The Orlando Magic weren't any one's fashionable pick to make the 2009 NBA Finals.
We all knew they had a force in Dwight Howard, along with a pair of mystery forwards in Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, but that's about it.
The guard play, which had been their weakness for the better part of a decade, was dependant (Michael Pietrus) on a Warriors' cast-off with no defensive reputation, a rookie two-guard (Courtney Lee) from an no-name college, and Jameer Nelson was solid, but was it enough to make them serious contenders?
But once the 2009 playoffs started, those questions were answered, and in the fashion every Magic fan hoped they would be, a positive one.
Lewis and Turkoglu became a match-up nightmare for just about everybody in the league. On the wing, Nelson blossomed into an All-Star, and Courtney Lee and Pietrus turned into legit defenders who could provide scoring punch.
With that versatility, the Magic rode their mismatches and prolific three-point shooting into the Finals, where they were outplayed by a determined and deep Lakers team.
After the Finals, Magic GM Otis Smith was faced with numerous tough decisions.
Can we re-sign Hedo? Do we bring in any help up front for Dwight? Do we match Dallas' offer sheet for Gortat?
The Magic were able to re-sign Gortat and bring in extra help for Dwight (Brandon Bass). But they chose not to re-sign Hedo. That questioned has puzzled me since Hedo traded the Orlando sun for the cold of the great white north.
In response to letting Hedo go, the Magic made a big trade for Vince Carter. They essentially traded away a developing Lee for Carter, a proven All-Star.
But despite their high marks with NBA experts, I feel the Magic screwed the pooch by letting Hedo go.
The Magic were intent on not paying the luxury tax in 2009-10. But the Magic committed $53 million to both Bass and Gortat. What did Hedo get signed for? You guessed it, $53 million.
So what would you rather have? A guy at $53 million who's proven himself or two role players?
Magic fans, I'm curious to know how you feel about this.
A lineup of Nelson, Carter, Turkoglu, Lewis, and Howard is something to think about. That's four All-Stars and Hedo.
The payroll is the same as the lineup you're currently trotting out, which is Nelson, Carter, Pietrus, Lewis, and Howard.
Which one would you rather have?
Sure, you say, Gortat probably won't be sticking with the team after Dec. 15. They'll probably trade him.
But are they going to trade him to the Raptors for Turkoglu, the player you already know fits in with your system successfully?
The Magic aren't going to turn Gortat into someone of Turkoglu's caliber. It just won't happen.
You could also argue that Turkoglu, at 31, with a history of ankle problems, isn't worth all that money for all those years.
But if you're the Magic, you'll sell your soul to win that first title, because of everything that comes with it.
Three years ago, the Miami Heat did something similar with the Shaq trade.
They traded Lamar Odom and Caron Butler, two very talented players, for Shaq, so they could team him up with a star like D-Wade. This led to an NBA title.
Ask any player on that team, or any Miami Heat fan (or Bennett Salvatore) if they would do it again, and they'll say "Yes!"
Ask any fan of any team, especially one that has never won before, and they'll give you the same answer.
That's why I'm so curious as to why people are giving a good grade to the Magic's off-season, when in reality, it seems to me that the Magic took a step backwards.