June 15, 2012
By Luka Papalko
The Orlando Magic are the poster child in the NBA for how quick things can change. The team had made the NBA Finals in the 2008-2009 season after a 14 year drought and it was only the 2nd the time the franchise had been there. The team was extremely well built around one of the league’s best, young players in Dwight Howard. Now fast forward a few seasons and the team is without a coach, a GM and is likely to waive goodbye to its franchise player. This off-season is filled with uncertainty with it hinging on what Dwight Howard’s future in Orlando will be.
It’s tough to conduct business when the key decision makers aren’t in place. The Magic fired GM Otis Smith and Head Coach Jeff Van Gundy, in order to appease Howard. While the team and Howard’s party have denied this, it’s simply the reality of the business. Magic CEO Alex Martins has taken the leadership role in the franchise in both looking for the next head coach and GM, a pairing that will appeal to Howard, as well as taking the role to convince Howard to stay. After the potential reports of Phil Jackson joining to Magic had died down, three candidates for the GM job emerged: former New Orleans GM Jeff Bower, Oklahoma City assistant GM Rob Hennigan and San Antonio assistant GM Dennis Lindsey. Those three candidates will meet with the owner Richard DeVos and a decision will be made soon. After a GM is selected, the head coach search will get going. When the key decision makers in Orlando are hired, they will certainly have their work cut out for them.
Just as the rest of the franchise is in limbo, so is the roster. The centerpiece, Dwight Howard, will be a free agent next year and early indications suggest Howard will be traded before he’s given a chance to leave. Jameer Nelson has a player option and recent reports have suggested he will opt-out. The Magic will also have to deal with the free agency of Ryan Anderson, who was one of the most improved players last year. In addition, Larry Hughes, Ishmael Smith and DeAndre Liggins will also be free agents. Earl Clark has a player option and the Magic hold team options on Von Wafer and Daniel Orton. If Howard stays, the roster needs major changes as they need to restructure the roster around Howard. If Howard leaves, the team will go into full re-building mode.
Right now, the Magic hold the 19th pick in the 1st round and the 49th pick in the 2nd round. The Magic hold both their own picks in each round but that could change depending on what happens with Howard. If Howard is traded before the draft, the Magic could have additional picks to work with in the 2012 Draft.
Until the Magic have traded Howard, the franchise will go ahead and prepare as if Howard will be staying with them. So that likely means the team will be looking for players who can contribute right away and can play with Howard. The team will likely take the best available player, as they could use upgrades at every position. Point guard could be a major need if Jameer Nelson does indeed opt-out. Kendall Marshall and Damian Lillard will likely be gone so Marquis Teague is a name to consider. Otherwise players that figure to be in the mix are Arnett Moultrie, Tyler Zeller, Moe Harkless, Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr. The 2nd round could be a place where the Magic look to add depth to their bench.
Overall, the Magic face many key decisions this off-season with CEO Alex Martins being the point man. Which way the Magic will go will all depend on how the Dwight Howard saga plays out. Orlando is still hopeful that he stays but all signs point to Howard leaving the team entering a new era without him.