Cohen 8-Ball: Best Model for Magic?
January 15, 2013
Josh Cohen’s Analysis: With the Orlando Magic in the infantile stages of a renovation, it’s important to glance around the league and analyze how other teams have found success. Such an examination could help in determining the best plan of action for the Magic as they attempt to reform into a title contender. CLICK NEXT to learn about eight of the current elite teams in the NBA.
Cohen’s Analysis: It’s poignant in many ways that exactly a decade before the Heat’s rewarding financial spending in 2010, it was the Magic who nearly accomplished the same thing. In 2000, Orlando’s salary cap space led to the acquisitions of Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill and nearly the sequestering of Tim Duncan from San Antonio. Miami took advantage of the NBA’s fiscal system, liberating a plethora of salary cap space to unite LeBron James and Chris Bosh with Dwyane Wade. The salary cap is still set at $58 million, suggesting it’s feasible for franchises to land three max free agents in the same summer if they get far enough under the cap.
Cohen’s Analysis: It happened in the NFL this past year. Peyton Manning gets injured, the Colts get the No. 1 pick and sitting there is the quarterback of the century, Andrew Luck. Yep, “lucky.” This happened once in the NBA. Back in 1996, David Robinson got hurt, missed most of the season and the Spurs won the draft lottery. Tim Duncan has worn black and silver ever since. San Antonio also is the first franchise to jackpot on the pool of foreign talent. When everyone else backed away from players overseas, the Spurs ran toward it. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili should have been top five draft picks. Instead San Antonio won two big prizes at unsuspecting draft slots.
Cohen’s Analysis: It’s the more conventional and rational strategy to become elite, but it’s also the most time-consuming and luck-oriented. The Thunder are known as the “draft kings” around the league. Kevin Durant fell in their lap in 2007 and then OKC brilliantly selected Russell Westbrook and James Harden in the subsequent two years. The small market annoyance, however, hindered OKC’s yearning to preserve Harden because of financial complications. Approximately 25 teams have attempted to accomplish what the Thunder have done in the last decade. Everyone else has generally failed.
Cohen’s Analysis: From Wilt Chamberlain to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Kobe Bryant to Pau Gasol to Dwight Howard, the Lakers have historically been the trade generals around the league. Even Magic Johnson – via a deal with the Jazz involving Gail Goodrich – and James Worthy – by means of a deal with the Cavaliers -- played for L.A. as a result of trades. The Lakers have won more NBA championships (16) than they have made quality draft selections or free agent signings (aside from Shaquille O’Neal, naturally). It’s rather surprising and extraordinary for a team with the amount of talent they currently have to be struggling so mightily. But because of age and injuries, it possible that guys like Gasol and Steve Nash are big names without the ability to defend that reputation anymore.
Cohen’s Analysis: The Celtics were abysmal in 2007, finishing with the second worst record in the league and wondering how much longer they can convince their exclusive star, Paul Pierce, to be patient. It looked bleak, especially after Boston’s disappointing draft lottery slip that year. However, there were just enough assets, including a blossoming Al Jefferson, a large Theo Ratliff expiring contract and No. 5 overall draft pick (Jeff Green), to secure the two prizes of the trade market that summer, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. One year earlier in a draft-night deal with the Suns, the C’s acquired Rajon Rondo.
Cohen’s Analysis: The Nets – perhaps largely because of their transfer from Jersey to Brooklyn – got fed up being in a rebuild mode. With an increased fan base across the river screaming for a quality team to cheer on, BKN had to reload in any way imaginable. They landed Deron Williams from Utah with most of the assets they had (Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and unprotected draft pick) and then this past summer, decided it was worth accepting Joe Johnson’s contract using a plethora of expiring contracts. But arguably, the big win for the Nets was the drafting of Brook Lopez, who has evolved into an elite center.
Cohen’s Analysis: While many are applauding the Knicks and Clippers for their renewed spotlight, let’s face it; these two franchises were in the gutter for a really long time. Despite each playing in the two biggest media markets, both had to scratch and claw their way back to respectability. L.A., on one hand, won an important draft lottery in 2009 and landed Blake Griffin as a result of it. It then took practically every other asset it had to acquire Chris Paul. New York, on the other hand, played the salary cap game. After striking out on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in 2010, there was no way they would lose out on hometown star Carmelo Anthony, who essentially forced his way East.