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A growing number of [NBA executives] starting to believe that Magic will indeed give strong consideration to doing Dwight deal before season starts.
Rather than getting knee-deep in opt-out, opt-in, sign-and-trade, or extend-and-trade scenarios, let’s get right to the point.
That’s what NBA executives believe. Until the front office for the Orlando Magic sit down, talk with Dwight Howard, and find out what he wants to do, no one knows what’s going to happen. That being said, if Howard makes his intentions known to the Magic that he’s leaving and not planning on re-signing with the team then yes, general manager Otis Smith should do everything in his power to trade the big fella as soon as possible. And with a number of teams interested in Howard, like the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, New Jersey Nets, among others, Smith wouldn’t have a shortage of trade options at his disposal.
But, as Matt Moore of CBSSports.com astutely points out, before deciding on trading Howard or not, it would behoove Orlando not to try everything in their power to acquire Chris Paul.
The Magic have every reason to trade for Chris Paul without the promise of an extension. With no consideration of the extension, there’s nothing to hold up a deal. The Magic are facing the same cliff the Hornets are, staring down the barrell of Dwight Howard’s big-market shotgun. They are burdened with pieces which hold no value once Howard is traded. If Howard leaves, they will wind up with a huge amount of salary and no superstar, a terrible team with a supporting structure holding up nothing. They have two options. Win a championship this year or give up and trade Howard for nothing now. Even a move for Andrew Bogut as Berger has said will be discussed won’t keep them in title contention. That’s what Howard means to a team. That’s what an MVP candidate means.
It sounds like a crazy idea. Why would the Magic throw the kitchen sink at the New Orleans Hornets for Paul? Because Orlando has little to lose and everything to gain. The gain is that Paul and Howard stay. The risk is that Paul and Howard walk away and the Magic are left with nothing. But the thing is that if Orlando doesn’t acquire Paul, then Howard probably walks away anyway.
Sure, the Magic could trade Howard, acquire as many assets as possible, and start from scratch. However, if Howard is adamant that he must be traded to the Lakers, for example, the centerpiece in a deal would be Andrew Bynum and even though he’s talented with the potential to become even better, it’s a risk to rebuild around a player like him that has an injury history. The last thing Orlando needs to deal with is another Grant Hill situation. Granted, there would be more coming from the Lakers like other players and draft picks as well as possible salary relief. But how much more value could the Magic really squeeze out of Pau Gasol or Lamar Odom in a trade? Because there’s no point in either Gasol or Odom sticking around on a rebuilding team. And it’s safe to say that a first-round pick (or multiple first-rounders) from Los Angeles in the low-20s doesn’t sound too appealing.
It’s true that Orlando could play it safe, accumulate assets, and go from there. This isn’t the time to play it safe. This is the time to take a risk.
And the beauty of it all is, with Paul making his intentions clear that he wants to be with the New York Knicks (forcing the Hornets to trade him for next to nothing or let him sign as a free agent and get nothing in return), the Magic have something to offer. It’s true that Orlando doesn’t have a lot of assets but surely a trade package including Jameer Nelson, Brandon Bass, J.J. Redick, Ryan Anderson, a 2012 first round pick, and whatever else is something. It’s more than whatever New York can offer in a deal to New Orleans. If the Hornets were forced to choose between the Magic’s offer or the Knicks’ offer, it isn’t a hard decision (this idea goes out the window if Paul is willing to play somewhere else besides New York).
Orlando gets one more shot as an elite team and championship contender, while New Orleans accumulates better assets in their rebuilding efforts.
It’s no secret that Smith is a risk-taker.
As such, and as weird as it sounds, the Magic are in a unique position to take a risk and trade for Paul without a long-term commitment.
So why not try?