Magic Basketball Mailbag, 6/24/10 | Magic Basketball

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Jun 24

Magic Basketball Mailbag, 6/24/10

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Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

Here’s another installment of the Magic Basketball Mailbag.

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Do you think the Magic will try to move Gortat?

Maybe.

The answer to the question is speculative, at best, but it should provide some insight on Marcin Gortat‘s future with the Orlando Magic.

Will Gortat be traded? It seems like everyone expects it to happen sooner rather than later, but it would have to be a move that makes sense for the Magic. Yes, Gortat’s contract will continue to escalate year-by-year but Orlando’s ownership has made it clear that they’re willing to pay the luxury tax for the foreseeable future, so money isn’t necessarily an issue in this particular case. It all depends on what’s out there on the trade block and if general manager Otis Smith is better off keeping Gortat, moving him in a packaged deal in hopes of acquiring a superstar, or trading him simply to fill a need elsewhere on the roster. With Smith, it’s tough to predict what he’ll do because he likes to play things close to the vest.

Should Gortat be traded? Under almost any circumstance, no, but there are exceptions. Unless Gortat is included in a move that lands a second star with Dwight Howard, he should be retained because he brings a lot of value to the Magic as a back-up center. When it comes to defending and rebounding, Gortat compares favorably to other big men in the NBA in those particular skills … especially when he’s playing at his peak. Gortat readily admitted that he didn’t play up to his standards this year, but there’s a good chance — as long as he takes some time off from basketball — that he’ll bounce back with a strong campaign next season. Gortat’s numbers suggest it shouldn’t be too hard for him to return to form.

That’s mainly why Orlando should keep him, barring a trade that can help the team one way or the other, because when Gortat is playing with the type of effort and energy that merited the offer sheet he received from the Dallas Mavericks, not only is he an excellent back-up center but he’s also talented enough to start for a number of teams in the league. And it absolutely can’t be understated the value of having Gortat around, not only because the Magic don’t lose much defensively when he’s on the floor but because he gives Howard the valuable rest he needs. Over the course of 82-plus games season after season, the miles that Howard is saving on his tires is important in lengthening his prime as much as possible.

Orlando has two starting-caliber centers, which means it’d be judicious for them to hold onto Gortat even though it’s clear that he wants, and deserves, to start somewhere else. That is, unless the right deal comes along.

Do you see any big changes in the offseason? And if not can the Magic honestly compete for a title?

Yes and yes.

Granted, general manager Otis Smith has told the media that he is looking to tweak the roster. However, after getting to interview him many times in the past, it’s clear that Smith likes to run misdirection with information when a digital recorder or video camera is near him. Last year’s off-season was a primary example when Smith said, at first, that he wouldn’t match anything over $5 million when Marcin Gortat was a restricted free agent and negotiating with other teams. Then, after Gortat signed an offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks, Smith said he wouldn’t match it. Not only did Smith do the opposite and brought back Gortat, but he was able to lull the Mavericks into a fall sense of security, sign their free agent (Brandon Bass), and trap them in a corner where they were left with neither Gortat nor Bass. The point is … anything is possible with Smith.

There’s no guarantee that the Magic will make any big changes in the off-season, but there’s been a lot of chatter lately associated with them attempting to acquire either Chris Paul or, gulp, Gilbert Arenas in a trade. As the saying goes, when there’s smoke, there’s fire, and clearly Orlando is trying to make a move to improve the talent on the team and not stand pat en lieu of the most highly anticipated summer in NBA history.

With Dwight Howard and a great supporting cast, the Magic will be able to compete for titles for the foreseeable future but the chances of them winning a championship varies depending on what happens this off-season. If Orlando doesn’t end up doing anything drastic and the roster maintains the status quo, for the most part, with some tweaks here and there, they’re still a title contender but not the favorite.

Depending on how the dominoes fall in the Eastern Conference, the Magic’s path may become more difficult than it was this year if the roster stays relatively unchanged. This summer could change the landscape of the league and that’s why, when taking a step back and looking at all the possibilities, no one should be surprised if Smith is proactive in his approach and throws his hat into the ring in hopes of landing a superstar. There seems to be a sense, from what’s being reported around the blogosphere and mainstream media, that Smith understands the magnitude of not missing out on a historical off-season, where the best players in the NBA will be on the move one way or the other. In the end, the fact that Orlando is being linked to some high-profile names indicates the franchise is taking an aggressive approach and trying to stay ahead of the curve. Plus, it shows that Vince Carter may be on his way out the door. Either way, the Magic will continue to be able to compete for championships but the next few months will determine how good their odds will be compared to the Los Angeles Lakers and other teams.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

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Thanks for the questions!

If you have a question for the mailbag, you can reach me at eddy.rivera7 [at] gmail [dot] com

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