Its been two years since the Orlando Magic drastically shook up the NBA landscape by trading away their star center Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four team deal. Here are the basics of the trade.
Magic receive: Nikola Vucevic, Arron Afflalo, Moe Harkless, Josh McRoberts, draft picks
Lakers receive: Dwight Howard, Earl Clark, Chris Duhon
Nuggets receive: Andre Iguodala
Sixers receive: Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson
Its been just two years, but so many things have changed for the teams and players involved in that time. The Los Angeles Lakers, projected winners of the trade at the time, landed one of the NBA’s best big men and appeared to have a potential dynasty on their hands with Pau Gasol, Howard, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. Two years later, Gasol is on the Bulls, Howard on the Rockets, Nash is a shell of his former self and Bryant has been injured and isn’t getting any younger. So much for a potential dynasty.
This is the guy the Lakers thought they were getting:
The Orlando Magic were questioned and even mocked at the time of the trade for not getting back a star player like Andrew Bynum. And the 76ers were praised for getting Bynum and finding the franchise center of the future for their team. Bynum’s story is the perfect example of why you can’t accurately grade a trade right afterwards. Bynum is long gone from the 76ers and possibly from the league and the 76ers have spiraled downward ever since “solving their identity crisis.”
The Magic actually might have gotten the most out of the trade looking at it now. Nikola Vucevic, Arron Afflalo and Moe Harkless were the three main pieces the Magic received, along with a couple of draft picks and throwaways like Al Harrington. This was a case of the Magic trading their superstar for a couple of dimes and maybe two quarters, and it certainly wasn’t the haul that the Minnesota Timberwolves got for their star player, Kevin Love. But it was still a solid haul and it looks better now with Vucevic developing like he has.
Speaking of the Timberwolves, it is interesting to compare the hauls of the T-Wolves and Magic when they each traded their star player. Minnesota very nearly traded a dollar for a dollar by getting back a potential franchise changing player in Andrew Wiggins and two other solid pieces in Anthony Bennett, who should be much improved in year two, and Thaddeus Young from the 76ers. Getting two former number one picks for your star player is awfully good, but like the Howard trade, we can’t jump to conclusions just yet about the trade.
The Nuggets and Lakers both thought they too had come out of this trade with the better deal right after. Howard to the Lakers looked really good on paper but he never quite fit in for reasons that aren’t necessarily the Lakers fault. Regardless, his departure one year after the trade set the Lakers franchise back a few years as they scrambled to find a star to replace him. The same thing happened in Denver, as Andre Iguodala was very good for the team for one season but left one year after to go to Golden State. Denver, one year after winning a team high 57 games in the Western Conference, collapsed to a 36-46 record last season.
To summarize at the end, let’s name a few winners and losers of the trade.
Winner: Houston Rockets
The Rockets might have ended up winning this trade because they were able to get Dwight Howard to Houston and pair him with James Harden to form one of the more fearsome pairings of stars in the league. If Howard gets traded to a different team, maybe he never seriously considers changing teams in free agency in 2013 and the Rockets never get him.
Losers: Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers
All three of these teams are losers in this trade. Looking at the trade two years later, all of the key pieces of the trade that these teams received are gone. Bynum never turned out to be anything for the 76ers, the Nuggets lost Iguodala and the Lakers lost Howard. You could argue that the Nuggets enjoyed the services of Iguodala for one year and made the playoffs, making the trade not totally worthless for them. But, its hard to say you won the trade when the pieces you traded for are gone. That is bad team planning to think just think a year ahead. This trade set all three franchises back a couple of years in the long run, and its not a coincidence that they all ended up in the lottery in the 2014 NBA draft.
Quasi-winner: Orlando Magic
The reason why I put a quasi in front of the winner part is because how good could the trade have been if two seasons later your team rockets to 23 wins in 2013-14 and to the top of the lottery? But, the Magic had no options when it came to trading Howard. Unlike in Minnesota, where there was still a chance Love would stay, Howard was going to leave Orlando and do so soon. The Magic were up against that deadline and did… meh.
Afflalo averaged 18.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game last season in Orlando but was traded this summer to the Denver Nuggets for Evan Fournier and a second round pick in the 2014 draft. That’s not a huge haul, but Fournier has a high ceiling and Afflalo gave the team two good years. Moe Harkless has been up and down so far in Orlando and hasn’t broken out yet. The biggest coup for the Magic was Vucevic. He looks like a legitimate piece to build a team around. Vucevic makes the trade somewhat acceptable now for the Magic given the context.
Based on raw numbers alone, Vucevic is on a terrific career trajectory:
In all, this is one of the most intriguing trades in league history for multiple reasons. One, it involved one of the sport’s biggest stars being traded in his prime, which doesn’t happen much to start with. Also, multiple stars were traded and shuffled around, like Bynum and Iguodala. Finally, every team in the four-team trade now is in rebuilding mode, which is tough to fathom just two years later.
I also don’t think any team, except for maybe the Magic, does this trade again. And that is really hard to say about any trade after two years have passed.