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Upgrade/Downgrade? Otis Smith Plays “Let’s Make A Deal”

December 20, 2010

After letting the recent major trades sink in for a few days, I’m finally ready to offer some basic analysis of the 2010-2011 Orlando Magic, Squad 2.0. It’s tough to offer any definitive examination of the trades at this point, mostly because nobody has taken the court yet, so I tried to take a brief position by position look at the potential impacts.

The Trade(s)

Orlando: Receives Gilbert Arenas, Guard

Washington: Receives Rashard Lewis, Forward

Orlando: Receives Jason Richardson, Guard – Hedo Turkoglu, Forward – Earl Clark, Forward

Phoenix: Receives Vince Carter, Guard – Mickael Pietrus, Guard/Forward – Marcin Gortat, Center – 2011 1st round pick, plus cash

Guard – Upgrade

Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas, J.J. Redick, Chris Duhon, Jason Williams

Vince Carter is out. I’ve been tough on Vince since he has arrived, but for good reason. The world is tough on Vince because Vince Carter is capable of being a truly elite player and never seemed to care enough to get there. Vince was so far from being an elite player for the Magic, that quite frankly the discussion seems silly. He showed spurts of greatness from time to time, but it was rarely sustained.

Jason Richardson is an immediate upgrade over Vince Carter. The former slam dunk champion will be the new starter at SG and should immediately provide an upgrade in athleticism, consistency and long-range shooting. He should also decrease the number of injury timeouts taken.

Gilbert Arenas is the true x-factor for the Magic and the success or failure of the trades will ultimately fall with Gil’s play. Many analysts are concerned that Arenas will not be able to co-exist with Jameer Nelson and that he’s too ball-dominant to succeed on this team. However, Stan Van Gundy revealed the other night that Jameer has been privately pining to play off the ball more often to take advantage of his ability to run off screens. If you recall at St Joes, Jameer was able to do that exact thing and parlayed it into a Naismith College Player of the Year award.

Mickael Pietrus’ innate ability to fade away on any shot -including free throws- will be sorely missed, as well will his humor. While it’s tough to replace Planet Pietrus’ entertainment value, someone who has had self-imposed nicknames like The Hibachi and Agent Zero has the best chance to do it. There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. FingaGunz will certainly fill the firepower void that Peaches is leaving behind.

Bottom Line: Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas give the Magic two players who have the ability to drop 40 on any given night. At a minimum, the Magic should no longer be the worst fast break team in the NBA.

Forward – Upgrade (Slight)

Hedo Turkoglu, Quentin Richardson, Brandon Bass, Ryan Anderson, Malik Allen, Earl Clark

This section comes down to Hedo Turkoglu versus Rashard Lewis. Rashard had been a key cog in the Magic arsenal since his initial arrival in Orlando and was pivitol in the transformation of the Magic to an elite level team. With that being said, as he has gotten older and less filled with HGH, he has continuously declined. Unfortunately, so has Hedo. The big difference is that Hedo was playing on mediocre to bad teams, whereas Rashard was on a top, talented team.

Looking at this season’s numbers, they are eerily similar. However, most people think that Hedo’s return to Orlando will revitalize his sluggish play over the 1.25 seasons. I’m not sold on Hedo’s return, but the lack of killer instinct in Rashard alone makes Hedo an upgrade.

Earl Clark is a likely contender to challenge Daniel Orton for the Magic’s GQ Magic Best Dressed of the Year award and will battle Duhon, J-Will and Malik Allen for garbage time minutes.

This move also likely assures that Brandon Bass will remain the starter at the 4 and that Ryan Anderson will get his minutes back (once healthy).

Center – Downgrade

Marcin Gortat was a luxury as a backup Center. There is no way around it. Not many people could step into Dwight Howard’s shoes and keep the game flowing the way Gortat could. He may have had bricks for hands and unrealistic “dable dable” expectations for himself, but more often than not he performed when called upon. The lack of a true backup Center is a major concern for the Magic right now, especially considering Dwight Howard’s knack for getting called for phantom fouls.

Chemistry – Upgrade

Significant upgrade. While it isn’t widespread public knowledge, the team was growing increasingly frustrated with each other and Vince Carter was likely the most targeted persona. It was reported before the season started that Vince and Dwight often clashed during the 09-10 season and Vince often admitted that he struggled with not having the ball as much as he was used to. Andrew Melnick reported on Saturday morning, before the trades, that Dwight Howard was privately pushing for changes to take place.

When your superstar isn’t happy, the franchise isn’t happy. Dwight knew that a change was needed and spoke openly about the lack of fire from the team during the last few weeks. That fire can certainly be passed on and influenced by the team’s leaders, but in this case it’s doubtful that even Red Auerbach could have gotten the extra intensity needed to fuel Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis.

With Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu, you gain three players who aren’t scared of the spotlight. The Magic needed some much needed confidence, swagger and toughness and Gil, J-Rich and Hedo > Vince, Rashard and Gortat.



Brian Serra is the founder of MagicBasketballOnline.com.  You can follow/add him on Twitter and on Facebook.  Compare pricing of Orlando Magic tickets for all future games using TiqIQ.

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