Since the start of the new millennium the Orlando Magic have been lucky enough to have, at different times, two franchise players: Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard.
Both players were All-Stars with unbelievable talents that the team attempted to build around. Both led the team to the playoffs—in 12 seasons since the 2000-01 season the Magic have made the playoffs nine times—and Howard even led the team to the NBA Finals in 2009. Both were MVP-worthy players that the fans adored.
Both McGrady and Howard also grew very unhappy in Orlando and demanded to be traded. Those wishes were granted now that Dwight Howard has been traded to the Lakers in a four-team deal.
The Magic look to recoup just as they did when they dealt McGrady and lost Shaquille O’Neal in free agency before him. Trading away franchise players is never a fun task for any organization, but how have the deals worked out for Orlando?
Magic trade Tracy McGrady, Juwan Howard, Tyronn Lue and Reece Gaines to Rockets for Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato
At the time this deal was completed it was often viewed as a fair trade. In retrospect, Orlando was the clear loser in this deal.
Francis was the centerpiece the Magic received in this deal. In his first game with Orlando he hit a layup at the buzzer to lead the team past the Milwaukee Bucks. But after 23 games with the Magic, Francis also grew upset because the team dealt Mobley, who Francis had played each of the previous six seasons with.
“I can't put it into words,” he said at the time. “Playing with a guy, living with a guy, just knowing that every day when I wake up that's something I can count on, that I'm going to be in practice or in a game with Cuttino. Him not being here is going to be tough for me. I don't know what I'm going to wake up for.”
Mobley was a talented offensive player who was sent to Sacramento with Michael Bradley for the defensive-minded Doug Christie—another failed move.
Francis finished the season with 21.3 points per game, a shade under his career high, then was traded to the New York Knicks at next season’s trade deadline for Trevor Ariza and Penny Hardaway’s expiring contract.
Cato was also traded in February of that second season after the deal to Detroit for Darko Milicic and Carlos Arroyo.
The Magic got three players for Tracy McGrady—who was named to four more All-Star games in six seasons with Houston—and all were gone within two years. None brought in draft picks or franchise altering players. The Magic didn’t make the playoffs either season. Also, Howard would be Houston’s starting power forward the next three seasons, a solid addition to the lineup.
Magic trade Dwight Howard, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark to Lakers and Jason Richardson to 76ers. Magic receive Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington from Denver, Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless from Philadelphia, Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga from the Lakers and a lottery protected first-round draft pick from the Lakers, 76ers and Nuggets.
What they get in return is a bit uncertain, however. The Magic didn’t land the second or third-best player in the deal (Andrew Bynum or Andre Iguodala in whatever order you like). They didn’t get an All-Star in return. They didn’t wind up getting Pau Gasol, like some earlier versions of the deal suggested. They also couldn’t shed Hedo Turkoglu’s awful contract, one that they originally refused to give him when he left after the 2009 NBA Finals trip before Orlando traded back for him.
They got Arron Afflalo, a nice defender who was also Denver’s second-leading scorer last season with 15.2 points per game last season. His points per game totals have risen the past few years. But will Orlando be balanced enough for him to succeed, or will he be the key guy that team’s focus on and he struggles?
Since the 2001-02 season Al Harrington has never averaged fewer than 10.5 points per game. He’s another solid scorer who is a good secondary option for a contending team. But it’s hard to imagine the Magic contending this year and some in the media are already saying he could be moved by the February trade deadline for an expiring contract. He’s 32-years-old and has three years left on his deal.
Eyenga is 23 and only played in seven games last year. Harkless is a first-round rookie with a lot of athleticism. Vucevic and McRoberts are average low-post players that will compete in a crowded frontcourt with Glen Davis, Gustavo Ayon, Justin Harper, Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn for playing time. Vucevic seems to have more upside than McRoberts.
It’s obviously easy to rate the McGrady deal in hindsight and who knows if any of the young players (mainly Harkless, Afflalo and Eyenga) could blossom into bigger roles than with their previous teams.
But with the way the McGrady trade panned out and with the initial reaction towards the Howard deal, it’s apparent that Orlando has struggled in getting fair value in return for their franchise players.
Dwight Howard: AP Photo/John Raoux, File
Tracy McGrady: AP Photo/Ed Betz
Arron Afflalo: AP Photo/ Jack Dempsey, File