Sunday, June 30, 2013

Should Magic Deal Andrew Nicholson?

A 23-year-old Canadian might be the main cog of whether Rob Hennigan decides to trade for Eric Bledsoe or not. No seriously. Not kidding. The quiet, mild-mannered, defensively frustrating power forward that wears #44 is what stands between Orlando taking a gamble on Chris Paul's backup. Because apparently Arron Afflalo alone now won't be enough to get Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler (or at least his contract). The Clippers apparently covet Andrew Nicholson. It's almost as surprising as finding out they really truly want Arron Afflalo. Hennigan drafting Oklahoma Sooner Romero Osby at #51 on Thursday as either a PF or SF, combined with giving UCF's beloved Keith Clanton a Magic Summer League invite, makes Nicholson available to be shipped out. Nicholson is making a guaranteed (and estimated) $1.5 million in 2013-2014. In a league controlled now more by the salary cap than in previous years, every dollar counts. Why pay for Nicholson when Osby and/or Clanton could produce similar or even better numbers for a lower salary? 

There's speculation galore surrounding the Clippers. Doc Rivers wants to hold on to Bledsoe for the 2013-2014 in an effort to have him play along side of 'CP3' with Caron Butler being nothing but a money pit. Butler has $8 million remaining on his contract that expires NEXT summer, but he's no longer capable of being a solid starting shooting guard in this league anymore. Los Angeles can't wait a season, they want to compete out of the gates. Especially when the Lakers are so down in the dumps with Dwight about ready to join the Rockets to hit up those Houston Waffle House chains. 

Then you have the Raptors all of a sudden making waves of their own in the rumor pond. The Clippers failed to bring in Kevin Garnett, so now they want Andrea Bargnani? Not likely as a deal is all but done with the Knicks that ships Bargnani off to NYC for as many as 3 draft picks. Hand Masai Ujiri another Executive of the Year award if that happens. Oh, and Toronto is now allegedly competing with Orlando for the services of Bledsoe.

Glen Davis, Nikola Vucevic, Kyle O'Quinn, Tobias Harris, along with Romero Osby and possibly Keith Clanton are all centers or power forwards. Andrew Nicholson was a steal at #19 last year from St. Bonaventure's, but we know his ceiling already. 7.8 points per game on 52.7 FG% is impressive...but he can't rebound and Nicholson is a defensive liability. The per 36 numbers look solid though. Andrew is gaining praise for hitting the weight room hard already this offseason as well as drastically improving his one-on-one defense throughout his rookie campaign. Help defense is still appalling. However, Andrew can and should be coughed up if you can acquire Eric Bledsoe...even if Eric doesn't impress in a Magic uniform. It's worth the experiment even if it signifies letting Bledsoe walk via free agency in summer 2014 and focusing on either drafting a stud point guard (there will be two or 3) or acquiring a veteran on the open market.

If Bledsoe is acquired, it might be worth it to extend his contract right then and there. It may be worth paying him $8 million per season for the next four if you think Hennigan and crew believes Bledsoe will have a studly '13-'14 campaign and not having to fret about other suitors offering $10+ million contracts. I like Andrew and would be ecstatic to still have him on this Magic squad, but the Clippers need a backup PF to Blake Griffin. It makes a lot of sense to guarantee the acquisition of Bledsoe by sweetening up the pot. 

Salary Cap Greatly Influencing Magic's Lack of Free Agency Interest

I know, right? What did I just type? It's the most obvious title in the world. Of course the salary cap should matter when determining who and how much a team commits to free agency which starts Monday. But Otis Smith kind of forgot that concept years ago, and it's worth a reminder. For the Magic, being under the salary cap is an important checkpoint for Rob Hennigan's rebuild plan. For the first time since Rashard Lewis inked his juicy contract before the 2007-2008 season, Orlando doesn't have to worry about surpassing the salary cap. The impending cap-saving buyouts of Al Harrington and Hedo Turkoglu, as well as Beno Udrih's assumed departure from Orlando, will insure that even if say the Magic were to acquire Eric Bledsoe and sign him to a new contract right then and there. Far in the rear-view mirror is the debilitating Gilbert Arenas contract that Otis strapped the franchise with.

The timing could not be more perfect as the NBA will be embarking on its 3rd year under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that states that teams will drastically be penalized for being in the luxury tax in the 2013-2014 season. Look at the Nets after the Pierce-Garnett deal. Brooklyn is looking at potentially $80 MILLION IN LUXURY TAX PAYMENTS! That Nets team is ancient in age, led by an unproven new coach in Kidd, and still may not finish in the East's top 4. 'Henny' is just fine staying young and wading in the tall weeds before pressing the green button for championship mode initiation. 

The cap has been set at $58.5 million. The minimum team salaries each franchise must have on their payroll is 90% of the cap, or $52.65 million. That's up from around three million dollars last season as the third year of the CBA is setting that ninety percent rule in stone. So why do I not expect Orlando to seek even a moderate 'name' in free agency if they'll be under the cap? Well, because it's not part of Rob's assumed plan. Can the squad that assembles for training camp on October 1st possibly be playoff team in a weak East in the '13-'14 season? Of course. Remember, 12-13 record before Glen Davis went down in an injury-riddled season that had Orlando miss 200+ games due to injury (Hedo's suspension, not included). 

