Denton Opens Up the Mailbag: July 25

By John Denton
July 25, 2012

ORLANDO – You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers. So away we go with the latest Denton’s Dish mailbag with questions submitted by Magic fans via Twitter to @JohnDenton555:

QUESTION: When will we have resolution on the D12 situation? – Mac (@GstackGeorge)

ANSWER: Considering how the past eight months have gone with the daily Dwight drama, did you expect this situation to actually be resolved quickly? Not a chance considering the complexity of the matter.

In Dwight, the Magic possess one of the five best basketball players on the planet. And he’s not just the best big man in the NBA, he’s the best by a country mile. Any team in the league would love to have a center of Dwight’s quality, including the Magic. So considering Dwight’s enormous talent, the Magic have to make sure they get the best deal possible for what they are giving up. And that, as we have seen, takes a lot of time.

I’ve been a big proponent all along of the Magic resisting the temptation to trade Howard and hanging onto him until they just absolutely have to deal him. Players of his ilk are too hard to come by, so exhaust all options and don’t deal him until you absolutely have to.

And, of course, Dwight could still change his mind several more times. Remember last March when he seemed to have one foot out the door only to reverse course and return to Orlando. I know that he loves Orlando and will always consider this his home, and there’s a big part of him that still wants to be in Central Florida.

So I see no harm in the Magic waiting until February before deciding whether or not they must trade Howard. Sure, there will be distraction of the daily drama yet again next season, but going through that beats simply giving away one of the best players on the planet in a bad deal. Kudos to Magic GM Rob Hennigan for not taking the New Jersey deal for Brook Lopez and his burdensome $61 million contract. If the Magic must deal Howard, they know they can do better than that for a talent like Howard.

QUESTION: My question is how much cap room will the Magic have next summer with the current roster? – Mister Joel (@RealJT07)

ANSWER: If the current roster stays intact until next summer, the Magic have $39.4 million committed to seven players (Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon, Quentin Richardson and Andrew Nicholson) for the 2013-14 season. The salary cap for the 2012-13 season will be $58.044 million and the cap for the following season will be set next July. If the Magic can’t clear any existing salary off their books, they will have approximately $18.6 million to spend on free agents next summer.

If Howard remains with the Magic, he will have ``Bird Rights’’ and the Magic can exceed the salary cap to sign him. If they are able to clear some guaranteed salaries off the books, the Magic could make a run at an unrestricted free-agent class that includes Chris Paul, Josh Smith, Andrew Bynum, Monta Ellis, David West, Al Jefferson and Kevin Martin.

QUESTION: How long until you think the Magic will name a new head coach? Tony Nardo (@TonyNardo)

ANSWER: GM Rob Hennigan wasn’t joking when he said the Magic would take their time in hiring the next coach, was he? All joking aside, the Magic appear very close to naming their next coach from a pool that includes Jacque Vaughn, Lindsey Hunter and Michael Curry. All indications are that the Magic will have a head coach in place by early next week.

All three are considered rising head coaching candidates and would bring a fresh face and fresh ideas to the Magic next season. All three are former players who only recently got out of the game and into coaching. All three were considered dynamic leaders on the floor and in the locker room and should be able to relate to the modern-day player.

Vaughn, who played 80 games for the Magic in 2002-03, is likely the front-runner. He is considered to be the next great young coach by several GMs around the league. He is smart, charismatic and has good communication skills. Not only did he play for Jerry Sloan, Doc Rivers, Gregg Popovich and Byron Scott during his career, but he was in San Antonio for two seasons at the same time as Hennigan.

QUESTION: Keeping Dwight Howard until the trade deadline will help us how? And is there a chance he could hold out? – Mr. Headen (@MikeMoney215)

ANSWER: Of course, there’s a chance of a hold out, but I don’t think that Howard would ever resort to that. He actually played well through the distractions last season and even played up until the pain in his back wouldn’t allow him to function at a high level any longer. For anyone who doubted Dwight’s devotion to the Magic late last season go back and watch his 20-20 effort against the Philadelphia 76ers when he could barely stand upright after the game because of the pain in his back.

I alluded to it earlier and I’ll say it again: I prefer the Magic holding onto Howard as opposed to locking themselves into a bad deal. I think their leverage is actually fairly strong right now, hence teams such as the Lakers, Rockets and possibly even the Thunder positioning themselves to land Howard.

I can’t understand why a team such as Oklahoma City wouldn’t be clamoring to get Howard for next season. As they are currently constructed, the Thunder are too perimeter oriented to win a championship. And they aren’t going to topple the Miami Heat without a difference-maker in the middle such as Howard. You’d have to think that a package centered around James Harden and Serge Ibaka would get the Magic’s attention.

Sure, acquiring Howard could be just a one-year rental, but wouldn’t you do that to win a championship? Even though no one talks about it, the Thunder are on the clock as it relates to Kevin Durant. Players rarely remain in a small-market city for a third contract if they haven’t already won a title (See: LeBron James). And if OKC won it all next season with Howard, the center might be willing to stick around to pair with Russell Westbrook and Durant for years to come.

QUESTION: Will the Magic make any moves before training camp to make Dwight realize it is better in Orlando than elsewhere? – Marc Villarosa (@danmarcus)

ANSWER: Barring a Howard trade, I think the Magic will most likely stick with the roster that they currently have for next season. Of course, they will continue to look to make tweaks to the team such as adding a back-up center and maybe a third point guard.

Next summer is the one to add elite free agents, not this one. So the roster as currently constructed will likely be the one on the floor when camp opens in October. However, if Howard is dealt, several players, such as Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon and Quentin Richardson, could be heading out as well.

Shedding long-term salary will likely be a goal next season regardless of the path the Magic take with Howard. Getting out from under the long-term deals is the easiest way to fix some of the flaws on the roster through free agency. The Magic have some veteran pieces that might tempt teams in a trade and help them get back draft picks or promising young players.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.



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