The Orlando Magic had a very peculiar offseason.
They are coming off a much-anticipated season in which they were hoping to not only return to the finals but bring home some gold hardware to the sports-depraved state of Florida.
Reality, of course, set in for the Magic in the playoffs.
In the Eastern Conference finals, Orlando looked out matched in virtually every area against the underdog Boston Celtics.
The Celtics took the first three games of the series and were en route to a sweep. A Jameer Nelson banked-in three in overtime of Game 4 saved the Magic from that humiliation, and Orlando eventually rolled out in a modest six games.
Still, the team was very close to getting swept and perhaps would have been better off for it. Why do I say that?
Orlando is now acting like they are still the favorites in the East.
This after an offseason where Miami upgraded their talent enough to likely overtake them in the division, and the very team they lost to in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics, added plenty of depth to their front court and solved any "weaknesses" they once had.
What did Orlando do in retaliation?
Only sign Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon, oh, and they let go of useful backup defensive wing, Matt Barnes.
Heck, the Lakers won the title and even upgraded themselves by signing guard Steve Blake, forward Matt Barnes and center Theo Ratliff.
So the question is, why didn't Orlando upgrade?
Do they really believe Vince Carter had a fluke poor season?
Maybe Rashard Lewis will bounce back from a inconsistent showing in the playoffs?
Last I shook the Eight Ball, it read, "Doubtful."
General Manager Otis Smith also came out and said that he didn't think much of the new-look Miami Heat.
One can't really criticize him much for that critique.
Orlando should have size against the Heat in a best-of-seven series, and last time LeBron faced Orlando in the playoffs, he was a miraculous jump shot away from having his Cavaliers swept.
The confidence against Miami is at least credible.
What about Boston though?
The Celtics improved their center rotation dramatically by adding two sufficient O'Neals to block shots (Jermaine) and play in the post (Shaq).
Once again Boston should be able to not double-team Howard on the low block and thus prohibit the Magic from getting into their three-point offense (usually triggered off of Dwight being double-teamed).
The logical hope this time around for Orlando is that Vince Carter will be a force in the half court, something that was far from being the case in 2010.
That's a lot of pressure on a consistent playoff disappointment.
In reality, there's little reason for Magic fans to believe that this season will yield a better result than last.
So what can the Magic do?
They have some expendable trade-worthy pieces, namely Marcin Gortat and rookie Daniel Orton.
Both are young centers who should be able to fetch decent value in a trade.
Orlando may actually be reluctant to deal such talents since there is so much emphasis on the overall team structure around Dwight Howard that it may be best to keep Gortat and Orton around to provide all the support for him as necessary in the front court.
What Orlando needs is a classic high-risk, high-reward trade.
Orlando could go several routes in such a venture.
They can use Vince Carter's near expiring contract in a trade and go for a Gilbert Arenas or perhaps in a larger trade to acquire Andre Igoudala.
Acquiring such players could really cripple the future financial ramifications of the organization, and if the Magic eventually fail to win a title, they could be in "cap hell" for some time.
Just ask the Knicks five years ago what that feels like.
An interesting route could be to try and acquire Baron Davis from the Los Angeles Clippers.
Davis is an unmotivated player who turns into a top 15 talent when he is playing in a meaningful game.
On the other hand, for example, if the Clippers are on a back-to-back in February playing in Milwaukee, let's just say Baron's facial expressions screaming, "Boooorrrrrring!" will speak louder than words.
Such character changes are somewhat common with veteran talent who may take off a few nights here and there and show up for the "bigger" games of the season.
As an example, just look at Rasheed Wallace of last season for the Boston Celtics.
Sheed took weeks off at a time during the regular season and even admits that he didn't get into "game shape" until the time the playoffs rolled around.
Baron Davis, however, takes this transformation into a whole new level.
With that being the case, Baron really does not belong on the current Los Angeles Clippers roster.
The Clippers should be building their team around Blake Griffin. Bring in talent that will defer to him, and slowly build the team around the 2009 No. 1 pick, recent rookie Al Farouq Aminu and Eric Gordon.
Meanwhile, Orlando can certainly use a motivated Baron Davis come playoff time.
Baron is capable of huge offensive nights and would also help bring the best out of potential back court mate Vince Carter.
Davis is also an underrated defensive talent who can help the Magic control the likes of Rajon Rondo in a best-of-seven series.
With Orlando being a constant contender and perhaps in the hunt for the top seed out East, you will see a much more motivated and thus talented Baron Davis on the roster.
So how could Orlando get such a deal done? Simple.
Trade Jameer Nelson and Brandon Bass out West for Baron Davis.
What's in it for LA?
The Clippers get a younger Nelson who can still give the team a similar offensive output to what a motivated Davis brought to the team, but will likely defer a lot more to Blake Griffin on the offensive end.
Nelson is also the younger point guard which would help the overall young and talented Los Angeles Clippers.
Brandon Bass would be an ideal backup to Griffin who can come in with some energy and deliver offense and rebounding off the LA bench.
Perhaps most importantly, Los Angeles would save roughly $6 million over the life of the contracts upon doing this trade.
Orlando meanwhile would be losing Jameer Nelson, who has built some credibility with the fans and more importantly, Dwight Howard.
The impact of Nelson still needs to be further examined though.
He made some questionable errors late in games against Boston during the postseason and was hurt but not missed during the team's Eastern Conference title run in 2009.
The Magic can miss Nelson all they want, but unless the team makes a major impact move and brings in a high-caliber talent, they will be further scrutinized once more after a likely premature postseason exit.
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