Last year, the sports world was shocked when Dwight Howard was traded, and somehow the Orlando Magic, who had the most valuable asset, ended up the losers of the deal. One year later, the Magic front office sits back and smiles about the position the other three teams (Sixers, Lakers and Nuggets) are left in.
The Denver Nuggets got All-Star Point Guard Andre Iguodala from the Sixers, widely regarded as one of the best defensive players in the league. Led by Iguodala, Ty Lawson and JaVale McGee, the Nuggets set a franchise record for wins in a season with 57, good enough for 3rd seed in the West. Iguodala averaged 18 points, 8 rebounds, and more than 5 assists during the Nuggets’ playoff series against Golden State in the first round. Iguodala efforts were not enough the Nuggets were upset in the first round. Mere hours after the 2013 free agency started, Iguodala signed a four year deal with Golden State, leaving the Nuggets with nothing but memories.
The Sixers got the supposed “savior to their franchise” in All-Star Center Andrew Bynum, as well as Jason Richardson and his overpriced contract. I was one of the unfortunate Sixers fans who got caught up on all the hype. Before the season started, my cousin got me Bynum jersey and tickets to the Sixers opening night against none other than the Denver Nuggets, showing off their newly acquired prize in Iguodala. The game was scheduled for Halloween night, and even months before hand I could not contain my excitement. I was going to be there the first game with the new cornerstone of our franchise; Bynum was supposed to be the guy who was going to bring the Sixers back to the NBA Finals for the first time in more than a decade. The preseason came and went and it was announced Bynum would be sitting out due to a knee injury. Then came opening day, and then the All-Star break, and finally the end of the season came and he never even stepped foot on the court. Somehow, he even injured his knee further by bowling. The guy couldn’t play basketball, the game he was being paid millions of dollars to compete in, but felt it was completely okay to go bowling and injure his other knee. The Sixers finished with a 34-48 record, well out of playoff contention like they were projected. Bynum became the focal point of the fans’ rage and embodied a short lived era they would rather forget. Bynum became an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, which lead to the eventual resignation of fan favorite player-turned-coach Doug Collins and forced the Sixers to start rebuilding.
When this trade went down, the whole point was to get Dwight Howard to the Lakers, supposedly being the last piece of the puzzle to start their next dynasty. He joined a team with fellow All-Stars Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash expecting to bring another title back to LA. They became instant favorites to win the West and compete against the Heat for the title. All of that was before the injures happened. First Steve Nash was injured almost as soon as the season began, leaving the Lakers without a key cog of their championship clock. Then coach Mike Brown was fired only five games into a season, eventually being replaced with former Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni. Howard and D’Antoni quickly clashed as Howard was no longer the centerpiece of an offense that he had grown accustomed to in Orlando. Reports of dissension in the locker room became daily occurrences, and it was obvious that no one was really happy. As always, Kobe put the team on his back and lifted them through the last part of their schedule until tragedy struck; he tore his Achilles tendon, ending his season. The Lakers barely made the playoffs without him, thanks to a five game winning streak to close out the regular season. The Lakers were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual Western Conference champions, the San Antonio Spurs.
Dwight Howard became an unrestricted free agent after the season for the first time in his career. Easily the biggest free agent since LeBron James, Howard eventually narrowed his choices down to the Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets. LA and Houston were long considered the front-runners to land Howard, with LA going as far as to put up massive billboards all around the city lobbying for his return. Howard eventually decided on playing for the Houston Rockets.
Dwight Howard wanted out of Orlando back in the lockout shortened season of 2012, wanting to be traded to the New Jersey Nets. Refusing to grant him a trade, he begrudgingly played out the season until a back injury ended his career with the Magic. After almost being traded to the now Brooklyn Nets several times during the offseason, he eventually got his second choice in the Lakers. The fan base in Orlando was happy that they were finally rid of his sideshow antics and they can move into a new era.
The Orlando Magic were by far the worst team directly after the trade, winning only 20 games during the season, and failing to qualify for the playoffs the first time since 2007. They traded away their star player and entered full blown rebuilding mode. All in all, the Magic received: Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, as well as several first round draft picks scattered throughout the next 5 years. Vucevic became a double-double machine and was named one of the NBA Rising Stars and Harkless did very well in his rookie season, proving he could handle a starting role. In the 2013 draft, with the second overall pick, the Magic selected SG Victor Oladipo out of Indiana. Called one of the most complete players to ever be drafted, Oladipo brings the spotlight back to Orlando. He gives the Magic a nucleus to build a franchise around. Unlike the rest of the three teams, the pieces they got during the trade are still with the team. The 3 single biggest players have all signed massive contracts with a team other than the one they were traded to. None of them came close to winning a championship and for the next 5 years are indebted to the Magic in terms of draft picks. As the Magic’s GM Rob Hennigan sits back in his chair enjoying the second overall pick in the draft, he feels even better knowing the position that the other teams are in. The Magic have a bright future ahead of them.