Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Magic: Better, worse or the same after the big trade?
David Aldridge: Better ballhandling, less equipped to beat the Celtics, better potential matchups with the Heat. Never has the relationship between a player and management — specifically, Gilbert Arenas and GM/president Otis Smith — been so important to the future of a franchise. If Gil is ready and/or able to be a dominant force again, Orlando could yet get out of the East. Anything short of that is a disaster.
Fran Blinebury: Different. I don’t think Gilbert Arenas would have been high on my list — or even on my list at all — as players who are going to help solidify the lineup, calm things down and get Dwight Howard closer to the championship that Orlando needs to prevent him from catching the Shaq Express out of town. Hedo Turkoglu returns to a place and a style of play where he seems most comfortable. The biggest catch in the deal for the Magic is Jason Richardson, who can finish on the break and hit the 3-pointer. I don’t think this pulls them even with Boston or Miami and the situation will test Stan Van Gundy‘s sanity. But the old lineup was withering on the vine and wouldn’t even have gotten close. Bold deal. But I still think they’re No. 3 in the East.
Art Garcia: They can’t be any worse. Hedo Turkoglu is back in the city of his greatest success, Gilbert Arenas is out of the city of his demise and Jason Richardson delivers in whatever city he’s in. On the minus side, Marcin Gortat was a nice insurance policy, but an insurance policy nonetheless, and Vince Carter is way more man and far less amazing these days. The Magic needed a wakeup call and a reason to keep Dwight Howard engaged. This trade does both.
Scott Howard-Cooper: The same. It’s a different set of problems now. Orlando will get a bounce coming out of the trade, the way big trades tend to shake up a locker room and create new energy. And that’s good for a team that had been struggling. But the Magic will be worse on defense after dealing Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat, especially since the Pietrus departure comes after they didn’t re-sign another wing defender, Matt Barnes. Dwight Howard is a great safety net, but he can’t guard five guys.
Shaun Powell: They’re better, because Gilbert is an upgrade over Rashard Lewis and Jason Richardson over Vince Carter, but how much better? Remember, Orlando reached Game 6 of the conference finals with the old crew. And here are the concerns: Weakness at backup center and the potential of some woof-woof performances from Hedo and Gilbert, who barked a little in their last stops.
John Schuhmann: As someone who picked them to win the championship, I hope they’re better! There’s no clear explanation for why a team that was so good last season was playing so mediocre this year. If the trade invigorates Gilbert and Hedo, the Magic should be improved offensively, and that’s the area where they’ve really fallen off. The defense will likely suffer, but with Dwight in the middle and Stan on the bench, they’re still going to be good on that end. So as long as the new guys play well, they will be better overall.
Sekou Smith: The fact that this question is being asked provides the most telling answer. This looks much more like a reshuffling of the deck than it does anything else. The Magic had issues before the trades and they have issues now. It starts with how to play Jameer Nelson and Gilbert Arenas in the same rotation at the same position without upsetting an already delicate balance in the locker room. There’s also the problem of a backup big man for Dwight Howard. The best team in the Eastern Conference is loaded in the frontcourt with Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal, Glen Davis and eventually, Kendrick Perkins. Howard doesn’t stand a chance in the playoffs facing that sort of firepower.