Cohen: Plate Full of Decisions for New GM

By Josh Cohen
June 1, 2012

ORLANDO -- It will be an exciting day for some lucky executive when a new general manager is hired to oversee basketball operations in Orlando. But with that thrill and anticipation will also come a slew of pressure, responsibility and questions.

Here are the top five tasks the new Magic GM will have to contend with once he or she is appointed.

The Dwight Howard Situation

Shortly after being hired and probably immediately after he (or she) answers all of the media’s elaborate questions about the direction of this franchise, the new Orlando Magic general manager will sit down face to face with Dwight Howard to pick his brain and understand his desires.

It could be as simple as Dwight telling the new GM he is committed to the Magic long term or that he prefers to keep his options open and not sign an extension. It’s also feasible that Howard may pose a myriad of scenarios that could appease him.

If Howard pledges his trust in the new GM and the organization, this could become far less convoluted than it’s been over the last several months. If he doesn’t, on the other hand, it can get real intricate.

D12 is a top five player in this league and may be the most impactful considering the position he plays and his defensive prowess. As a result, trading him is a last resort.

In contrast to Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets, Deron Williams and the Jazz or Chris Paul and the Hornets, Howard’s value on the Magic is far more significant and influential than it ever was for those aforementioned players on their previous teams.

That’s no disrespect to Melo, D-Will or CP3, but they are presently top 20 players in the league. D12, on the other hand, is an all-time great center.

However, if Howard remains indecisive about his future or simply requests to move on, one would expect the new GM to field offers.

This is where philosophy would come into play. Denver and its front office staff chose to stock up on valuable pieces and effective role players in its deal for Anthony. New Orleans and its staff, conversely, opted to accept cap relief, a promising star in the making (Eric Gordon) and a high lottery draft pick for Paul.

If Anthony Davis evolves into a perennial All-Star, the Hornets’ decision to be dreadful for a season and open up the possibility of landing the No. 1 overall pick in the draft will prove to be an intelligent determination. The Nuggets, meanwhile, are set to be a playoff team for the foreseeable future but will likely be eliminated in the First Round every year because they don’t have a star.

The new GM’s meeting with Howard will be fascinating and the dialogue that is exchanged between the two will almost certainly dictate the future of the Magic for years to come.

Choosing A New Head Coach

By the time a new GM is hired in Orlando, one of the recognized coaching candidates will likely be decorating his new home in Charlotte. The Bobcats have already started searching for a new head coach and have interviewed a number of prospective generals to lead their rebuilding plan.

In effect, there will be one less option for the new GM to consider. However, that certainly does not insinuate that there won’t be a number of qualified candidates to choose from.

Selecting a head coach may be heavily persuaded by whether Howard will be on the team or not next season. If he is and Orlando is a championship contender, the coaching search will likely be narrowed down to more experienced applicants. If he isn’t, on the other hand, the pursuit may be open to coaches with potential to succeed but without much practice.

It’s a big curiosity as to whether any coaches who are currently with a team may be in the running. For instance, would either Doc Rivers or Scott Skiles, two renowned coaches who have past ties to the Magic, be potential candidates?

Some of the coaches mentioned as early possibilities for the gig include Jerry Sloan, Nate McMillan, Michael Malone and Brian Shaw.

It will likely be a very in-depth process in selecting a new head coach, nonetheless.

Exploring Trade Possibilities

Every summer general managers spend at least half their time on the phone exchanging trade proposals with their counterparts.

Communicating trade concepts is far more obscure than most people realize. There are many rules and regulations as detailed in the CBA to abide by and there is always hesitation for any team to trade players they previously signed, acquired or drafted.

Depending on whether Howard will be with the Magic next season and beyond will likely determine what kind of pieces the new GM will explore in the trade market this offseason.

There are several players worth keeping an eye on this summer. Whether Orlando has the assets to acquire any of them, however, is a separate debate.

