The Orlando Magic had to make a decision on what to do with then franchise player Dwight Howard. Howard, who was not happy in Orlando, demanded a trade multiple times and ultimately led to coach Stan Van Gudy’s firing. On August 10th, 2012 the Magic, under new general manager Rob Hennigan, made a move that would not only change the franchise’ future, but the entire landscape of the NBA.
Hennigan completed a complicated four team trade that would send the disgruntled Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, while the Magic, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers swapped more players. Once all the dust settled and the deal was finally announced, Howard along with Chris Duhon and Earl Clark were Lakers, former Laker center Andrew Bynum and Magic guard Jason Richardson were in Philadelphia, Denver received the 76ers wingman Andre Iguodala and the Magic received a package of draft picks, guard Arron Afflalo and Christian Eyenga, forwards Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, Maurice Harkless and center Nikola Vucevic from Denver, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
Now with all teams 30 games or more into the season, we can take a look back and see who won in the trade so far. Just eyeballing the trade, you would figure that the Lakers, who received the best center in the game to go along with future hall of famers Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, would have gotten the best end of the deal. That’s not necessarily true.
The Lakers have struggled mightily early in the season, boasting a 15-18 record through their first 32, currently placing them 11th in the strong Western Conference. Coming off of surgery for a herniated disk in his back, Howard has not been the dominating force everyone in the NBA has come to know and love. Howard is currently averaging his fewest points per game in his career, 17.4, since his second season in the NBA which saw him average 15.8. His 12 rebounds per game are the fewest the dominating rebounder has grabbed since his rookie season, where he averaged a mere ten per game.
Howard’s struggled at the free throw line have continued, shooting just 51 percent after a career low 49 percent last season. Normally a defensive wrecking ball, teams have had success scoring on the Lakers in the paint, averaging 42 a game which ranks the Lakers 21st of 30 teams. In his final season in Orlando, teams only scored 37.8 points on average in the paint, fifth fewest in the league.
While Duhon and Clark have had a minimal to no impact on the team, the potential long term impact Howard will have on the team is the biggest factor. While there are some concerns Howard could walk as a free agent in the offseason, if Howard does resign with the team, he will be their building block of the future.
For the other Western Conference team in the trade, Denver, the acquisition of Andrew Iguodala has been minimal. The Nuggets currently sit at 20-16 through 35 games, compared to an 19-17 mark through the same time frame last season.
While the Nuggets have seen a small decrease in points per game allowed from last season, the offense has lost nearly two points per game. Iguodala is currently averaging more points per game, 13.9, than he did last season, 12.4, but he’s seen his shooting percentage dip slightly. Iguodala has seen his usage rate jump back up to 20.1 percent, after being at 17.7 percent in his final season in Philadelphia, his lowest since his second season in the league.
The young but experienced Nuggets continue to gain pieces for the future. While Iguodala has an early termination option at the end of the 2012-13 season, Denver’s depth and youth will pay dividends long term.
The man most regard as the second best center in the league, Andrew Bynum, was on the move in the trade as well. Bynum went from playing beside Kobe Bryant to playing for the upstart Philadelphia 76ers, well not yet. Bynum has yet to suit up for the 76ers, as he’s currently rehabbing from injuries to both knees, the second of which came from bowling.
The second player Philadelphia received was shooting guard Jason Richardson. Once one of the most explosive players in the league, Richardson has lost a step or five. After two average seasons with Orlando, a change of scenery may have been what J-Rich needed to keep his career going.
Currently averaging his fewest points per game of his career, 10.8, Richardson’ impact on the Sixers has been minimal at best. It’s hard to grade Philadelphia for the trade right now because you don’t know what they’re going to get from Bynum when and if he’s ever healthy again. Philadelphia’s young core centered around point guard Jrue Holiday bodes well for the future of this team, especially if they can get Bynum back and healthy.
The Orlando Magic gave up the most and from a sheer numbers stand point, received the most in the deal. Stuck in salary cap problems, Orlando looked to not only move the disgruntled Howard, but clear cap space to be able to make moves in the future while getting young players and draft picks. Orlando was successful in all three.
Two of the acquired players, Christian Eyenga and Al Harrington, have not played a game for the team. Eyenga was cut during training camp, while Harrington continues to rehab from knee surgery, which then led to a staff infection. Harrington’s return date has not been set, but he has been seen shooting and running non-contact drills after the teams practices.
Currently enjoying a career year, guard Arron Afflalo has been a focal point of the Magic offense all season. Afflalo currently leads the team in scoring at 17.5 points per game, and is also averaging career highs in rebounds 3.6, assists 2.8, free throw percentage 86 percent and field goals attempted per game 14.3. Widely known as a hard nose defensive player and a deadly sharp shooter, Afflalo is bringing toughness and leadership to the Magic squad.
Tabbed to be Dwight Howard’s replacement, second year man Nikola Vucevic had big shoes to fill. After coming over in the trade from the 76ers, Vucevic has not disappointed, evolving into a more than serviceable center in the NBA. Vucevic is currently averaging a double-double, 11.1 points 10.7 rebounds, on the season. While on court, Vucevic has grabbed 19.7 percent of the total rebounds possible, including a franchise and career high 29 rebounds against the Miami Heat.
With the most potential in the trade, Maurice Harkless has been a pleasant surprise for the Magic. A long and athletic wing from Saint John’s, Harkless has been a defensive stopper for the Magic. While raw on the offensive end of the ball, Harkless’ sheer potential and upside gives the Magic yet another piece to build off of in the future.
While the Magic will receive five future picks, including three first rounders, the impact of the picks is unknown. All of the first round picks have some sort of protections on them, causing the Magic to not know when they will receive them.
One third of the way through the season, all four teams involved in this monumental trade have had some impact, weather is be large or small. The Lakers, Nuggets and Magic could all be considered “winners” in this trade, while the Philadelphia 76ers, with out Andrew Bynum having played, currently are the “losers” of the trade that changed the NBA’s ever changing landscape even more.