Ok, Ok, so I’m slowly starting to warm up to the Vince Carter trade. Although there has been several articles written bashing, trashing, and smashing the move, I’m beginning to see the silver lining in all of this.
While I do agree that Carter is a bit too much on the 30ish side for my liking and though I wish the team could've held on to Courtney Lee, I’m beginning to see the pros instead of the cons of this deal.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but seeing coach Stan Van Gundy and Orlando’s once prolific offense grinded to an anemic halt by the more athletic Lakers made me sick. Watching the pick-and-roll ran over and over again until I got tired of seeing the Lakers defend it better each time it was ran was tough to process.
Los Angeles reduced the once effective staple of the Magic’s offense into a useless ineffective gimmick. By the time game five rolled around, Orlando’s quality of shots out of the pick-and-roll had gone from good to simply “Stan would you please stop running this (expletive)!”
But that was the sickening part about it. Orlando couldn’t stop running that expletive because no one else on the roster was qualified to get his own shot off.
When Van Gundy became the head coach of the Magic a couple of years ago, he worked up a concoction that could best utilize his player’s abilities.
Quite genius on his part, but also quite redundant and quite easy to defend by top notch defensive teams with the right personnel.
For the last two seasons, Van Gundy has scoured his roster from head to toe. He's looked around his list of guys and still hasn't been able to find a single penetrator anywhere in sight.
Not Jameer Nelson, not Hedo Turkoglu, not Lee, not Mickael Pietrus, not Keith Bogans, not J.J. Reddick, not Trevor Ariza(yes, that Trevor Ariza), not Maurice Evans, and definitely not Rashard Lewis, thus, Van Gundy’s version of the Magic pick-and-roll base offense has been installed and ran to the max down in Orlando.
Don’t get me wrong, Nelson, when healthy, is an All-Star caliber point guard with the quickness and mindset to get to the cup.
But hovering around the 6-foot inch line means more times than not, it’s difficult for him to get his shot off against bigger opponents.
Turkoglu, the 6-foot-10 Turkish Michael Jordan, was the closest thing that Van Gundy had to a big guard so he drew up the offense to feature the silky shooting small forward as his centerpiece.
A three-point sniper equipped with a lot of craftiness, Turkoglu embraced his new role well and the Magic rode their gimmicky offense all the way to the NBA Finals last year.
For everything Turkoglu was to Orlando, he was not the guy who could free himself from defenders without the aid of the pick-and-roll—it was never more evident than in last June’s championship series.
The rest of the guys were mainly just spot up shooters who offered little to nothing in terms of penetration.
Introducing Carter, the former one man highlight reel brought in last week to possibly replace Turkoglu as Orlando's go-to-guy.
At 32, Carter can still play—and at a pretty high level if need be. Though critics suggest he’s lost much of his athleticism, let's be honest here, whatever athleticism Carter has left is still more than what Turkoglu has possessed at any point-in-time in his underrated career.
While critics will argue that Turkoglu is able to play the point and distribute to his teammates, I deny this claim to full detail.
Turkoglu is an unselfish player and can throw the lob ball pretty well. But make no mistake about it, Orlando’s system was not predicated upon him running up the court, crossing over and slicing into the lane, dishing no look style to Howard while the defense collapsed on him.
The Magic’s system was a scheme-orientated plot designed to compensate for the lack of a penetrator by making it easy for players to pass to the open guy provided top option Dwight Howard was covered on his bull rushes to the basket.
Think I’m joking? Rashard Lewis, a career 1.9 assist man, has had more assists the past two seasons under Van Gundy than he’s ever had in any two-year period of his 11-year career.
In his last four games against the Lakers in the Finals, Lewis dished out seven,five,four, and four assists as the pick-and-roll was ran nonstop to counter Los Angeles’ lock down defenders who had the perimeter covered heavier than a hypothermia victim.
While we’re at it, we might as well dispel another myth. So Carter’s a ballhog they say? Last year in New Jersey—a dry land in terms of talent outside point guard Devin Harris—Carter averaged 4.7 assists per night. Surrounded by more assassins than a Mexican Cartel, Turkoglu barely edged out Carter with only 4.9 dishes a night.
Keep in mind that Carter played with a true point guard in Harris while Turkoglu ran with a true gunner in Nelson, making Hedo the primary ballhandler and reducing Vince to a secondary ball carrier.
Need more proof? Since the 2006-2007 season, Turkoglu’s first full time season as a starter, he has averaged 4.38 assists per game while running with third rate point men from Keyon Dooling to Carlos Arroyo to Travis Diener while Orlando has compiled a 151-95 record over that time span.
During that same stretch, Carter has averaged 4.86 dimes a game while playing alongside the likes of top tier talent at the point in Harris and Jason Kidd compiling a 109-137 record over in Jersey.
You would think the more successful the team, the lower the caliber of the lead guards, the more assists that would pile up right? Wrong!
To whom it may concern, this article is not an attempt to bash Turkoglu, but if the Magic are going to lose Hedo to free agency, this article only serves as a means to say Carter would be a nice substitution into an offense devised on scheme.
Add in the facts that Carter can create his own shot without help from a pick and is a legendary strong and acrobatic finisher at the rim, and Orlando’s offense may actually be better than it was season.
Let’s get to the real benefit of Carter’s addition.
Since his introduction into the executive office down in Florida, Orlando general manager Otis Smith has made a lot of savvy moves. If there’s one move Smith would probably like to have back, it’s breaking the bank on the one-dimensional Lewis to the ransom of $100 million.
You don’t pay a sweet shooter $100 million and play him out of position against down low bangers. The Magic’s need of a power forward was and still is a major necessity, and while the long range shooting capabilities of positions one-four are nice luxuries to have, when the stroke shooting is running on cold, you got to rely on some power.
The Finals were concrete evidence that Orlando just didn’t have enough of the hard nose mentality.
Turkoglu's lack of athleticism meant he couldn’t move over to the two-guard slot full time to make way for a true power forward. Carter’s insertion into the shooting guard role means a move back to the three for Lewis, which will relieve the slender forward of his low post defensive mismatches.
The Magic can still run the same spread-em-out lineup if they like by inserting Pietrus at the two and letting Carter run at small forward with Lewis drawing power forwards away from the rim.
Perhaps the biggest bonus in the Carter deal is that it gets Orlando off the hook from the five-six year deal that Turkoglu was seeking and places them responsible for only two more years of Carter's contract.
With Carter coming off the books in 2011, it provides the Magic with several options: They can let Carter's contract run out and go after another shot creating perimeter player through free agency, or they can move Carter when he enters the last year of his deal for a disgruntled young perimeter player or several players.
Carter has a team option for $18 million after the fourth year of his deal, which will more than likely not be picked up by any team. His salary in the 2010-2011 season will circle around $17.3 million, a pretty enticing number for a team looking to clear some cap room, making the Magic a possible heavy trade contender for the 2010 season.
While the loss of Tony Battie along with Rafer Alston as part of the deal may hurt the Magic’s depth, keep in mind that Orlando picked up a similar sweet shooting big man in Ryan Anderson, who’s range actually surpasses Battie up to the three-point line.
Also remember that forgotten point man Anthony Johnson outplayed Alston as the team’s lead guard during several stretches in last year’s post season.
The Vince Carter trade was not the end to Smith’s summer wheeling and dealing. The Magic are officially in the hunt for a power forward.
As a man who played the position pretty effectively before an injury forced his retirement, you can expect Smith to evaluate his future four with a fine tooth comb before offering that mystery Magic man the full mid-level exception.
The Carter deal was only step one in a two part process to give Orlando that ring it has long coveted. Stay tune for step two.