Was the Orlando Magic’s trade of Dwight Howard a smart move or a mistake the franchise will regret?
It’s too early to tell.
The wisdom — or lack thereof — of the deal cannot be measured accurately until at least several years have passed.
Clarity only will emerge when the following questions are answered:
1. Will Andrew Bynum become a superstar and will he remain healthy over the next several years?
Make no mistake, the Magic made a momentous decision in this trade: They chose not to acquire Bynum, whom most NBA experts regard as the sport’s second-best center.
Having Bynum for the 2012-13 season could have kept the Magic a playoff team.
Magic officials had a number of reasons for not insisting on Bynum. They were concerned about the long-term health of his knees, his immaturity and whether he would re-sign for the long-term.
If Bynum has injury troubles in the years ahead, the Magic will be vindicated for not acquiring him.
If he turns into a superstar, the Magic will regret it.
Simple as that.
2. Will any of the players the Magic acquired develop into an All-Star?
It seems unlikely that any of the five veteran players the Magic obtained in the trade — Arron Afflalo, Christian Eyenga, Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, Nikola Vucevic — will develop into an All-Star.
Afflalo is well-regarded, and he’d be a welcome addition to almost any contending team. But right now, the Magic are not a contending team.
Vucevic has some potential.
The other three veteran players have to be classified as journeymen.
The Magic also acquired rookie small forward Moe Harkless in the deal, and has upside.
3. Will any of the draft picks the Magic acquired turn into a superstar?
The draft picks the Magic obtained are underwhelming at best.
All of the first-round picks the Magic will receive will come from playoff teams, and even if those teams have a bizarre hiccup that prevents them from reaching the playoffs, there are protections on those picks that would prevent those picks from being high lottery picks for Orlando.
That said, one of the criticisms of the deal — that the Nets offered better draft picks — is inaccurate. The Nets offered three first-round picks, not four. And if the Nets teamed Howard with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace, the Nets would’ve become a perennial powerhouse, rendering those picks in the high 20s overall year after year.
4. Can the Magic trade some combination of the players and draft picks they acquired into a great player or players down the line?
5. Will the Magic use the $17.8 million traded-player exception it obtained?
The team has one calendar year to use it.