even better. Jameer Nelson is still a serviceable option at point guard, and veteran 2-guard J.J.Redick has finally matured into the solid all-around scorer many had hoped he’d become throughout his pro career.
As of now, the Magic have plenty of great complementary players, but they are definitely lacking a true “star” player that can score and create for others on a nightly basis no matter what. What they could really use is a solid big man who can command double-teams and get his perimeter shooters looks, similar to how Howard operated in the Magic’s past years.
Right now, the Magic are fourth worst in the league as far as points per game, and considering they seem to lack a true paint presence, it might also explain Vaughn’s offense, which favors sharing the ball and spreading the floor.
Glen Davis and Vucevic aren't bad inside players, but neither are dominant forces that require double-teams consistently, so often it requires others to slash to the paint or set solid screens to get shooters good looks. So although the Magic certainly share the ball, it’s more a result of having personnel that can’t really create shots consistently than anything else.
Regardless of the team’s flaws, it’s still a respectable squad, and despite being in rebuilding mode, this new-look Magic roster has demonstrated it wants to compete. There is no doubt the future looks brighter than initially thought.