But, players such as Atlanta’s Josh Smith, Milwaukee’s Monta Ellis, L.A.’s Pau Gasol, Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala, Indiana’s Danny Granger, Boston’s Paul Pierce, New York’s Amar’e Stoudemire, Memphis’ Rudy Gay and Chicago’s Carlos Boozer are all relatively big names who may be on the move this summer.

We can analyze why each of these players may be available, but that would be rather long-winded and arduous.

From the Magic’s standpoint, it’s very difficult to assess some of their players’ trade value. If the goal of the new GM were to try and obtain a second “superstar” to team with Dwight, one would assume he or she would try and formulate packages that may potentially appeal to teams contemplating trading one of their top players.

We could all day exhaust our efforts proposing a million different trade offers that involve the Magic, but ultimately rival executives have distinct views of what they value. This is what the new GM will have to contend with.

Deciding on Ryan Anderson

It was made clear numerous times throughout this past season that the Magic would love to retain Ryan Anderson, who will be a restricted free agent this summer.

Anderson averaged career highs of 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds en route to claiming the Most Improved Player award. His value skyrocketed and he has not reached his ceiling yet.

Many wonder, however, if there are two different Anderson’s to evaluate – one with Howard and one without.

In many ways, Ryan altered his game when D12 was on the floor vs. when he wasn’t. Anderson, who led the league in threes made, is a stretch four and a lethal 3-point shooter when Howard is commanding double teams in the post and is more of a board crasher and hustle hero when Dwight is absent.

This is largely why the new GM’s decision on Anderson is so complicated. Though, it could become very trouble-free if no opposing teams offer Ryan a lucrative deal.

If the bar is set low on Anderson in any offer sheet he signs with a different team, Orlando will almost certainly be quick to match and preserve their starting power forward.

However, if the bar is set high and an opposing team presents Anderson with a very rewarding deal, the decision will be very complex.

Especially with the new CBA luxury tax guidelines going into effect next year, the Magic need to be very careful in their spending. No team wants to have to pay those steep penalties for being in the luxury tax.

Also, there is always a fear that a player won’t live up to the contract they sign. We have seen it countless times throughout NBA history and it’s largely why NBA owners wanted changes when the past CBA expired last summer. Overpaid players are a dime a dozen and it’s something that hurriedly weighs down a team.

Especially with the free agent class of 2014 vastly approaching, it’s imperative for teams to keep their options open when all those prized players become available.

In effect, the decision on Anderson won’t be an easy one. It all depends on the outlook and philosophy of the new GM. Does he or she see Anderson as a cornerstone of a franchise worth an inflated contract or does he or she think it may be best to free up some cap space for other free agents down the road?

Deciding on Jameer Nelson If He Opts Out

It remains ambiguous whether Jameer Nelson will opt out of his deal this summer or he will choose to collect his nearly $8 million next season and become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2013.

If Nelson decides to opt out and test free agency now, it will be another complicated decision for the new GM to assess.

Jameer has been critical to Orlando’s success since he was drafted in 2004. There have been games, including big playoff contests, that Nelson’s performance practically single-handedly catapulted the Magic to victories.

But also, Nelson has been inconsistent through the years and this past season was certainly a rocky one for the seven-year pro.

One of the primary factors Nelson must consider is the fact that most teams are established at the point guard spot. Therefore, assuming he wants to remain a starter on a high quality team, Nelson’s options in free agency will be limited.

Just think about all these names:

Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans, Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, Stephen Curry

There are a myriad of very good to great point guards in this league. Orlando still seems like the best fit for Nelson.

However, like it will be with Anderson and his situation, if Jameer chooses to become a free agent, another tough decision will be added to the new GM’s plate.

It all comes down to philosophy, really. Does he or she secure Nelson as the featured floor general for many years to come or does he or she take the route of continuing to alleviate cap space should Jameer receive a lucrative offer from a different team?

Which task do you think will be most demanding for the new GM of the Magic?

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