Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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The Dwight Howard trade revisited: How the Magic succeeded without leverage

The Orlando Magic had little choice but to trade Dwight Howard and get whatever they could after he refused to sign a long-term contract with the team that selected him No. 1 overall in 2004.

Eventually, first-year general manager Rob Hennigan pulled the trigger on a blockbuster deal to recoup as many future assets as possible. Given what's happened to the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets in the past year, the Magic are in the best shape of the four teams involved in the transaction, even though they gave up the best player.

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Here are the pieces that changed hands in the trade:

Magic * Lakers Sixers Nuggets
Nikola Vucevic

Dwight Howard

Andrew Bynum Andre Iguodala
Arron Afflalo Earl Clark Jason Richardson
Al Harrington Chris Duhon
Christian Eyenga
Josh McRoberts
Romero Osby (via 2013 2nd round)
Moe Harkless

* Orlando has the lower of  Denver's two 2014 first-round picks, the Lakers' 2017 first-round pick and a Philadelphia 76ers future first-round pick remaining

Harrington, Eyenga and McRoberts are no longer on the Magic's roster, leaving Vucevic, Afflalo, Osby and Harkless to begin the transition away from the Howard era.

Three of those players are important pieces to the rebuilding effort. Vucevic, the man tasked with filling the void left in the middle by Howard, took a step forward in 2012-13. He averaged 14.2 points and 12.9 rebounds per 36 minutes after going for 12.5 and 10.9 with the Sixers during his rookie season. Afflalo is a scoring guard who can stretch the floor from the perimeter, boasting a career average of 38 percent from beyond the arc. He netted a career-high 16.5 points per game last season and has good size at 6'5, coupled with better-than-average athleticism. Harkless is a young swingman with promise who averaged 8.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game as a rookie last season.

All three are critical to Orlando's immediate future, and two are long-term building blocks. Add in the three future first-round draft picks and the team's flexible salary situation after the 2014-15 season, and Orlando received a lot of pieces out of a no-win situation.

Addition by subtraction?

One could also say the Magic won this blockbuster by ridding themselves of the Dwight Howard headache, which freed them up to begin the rebuilding process. If they'd kept him with a maximum contract, they would've had trouble securing the kind of talent needed to surround him, given the constraints of the 2011 CBA and hefty new penalties for teams that go over the luxury tax.

It was never going to work with Dwight in Orlando. The Magic realized it quickly enough to move forward and capture some valuable assets.

Hennigan turned down a few attractive offers before accepting the one that went through. Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks could all be wearing pinstripes, and the Magic could have had four first-rounders instead. But in lieu of gaining a current All-Star, a disappointing player in his prime and a young guard that fits the mold of players they already have, the Magic are going with youth.

Consider, too, that everyone else involved in the trade lost their primary acquisition. Howard spurned the Lakers when he departed for the Houston Rockets in this offseason's biggest splash, while Andrew Bynum's injured knee forced the 76ers to abandon their plans to build around him. Denver didn't fare as poorly this year, as Iguodala had a productive season and helped lead them to their highest win total in franchise history, but AI took less money to sign with the Golden State Warriors, the very team that ousted the Nuggets from the playoffs last season, once George Karl and Masai Ujiri departed.

And here sit the Magic, with young players and a host of picks to add to the mix down the line. They own the scoreboard in this scenario.

The only question that remains is: By how much?

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This article originally appeared on SBNation.

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