Cohen: Popular Questions Analyzed

By Josh Cohen
July 16, 2012

What are your thoughts of the latest in the Dwight Howard saga?

First off, it’s shocking to me that more teams are not striving to acquire Dwight Howard.

Even without assurance that he would stay past next season, Howard is too powerful and prominent to pass up on.

Anyways, my main inquiry remains: If not Brooklyn, where does Dwight want to play?

After re-signing Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez to lucrative deals and after acquiring Joe Johnson and his massive contract, the Nets no longer have an ounce of salary cap space for Howard when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

As a result, Brooklyn is no longer an option for Dwight and the Nets – with Lopez untradeable until Jan. 15 – are no longer a potential trade partner in relation to Howard.

Any prospective deal, however, with Brooklyn was scratchy considering it would produce a second powerhouse in the East. That in itself wouldn’t be favorable for Orlando or any other team in the conference.

We know the Houston Rockets are one of few teams willing to “rent” Howard with no guarantee he would sign an extension.

Houston’s best trade chip is the draft pick it received from Toronto in the Kyle Lowry deal. Rather than explain the intricacies and stipulations of this future pick, barring something unforeseen happening, this pick will likely be a 2013 selection between 4 and 14.

The Rockets can also offer Jeremy Lamb, whom the team chose 12th overall in last month’s draft. They have Kevin Martin’s expiring contract and their own future draft picks to offer as well.

For the time being, Houston does have a plethora of salary cap space to accept any contracts Orlando would like to shed from its payroll. However, if the Knicks and Bulls, respectively, do not match the offer sheets the Rockets distributed to Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, that option and incentive will be exterminated.

Also unappealing in Houston is the fact that it doesn’t have a young, but already somewhat proven star to offer. If you recount the Carmelo Anthony-to-Knicks, Deron Williams-to-Nets and Chris Paul-to-Clippers deals, a budding talent was sent the other way (Danilo Gallinari, Derrick Favors and Eric Gordon).

We also know the Atlanta Hawks are extremely interested in their hometown hero. However, a somewhat overpaid Al Horford and a generally superfluous Jeff Teague (considering Jameer Nelson has re-signed in Orlando) is not exactly an idyllic proposal.

If Howard would commit to the Lakers long term and Andrew Bynum would do the same with the Magic, a simple swap would probably end all ambiguity. However, neither party seems willing to pledge to the opposite organization.

Three teams that seem to have some appealing assets, the Thunder, Bulls and Knicks, have not reportedly entered the sweepstakes.

The Mavericks were a team Howard mentioned when he made his initial trade request last December. But considering Dallas has absolutely nothing to offer in a trade and since Dwight did not add the Mavs to his now one-team list of desired landing spots, it’s shadowy whether he would ultimately sign with Mark Cuban next summer when he does indeed become a free agent.

So with all that briefly dissected: Where does Dwight want to play if not Brooklyn?

Could it be possible that amid all the drama and distractions that Howard’s “second preferred landing spot” is Orlando?

And if it is, will D12 at some point rescind his trade request and try and repair the relationship between he and the only organization he has ever played for?

Howard is the best center in the league, a top 5-8 player in the NBA today and the most intimidating and dominant force out there.

The Magic have appropriately done whatever it takes to convince Howard that Orlando is the best place for him and unless there is an offer that can’t be refused while the trade request still exists, they should continue to try and persuade the perennial All-Star that the Magic is the right team for him.

Why did the Magic choose to not retain Ryan Anderson?

First of all, it was a smart decision.

I know many people are a bit upset considering Ryan Anderson was venerated in Orlando. Nobody can devalue his accomplishments and improvements while with the Magic and it’s comprehensible why it would have seemed rational to have Anderson return.

However, it’s imperative to step back for a moment, collect your thoughts and understand why it was a bright choice to not re-sign Ryan.

There are generally three systematic recipes to create a championship team. Sometimes all three methods are exercised.

1) Drafting well when in the lottery
2) Having salary cap space to sign All-Star free agents
3) Possessing salary friendly contracts to try and acquire All-Star talents via trades

The contract the New Orleans Hornets are now giving Anderson would have likely hindered the Magic’s quest of ultimately forming a championship level team.

Anderson is a good player, but let’s be honest for a moment, the $36 million he is now getting would have denied Orlando from making pitches to any of the impending star free agents that will be available in the next two summers.

That kind of contract is what tends to burn salary cap space – making it practically impossible to retool a roster when necessary.

In addition, while I expect to Ryan to continue to get better, it’s extremely unlikely that he will evolve into a star talent. In effect, the $9 million a year he will be earning would probably not be a tradable asset if Orlando attempted to acquire a superstar.

The model is Miami. The Heat made sure in the couple years leading up to the summer of 2010 that they didn’t sign role players to bloated contracts. By not succumbing to the temptations, Miami was able to have enough salary cap space to sign LeBron, Wade and Bosh.

With warm weather all year, no state income tax and a beautiful new arena, Orlando will always be an attractive market for star players to consider relocating to when they are free agents.

There is so much debate about how today’s U.S. Olympic Team would match up against the original Dream Team. What are your thoughts?

Sports fans have a tendency to admire “legends” and assume they were better and more talented than today’s players.

That’s a myth and an invalid discernment.

The original Dream Team was awesome. That’s obvious and nobody can deny that.

However, we are comparing that team to today’s U.S. Olympic squad.

Let’s first assess each player from 1992 based on where they were in their careers at that time.

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird are two of the best players ever, however in 1992 they were both retired and very much past their prime. Johnson had played in one game (All-Star Game) in the previous year leading up to the Olympics and Bird could barely walk as a result of back problems that forced him to retire prematurely.

Although he is one of the greatest college players ever, Christian Laettner was an average NBA talent.

If Chris Mullin played today, I’m not sure he would crack the top eight among small forwards and while John Stockton is the all-time leader in assists, I am not convinced in his glory days he was a better player than today’s Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Steve Nash or Tony Parker. I will take a ton of criticism for that opinion, but we can debate that another time.

Yes, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson were all in the prime of their careers, but so is just about everyone on the 2012 team.

Also extremely important to consider, the 1992 team’s competition were basically a bunch of inexperienced adults just starting to learn the fundamentals of the game. I’m convinced at least half of the players that competed on the international teams couldn’t have told you what traveling was at that time.

Today, on the other hand, most of the opposing teams have at least one if not multiple NBA players on their rosters. Spain, in fact, is complete with current and former NBA players across its squad.

Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant would have all ranked second, third and fourth, respectively, if they had played on the 1992 team. No disrespect Barkley, but only MJ would be graded higher. And remember, Bird and Magic were retired and not what they once were.

The 2012 team is also far more athletic than 1992. I am not insinuating they are better players, but Paul, Westbrook, D-Will, Andre Iguodala, Tyson Chandler and before he got injured Blake Griffin are collectively unstoppable in transition.

Listen, all I am saying is that it’s absolutely unwarranted to come to some definitive conclusion that the 1992 Dream Team was far superior to today’s team.

Rather than admire the originals because they are legends, perhaps we need to analyze the two teams more practically.

If I am being put on the spot, I take the 2012 team. I may even take the 2008 squad over both. Just being honest.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by Josh Cohen are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.


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