In the summer of big free agent possibilities, it is often forgotten that not just teams with salary cap space can be contenders for the best free agents available.
Free agents in the midst of their NBA careers who can command maximum contracts have little reason to join another team’s decimated roster and hope management can build a contender around them.
Sorry, New Jersey and New York, but one of the big three joining a rebuilding situation is not going to happen. It is far more enticing to join a team on the brink of a NBA championship who could be just one player away from becoming the next NBA dynasty.
Teams good enough to win in the second round or conference finals can have surplus talent who could be bona fide starters or solid rotation players on other teams. Just the type of talent that could salve the wounds of a team losing their star player to free agency.
But the Magic knew Gortat was more than a backup center and would likely start in Dallas. Gortat was “their player,” and they were not going to lose this talent for nothing.
Then, in a surprising move, the Magic signed Dallas restricted free agent Brandon Bass to a four-year, $16 million contract that Dallas declined to match.
The Magic had no obvious need for Bass, and the promising young big man saw his minutes plummet. The Magic were stocking up for something. But what?
With the acquisition of the talented Ryan Anderson from the Nets, the logjam of big men could actually be considered a problem.
Watching the Orlando Magic in this year’s playoffs confirms that the Magic are an elite team. But after watching the Celtics take the first two games of the conference finals in Orlando, it is also obvious that the Magic have not improved from last year and remain that one elusive piece away from a championship.
With the signing of Matt Barnes, the development of JJ Redick, and the effective play of veteran Mickael Pietrus, the Magic have interchangeable pieces. None of whom are playing the minutes one would expect from a rotation player on a playoff roster.
Simply put, the Orlando Magic have more talent than they can play during this year’s playoffs.
- Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass are undeservingly nailed to the bench. But there are no minutes to give them.
- J.J. Redick has provided outstanding play, but he finds himself in a three-way split for minutes.
If the Magic find themselves on the losing side of the Eastern Conference Finals, something that appears highly likely at this time, how long will it take for Otis Smith to try to turn that surplus of talent he has collected into that one player who could turn his franchise into a dynasty?
While the Magic may wish to go after the ultimate prize in LeBron James, the easier and more likely target is Chris Bosh.
And Bosh does give the Magic what they have been missing. A true power forward who can rebound and score. A player defenses cannot leave to double-team Dwight Howard in the post.
A potential twin towers that could rival the Spurs' Duncan and Robinson, even. Except both of these young players have up to 10 years of high-level play left ahead of them.
With Lewis back at the three and Carter and Nelson at guard, the Magic would be a very imposing team next season. A team that could rival the size and scoring power of the Lakers.
And what could the Toronto Raptors get in return?
An instant rebuild with Gortat, Bass, and Pietrus. Players ready to step into the Raptors' rotation and elevate Toronto’s much-maligned defense into a position of respectability.
Toronto has enough scoring and playmaking to continue to have an effective offense post trade. And such a deal could make a low playoff seed a real possibility next season.
And maybe, if Colangelo could swing one more trade, or turn the Raptors' expiring contracts into one more rotation player, the Raptors could even look good next season?
At least such a proposal should get both general managers' attention.