Cohen: Magic Continue to Clear Way for Big Things

By Josh Cohen
February 21, 2013

ORLANDO -- It may have somewhat of a limited impact in the short term, but the J.J. Redick trade, similar to the Dwight Howard deal last summer, is the kind of transaction that may ultimately propel the Orlando Magic to supreme success.

Financial flexibility together with the acquisitions and development of young blossoming talent is how NBA teams eventually convert from a rebuild to a title contender.

Now with Tobias Harris, a 20-year-old with boundless potential to emerge into a valuable player, on board and with Nikola Vucevic, Andrew Nicholson and Maurice Harkless still in the infantile stages of their development, Orlando has accumulated a slew of budding young players to build around.

And, of course, the Magic will harvest a high draft pick in June’s NBA Draft this year and perhaps next year as well when an alleged star-studded draft class is unveiled.

But what will really separate Orlando from most other rebuilding teams is the amount of salary cap space it will have to stock up on free agents in two to three years.

While the other pieces in the Redick deal, including veteran point guard Beno Udrih and last year’s collegiate champion at Kentucky Doron Lamb, are expected to contribute for Jacque Vaughn, they each have very obliging contracts and will permit the Magic to stay on a path general manager Rob Hennigan covets.

“We like the Milwaukee deal because we felt we were able to get back some players who address some needs for us and fit the timeline to put together a competitive window,” Hennigan said.

“We are being opportunistic,” he added. “We need to look at everything with a bigger picture. We believe in everything we are doing. We believe in the research we do.”

It was certainly a difficult decision to trade Redick, who has continuously improved since he was drafted by the Magic in 2006. But considering he was set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer and with the expectation that he will command a contract worth up to $10 million a season, that price for Redick was too steep to derail the alleyway of creating something balanced and sustainable.

“With the landscape of the league the way it is and all the rules the way they are, you have to be strategic and thoughtful and wise as to how you build your team and spend your money,” Hennigan said.

It may be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel and what it all will ultimately look like, but the Magic have established a very exceptional canal that will eventually be complete with the right pieces to groom a contender.

If you examine some of the current elite teams in the NBA, you will notice that these franchises didn’t evolve into title contenders overnight.

Miami, for instance, spent a couple of years freeing up a ton of cap space to eventually unite LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010 when they were all free agents.

Oklahoma City stockpiled on an assemblage of rewarding draft selections, including Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, and after a few years of grooming all that young talent emerged into one of the top teams in the league.

There is no one precise way to build an elite team, which is why all the flexibility could prove to be a major advantage for Orlando.

But as the Magic continue on this voyage, it’s imperative, as verified from Thursday’s Redick trade, that you can’t let emotions interfere with long-term goals.

“I understand the emotional shockwave that you feel when someone you root for gets traded,” Hennigan said. “Our job is to remove that emotion and focus on decisions that are in the best interest of the organization. We are trying to be very methodical.”

It’s important to note that every time Orlando has been in a rebuild, it has bounced out of it successfully.

After its expansion season in 1989 and a few years of developing young players, Orlando reached the NBA Finals in 1995. It made quality draft decisions (ex: Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott) and made constructive free agent signings (ex. Horace Grant).

It again overcame a relatively short renovation when it landed Howard and Jameer Nelson in 2004 through the draft and used substantial cap space to acquire Rashard Lewis in 2007 to journey back to the Finals in 2009.

The coast is clear for the Magic to once again climb out of this rebuild. And when they do, we will all realize the Howard deal from last August and the Redick trade from today were essential in that process.

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