As we enter the final 24 hours in the run up to “The King Stakes”, the major players have been identified.
The 2010 NBA Draft resembled the emergency drill on my last cruise. General Managers began dumping “human” cargo faster than the crew on the Titanic.
The Dallas Mavericks attempted to position themselves as a contender as well. All-Star forward Dirk Nowitski announced he would be opting out of his contract.
Most likely, Dirk wants to give owner Mark Cuban an opportunity to renegotiate his contract, to make room for LeBron.
For teams like the Orlando Magic, free agency will loom very important as well. But the consequences will be less severe.
With the team they have, the Magic proved they could win 59 games in the regular season. The even proved they could get to the Conference Finals.
In the end, the Magic already have their franchise super star in Dwight Howard. Now the task becomes finding the key pieces to make the team a champion.
What can or should Otis Smith and the Magic attempt to accomplish during the frenzy that hits Thursday at 12:01 am?
Sit Tight, Wait Until the Trade Deadline
It's not how you start, but how you finish.
The Magic could choose to do nothing during the initial free agency period. Even if a new “Free Agent” All-Star team emerges after Thursday, the Magic could still compete.
The worst case scenario would involve LeBron and Chris Bosh joining Dwayne Wade in Miami.
Orlando and it's divisional partners, would face the new NBA super power Miami Heat more than any other teams in the league.
Smith could suffer through some of these games “as is”. Hopefully find a weakness, and look to find a player to help expose it before the regular season trade deadline hits.
Due to all the salary juggling by the major players in the “Summer of LeBron”, the expected best teams will have very little room to work.
Adding a key power forward, or tested veteran at mid-season might put the Magic in the hunt for a title.
Help Keep LeBron in Cleveland
Keeping LeBron in Cleveland would give all the other teams not the Cavaliers a reason to relax.
Even with another super star, anything would be better than the prospects of Wade, Bosh and James on the same team.
The Magic could involve themselves in a three team trade with the Cavs and New Orleans Hornets as the other two participants.
The Magic could trade for Chris Paul-- a player LeBron reportedly would like to play with, to the Cavs for JJ Hickson, Andrew Varejao and Anthony Parker.
The Magic would give up in a worst case scenario, Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson.
Does giving up Carter really sound like a worst-case scenario?
The Hornets would get the financial relief they seek.
Now you're saying, keep Paul, no need to trade him. This scenario assumes Paul preferring to play with the King, not entirely far fetched.
Look back at the trade pieces. The Magic would have Hickson, Varejao and Parker in addition to Gortat, Pietrus and Brandon Bass.
A sign and trade for one of the free agents left out of the LeBron super deal, Nowitski or Stoudemire, would become very possible. At worst picking up a David Lee becomes almost most trivial.
With this deal the Magic would still have a back up center, in either Varejao or Gortat.
They would also pick up a pretty good wing player in Anthony Parker. Hickson has proved he can play, and even has post-season experience.
Build the Old Fashion Way
The Magic could choose to do nothing, and build a team the way is used to be done.
Through player development and the draft, and only relying on free agency to find one or two missing role players.
This wouldn't be the most popular approach for Magic fans. But history shows that's been the most successful blue print in the history of the NBA.
LeBron carries with him a great deal of hype. That hype doesn't carry with it any NBA championships after seven years.
The hype also lacks a guarantee that LeBron will win a championship where he ends up.
People forget the Magic already have Dwight Howard. He will be in the NBA for many more years to come.
Irrespective of the player-hating criticism the Magic's big man receives, he will be a major factor in the NBA.
His size and height make him very difficult to stop.
No matter what the ESPN commentating crew says, Howard will get better. And Howard will one day soon truly dominate the game.
It's only a matter of time.