When August starts, we usually begin evaluating how the summer went. Free agency would be winding down and we would know who is coming to camp and what the team will look like.
In that sense, this might be the worst summer to have a lockout then. The Magic need some type of re-tooling after their surprising first round exit and with you know what happening you know when (if I really have to spell it out at this point, you probably don't follow the Magic, the NBA or ESPN at all). There is a championship team in Orlando somewhere, it just is going to take a lot of things breaking the right way.
The problem is true championship teams need fewer and fewer things to break the right way. Championship teams can pass any test period. The Magic are not there yet.
Otis Smith has work to do.
The problem is, he can't get any of it done. The lockout prevents him from talking with players on the team, including mentee Gilbert Arenas. As Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel notes, the hands-on Smith can't do much to solve his way through this problem. And that probably hurt most of all -- for both Smith and Magic fans. We are antsy to get back to business.
Mike Prada of SB Nation released his annual ranking of NBA general managers and slotted Otis Smith at No. 19, two spots down from last year. That is not as far down as you would think when considering the salary cap hell the Magic appear to be in with the second highest payroll in the country and two categorically bad contracts in Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas. But it also might be a sign of the job Prada thinks Smith is doing.
Prada describes Smith as a "Mover and Shaker" which clashes with Smith's seemingly pragmatic approach, but not with the deals he has done. Smith has never been afraid to pull the trigger on a big deal, completely remaking the roster in the wake of Hedo Turkoglu's departure in 2009 and then doing it again in December 2010. Smith is definitely proactive. Those are two pretty major makeovers in a very short period of time -- following a trip to the Finals no less.
Smith's body of work, when you take a step back and look at it, is not quite as impressive as we usually think.
"Little has changed to convince me that Smith is overrated," Prada writes. "The biggest feathers in his cap are [Dwight] Howard (who was drafted when he wasn't GM, though he played a role in the decision), coach Stan Van Gundy (who only came after Billy Donovan changed his mind) and [Jameer] Nelson (an affordable point guard). Smith is the definition of someone who has one of the five best players and coaches in basketball, and therefore can't really lose. It's less a sign on him than on his luck."
And that might explain a lot of the trust in Smith and a lot of the frustration at this point in his career as general manager. Smith has had a lot of luck, something a lot of Magic general managers have had. We applauded him for bringing in Rafer Alston because it was simply the kind of move the Magic never pulled.
But Smith's biggest moves weren't necessarily really Smith.
Howard was drafted under the Jon Weisbrod regime, with Smith and Dave Twardzik handling a lot of the scouting and evaluating underneath Weisbrod. He really dodged a bullet when Billy Donovan elected to return to Florida, allowing him to get Stan Van Gundy.
The Vince Carter experiment did not work or was abandoned too quickly (if you were not satisfied with the final result of the 2011 season, think about what might have happened if the trades never happened). Wholesale changes seem to come at his whim. And, with the green light to spend money, Smith has not necessarily spent it wisely in acquiring talent.
There will be a lot of time for Smith to at least plan what he wants to do during the summer, at least under the current collective bargaining agreement. What he can actually do, including any amnesty clauses to get out of some of his mistakes, is yet to be determined. There is no point in looking at what potential moves Smith can make at this point.
But we know he has to do something. This roster is not a championship roster on most days (some nights, it certainly can be). And Otis Smith has lots of work to do to repair his reputation and, potentially, his job security.Photos via DayLife.com.
Otis's best summer was that of 2008. He found 2 economical find's in Bass and Barnes. Bass gave them some muscle and Barnes a boat load of attitude and toughness. Regardless of having the beast in the middle, the team was looked upon as being 3point wonders and although they had a defensive mindset, were looked upon as being soft. After the surprise of the '09 Finals Otis blew the team up. Granted the key was what to do with Turk but to get back an expensive aging Carter was worse. The only piece of coal that could end up being a diamond is Anderson. Otis never recovered nor did the team. The team and City are stuck in expensive mediocrity.
Eventually we have to end up addressing Arenas. Otis had made a statement over time that The Orlando Magic were more than just talented basketball players , the Magic would also be a team of "Character". Well....Arenas may be a character but does not possess the skillset or "will" to apply "character". Gilbert is a historical talent that most people will only see in rewinds. People will tolerate inappropriate behavior when the"talent" produces...but when it doesn't......The sad part about Gilbert is what he ended up doing to a friend and confident. Otis will be defined by 2 things...dismantling a "Finals" team and the Arenas trade. Gilbert either doesn't listen or .....probably just doesn't care that he will take down the last person in the world that still believed in him. Lepoards don't shed their spots and Gilbert won't ever grow up.
In conclusion, Otis's performance as a GM can at best be graded as average. And being only average at 92M in salary would lead most people to believe there won't be a call coming from the Governor to stay the exceution. To retain Dwight ,he has to not only has to see action and effort , he has to confidence in the ability to execute. Keeping Dwight ? ...the key is not about money and winning is a key , but Dwight has to believe and at this point , I don't think he does.
@sjar Great points in here. I have been of the opinion that the Magic needed to bring in someone to replace Turkoglu's production with Turk surely walking. There were worse options than Vince Carter, at least on paper. Carter was not bad and, like you said, Smith did a lot of work and had a successful summer. That 2010 Magic team was very good. The Celtics were just better.
For whatever reason, Carter could not figure out how to mesh with this team. Part of it might have been age and part of it might have been him being too willing to defer. We wanted him to take over and he just couldn't, wouldn't or both.
To me, the trades in December were a little "make a move to make a move." And that is always a way to get into trouble. Smith's tenure is tied to what Howard does. If he keeps Dwight, he is all good. If not, he is definitely gone. That simple.