NBA Summer Moves: Southeast Division
Can Orlando’s new look bring a return trip to the Finals?
Is it any surprise that the three teams favored to run the East this season are the ones who were the most active in the offseason? Probably not. Just like in the Atlantic and Central Divisions, the top dog in the Southeast is the one pulling the trigger on the most deals heading into the upcoming season. Orlando made some drastic changes to their lineup, but the Magic have definitely made some improvements in certain aspects of their rotation. The Wizards were able to put themselves back into the playoff picture with one trade and the Bobcats took a major role of the dice in their straight up deal for Tyson Chandler.
In Atlanta, the Hawks cleared the way for rookie Jeff Teague to be the backup point guard, while adding a scoring wing in Jamal Crawford and a couple of veteran frontcourt players. The Heat were able to add depth in their backcourt by proving to be the final stopping point for Quentin Richardson, but they ensured that their interior game would remain mediocre at best by resigning Jamaal Magloire and Joel Anthony.
With that brief overview in tow, let’s get to the awards.
Best Offseason Move: Magic sign Brandon Bass
Everyone is quick to label the acquisition of Vince Carter as the best move the Magic made this offseason, but let’s hold up and re-examine things for just a moment. Yes, bringing Carter on board gives Orlando a big-time scoring option at the shooting guard position and it will help offset some of the perimeter scoring that is lost with the departure of Hedo Turkoglu, but the signing of former Dallas big man Brandon Bass has impact at two positions.
For starters, it gives the Magic a true power forward to line up alongside Dwight Howard who can provide toughness, defense and tremendous help on the glass. With the type of scoring punch that Orlando will feature in their other four starting positions, Bass isn’t going to have to worry about scoring, just rebounding the basketball and playing physical. Perhaps most importantly though, this allows Rashard Lewis to shift back to his natural position of small forward and that will be a slight upgrade on Turkoglu at that spot. So rather than just filling a void (a la Carter) Bass gives the Magic an upgrade on toughness inside and allows them to shift and slightly upgrade at the small forward spot.
Potential Over The Top Move: Magic trade for Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson
Orlando struggled with the shooting guard position offensively last season. In fact, the Magic ranked dead last in the NBA in scoring from that position. Now granted, Courtney Lee was a fantastic defensive presence on the perimeter, but when you rank as one of the better defensive teams in the League, you can tinker a little bit. So the Magic traded the future (Lee) for a scoring option who can contribute in a big way immediately in Carter. All the talk about VC having a “down” year and only scoring 20 ppg last season — get over it.
A major part of the reason Carter saw the scoring numbers dip a little last year had to do with deferring to rising star Devin Harris and yes, somewhat due to the aging process. On Orlando though, he won’t be leaned on as heavily to provide huge scoring numbers every night. That isn’t to say Carter won’t go off and have his handful of 30+ point nights, because he will, but he won’t necessarily have to be the No. 1 or 2 scoring option every single game. If anything, he will likely fall somewhere between being the second, third or even fourth scoring option depending on who is playing well on any given night.
The addition of Ryan Anderson is getting lost in the shuffle a bit as well. He’s no Turkoglu, but Anderson is a bigger perimeter player who can create matchup problems. While it may be a little hasty to say future all-star after his showing in the Orlando Summer League, it certainly has to have the Magic’s front office anticipating the start of the season that much more.
Best Long-Term Move: Wizards trade for Mike Miller and Randy Foye
Washington was in a rut. The roster’s stars were aging and seemingly everyone not named Antawn Jamison was getting injured. So rather than continue to rebuild through the Draft, the Wizards shipped the No. 5 overall pick and a trio of below-average players for instant impact vets in Miller and Foye. In one fell swoop, management punched a postseason ticket in our nation’s capital for the next few years.
Foye and Gilbert Arenas can form a very solid duo in the backcourt and the newcomer provides some insurance as a floor general if Agent Zero should go down with injury again. Miller gives Washington a ton of depth on the wing now, joining Jamison, Caron Butler and even the still developing Nick Young.
Granted, only in the Eastern Conference could something like this happen, but the Wizards with this trade have gone from lottery bound to middle of the pack in the playoff race for at least the next several years barring any more big injuries.
Most Overpriced Move: Magic re-sign Marcin Gortat
It’s nice to have a capable backup center for Dwight Howard, but five years at $34 million is a bit steep. The veteran has seen limited action throughout his career and has never shown more than flashes of ability. This move seems even more unnecessary given the signing of Brandon Bass and the acquisition of Ryan Anderson. The Magic won’t exactly be in dire need of frontcourt players, so why open up the wallet so wide just to prevent Gortat from going to Dallas, especially given that he had said he wanted out of the Sunshine State? Having the big man on the roster certainly isn’t going to be a detriment to the team, but Orlando could have gone without paying the kind of money they did for his services.
Best Offseason: Magic
Noticing a trend with the Eastern Conference? The teams on top are the ones making all the right moves to ensure they stay there and perhaps take another step forward. Orlando may have changed its unique lineup that featured four players who could roam the perimeter while Superman roamed the middle, but even with more of a conventional look, the Magic made some great moves.
Adding Vince Carter provides scoring from the shooting guard spot, while Ryan Anderson should prove to be a very solid rotational player and ensure that the Magic have a steady supply of taller perimeter players. Brandon Bass gives another tough interior presence who can start at power forward and allow Rashard Lewis to shift to the wing at the three spot. Orlando may have sacrificed the future somewhat to make another run at the title this season, but there’s no question the team has made some significant improvements.
Worst Offseason: Bobcats
Let’s see, Charlotte traded a consistent interior presence — particularly on the defensive end — in Emeka Okafor for a potential injury case in Tyson Chandler. Yes, when he is on his game Chandler is a dynamic big man who can play a major role for the Bobcats and in the long run this deal will save the team some money. Still, the potential for this deal to blow up in the team’s face is more of a risk that the Bobcats really needed to take.
Then there is the still unresolved contract situation with guard Raymond Felton, who by the way has been practicing with the team. It is likely that the floor general will wind up inking a new deal with his current team anyway, but the fact that it has taken this long for Charlotte to lock up one of their best players to a contract has got to be disheartening if you’re a Bobcats fan.