Denton: Magic Trade Howard in Four-Team Blockbuster

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

By John DentonAugust 10, 2012 ORLANDO – Choosing a path that will allow them to rebuild from the ground up with a collection of draft picks, promising young players and future salary cap space, the Orlando Magic divorced themselves from Dwight Howard and started anew on Friday.

The Magic were key players in a blockbuster, four-team trade on Friday when they dealt Howard and reserves Chris Duhon and Earl Clark to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Magic also sent Jason Richardson to the Philadelphia 76ers and in return will receive Aaron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga and rookie Moe Harkless, three first-round picks and two second-round selections. The Magic will receive protected first-round picks from Denver (or New York) in 2014, Philadelphia in ‘15 and Los Angeles in ‘17.

In other aspects of the multi-layered deal, center Andrew Bynum was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, while small forward Andre Iguodala will play for the Denver Nuggets.

With the youthful and energetic leadership of General Manger Rob Hennigan and head coach Jacque Vaughn in place, the Magic will now embark on a full-scale rebuilding mission that should have them poised for a quick turn-around. Orlando has only $20 million in salaries committed to the 2014-15 season, meaning it could have as much as $30 million in salary cap space to pursue two elite free agents in the summer of 2014. The Magic will also be armed five first-round picks and five second-round picks over the next three years.

``A primary goal for our basketball team is to achieve long term sustainability while maintaining a long term vision. We feel this deal puts us in a position to begin building in that direction,’’ Hennigan said in a release. ``In addition to the six players joining our team, we will be in a position to maximize our salary cap flexibility in the near future, as well as utilize the multiple draft picks we have acquired going forward.’’

The Magic hope to remain competitive and in the playoff race next season with a team that still has the veteran core of Jameer Nelson, Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, Hedo Turkoglu and J.J. Redick. The Magic will be adding in Afflalo, an elite defender who averaged a career-best 15.2 points per game last season. Harrington, a 14-year NBA veteran, should also give the Magic plenty of scoring punch after averaging 14.2 points per game last season for the Nuggets. And the Magic will also be working to develop rookies Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O’Quinn and Harkless in the process.

The Magic have entertained trade scenarios for weeks for Howard, but resisted until they found one that fit all of their needs of shedding guaranteed contracts, acquiring young talent and stockpiling draft picks. The Magic had trade discussions regarding Howard with the New Jersey Nets, Houston Rockets and the Lakers various times, before ultimately deciding to be a part of Friday’s blockbuster.

The Magic will face their former franchise center on Dec. 2 in Los Angeles. Howard, who has been living in Los Angeles much of the last three months since having season-ending back surgery in April, will return to Orlando to face the Magic on March 12 at the Amway Center. Howard is the Magic’s all-time leader in points (11,435), rebounds (8,072) and blocked shots (1,344).

``Dwight Howard accomplished tremendous success as a member of the Orlando Magic,’’ Hennigan said in the release. ``He enjoyed All-NBA and NBA All-Star status, as well as many off the court opportunities during his eight years in Orlando. We wish him, Chris (Duhon), Earl (Clark) and Jason (Richardson) all the best in the future.’’

The trade ends a spectacular eight-year run in Orlando for Howard, who initially asked to be traded back in December of 2011 and played out his final season with the Magic surrounded by trade rumors and controversy. The first overall pick of the 2004 NBA Draft, Howard evolved into a six-time all-star and a five-time All-NBA selection with the Magic. He set a NBA record for all-star voting in 2009 and led the league in votes again in 2012. He also became the first player in league history to win three straight Defensive Player of the Year trophies from 2009-11.

The Magic also enjoyed incredible success with Howard anchoring the middle. Orlando made the playoffs each of the past six seasons, the longest such streak in the Eastern Conference. The Magic reached the NBA Finals in 2009 and got back to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010. However, Orlando has been knocked out of the first round of the playoffs each of the past two seasons.

Afflalo, 26, carved his niche in the NBA as a defender, but has evolved into a solid scoring option from the shooting guard position. He scored a career best 32 points this past March against Sacramento. He made five 3-pointers in a game twice last season. The Los Angeles native averaged 10.9 points and 3.6 assists in Denver’s first-round playoff series against the Lakers.

Afflalo has four years remaining on his contract, while Harrington has three years remaining. The final two seasons of Harrington’s contract are only partially guaranteed at $3.6 million and $3.8 million. The Magic could pursue a buyout with Harrington that will allow them to free up even more future salary cap space.

Vucevic, 21, is a native of Montenegro and spent one season at USC before being drafted by the 76ers. The 7-foot, 240-pounder appeared in 51 games last season (15 starts) with the Sixers, while averaging 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds.

Harkless, a St. John’s product, was the 15th pick of the June NBA Draft. The 6-foot-9, 190-pound small forward averaged 15.3 points and 8.6 rebounds last season in college while winning the Big East’s Rookie of the Year award. He is considered an elite athlete, but his outside shot and ball-handling need improvement.

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