Let's just say that, without any acknowledgement or denial from management, that the Magic wouldn't be angry if they were again in the Lottery come summer 2014. Especially when a goldmine of young amateurs awaits. There's almost a dozen guys that could be All-Stars in the 2014 Draft, when most 'analysts' doubt if there are even two of those guys that were selected last week. Hopefully, Oladipo is one of those men. Victor is odds on favorite to be '13-'14 Rookie of the Year

It's not bad if Orlando sneaks into the playoffs next season. The postseason brings excitement to ticket holders, diehard fans, and cities with one major professional franchise. It would be a priceless experience for Coach Jacque Vaughn and his mostly inexperienced roster...and Orlando can still draft a stud with a draft selection in the high teens. Over half of Orlando's current roster is 23 years old or younger. After next year's Draft, I fully expect Hennigan to dip into his cap space as Orlando transforms into contenders instantly with the help of the 2014 F.A. class. It's a more inspiring list of mercenaries than the current crop

The Magic have decided to not make a qualifying offer to DeQuan Jones who is back to proving himself at Summer League (begins July 7th) and who has #51 draft selection Romero Osby gunning for his spot. In fairness, Orlando very well could hold on to both men with Al and Hedo just about gone. There's room. Hennigan may let DeQuan go and pick up a cheaper guy from the undrafted free agency pool, but saving around $400,000 isn't a big deal this upcoming season. 

Meanwhile, Hennigan and company decided to guarantee E'Twaun Moore's contract for the 2013-2014 season. The $$$ is guaranteed, but Orlando could still waive 3'Twaun if they choose. Unlikely. It's not a 'winning' move, but Moore was retained specifically because he's cheap...and can still be molded at age 24. It's an $884,000 that I'd definitely be absolutely thrilled to bank, and the Magic can afford to give Moore one last season to prove himself as a productive PG/SG.

We won't know Orlando's official payroll situation until July 10th, but Orlando's already in a fantastic position. It'll get even better as Hennigan deals contracts like Afflalo, Jameer, and even possibly Big Baby in exchange for expiring contracts, young talent that's cheap, and draft picks. We're looking at an intriguing next 6 months without even examining how Coach Vaughn's roster will even perform on the parquet floor. The Magic will always be in trade conversations, but don't anticipate too much whispering about free agent pick-ups. As proof, Rob has already stated he doesn't want to use his $5 million mid-level exception. No Chris Paul chatter, and don't make me laugh if you think Dwight Howard is a sane option at an O-Town return. I'm also sorry to say, no J.J. Redick reunion. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

2nd Round Pick: Point Guard Should Be Magic's Focus

With the 51st pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic select…who cares, he’ll probably be a scrub. That’s what your casual fan who reserves to put in any thought into the Draft until the actual day (June 27th, and it’s circled profusely on my calendar) it occurs would say. Especially in a supposed ‘weak class’. No matter how many legitimate prospects there may be, gems can always be found. You would imagine that selecting based on 'need' gets thrown out the window in the second round, but I truly believe that Orlando needs point guard depth. So who will be this year’s Kyle O’Quinn for Rob Hennigan?

Nemanja Nedovic is who I want Orlando to pick. I know, I know, Magic fans will forever be afraid to go the international route. Could Nemanja be a Fran Vazquez, or to a lesser-hated degree a Milovan Rakovic when it comes to 'busts'? Of course. But this is your Manu Ginobili (oh yeah, I went there) low risk, high reward scenario with a 6’4” (6’3” without shoes) athletic Serbian freak who knows how to run an offense. He's Milos Teodosic if Milos was quicker and had a solid vertical leap. The problem isn't necessarily with the player himself, it's the fact that his draft stock is on the rise because of superb workouts in recent weeks. Nedovic went through some much-needed growing pains this past season in Lithuania competing in Euroleague competition. Milwaukee who selects 43rd brought in Nemanja over the weekend for his first workout on American soil. If pick #51 comes, and Nedovic is improbably still on the board, Hennigan should pounce.

Myck Kabongo was being talked about as a first rounder for much of the college season. What the hell happened that he’s projected so late into the 2nd round? Well, much of the blame is on the fact that the Longhorns had a very bad 16-18 season that included getting booted out of the 1st round of the CBI tourney by Houston. The sophomore has the build and the length to survive as a professional, but he is an inconsistent shooter and is turnover-prone. Kabongo only played 11 games last season due to serving a 23-game suspension for various NCAA violations that included having active contact with a sports agent and accepting airfare illegally. It's nothing that screams 'bad character', but Myck I'm sure has had plenty of explaining to do during his interview process. If Nedovic is off the board, I'll be more than pleased with drafting Kabongo. . 

Peyton Siva I wouldn't touch with the 10-foot pole in the first round because of how atrocious of a jump shooter he is, but this is the main facilitator and one of Louisville's key defenders in their National Championship run. He's 6'1" in shoes and has a 6'3", so Siva does have the build to be at least a backup PG. This guy is fearless and Rick Pitino was never shy to state that. It's funny to see a guy like Shane Larkin have his value skyrocket, while Siva continues to slip down team draft boards. The Magic could do a hell of a lot worse than Siva especially since he's coming into the NBA as a proven winner. A humble champion at that.

Draft Express has done a wonderful job of comparing the 2013 PG class against each other. Another point guard in the range of where Orlando is selecting in the second round is Phil Pressey. Many scouts covet him as a potential steal, but I don't buy into the hype. His short stature doesn't inspire me either.

Barring a miracle, Beno Udrih won't be retained as his price tag will be too high in free agency. It's a shame because the Slovenian was finding his way in O-Town. E'Twaun Moore can't cut it as a PG. Too many turnovers and he wasn't as quick on pick-and-roll defense as I remembered him in Boston. At least he was better than Duhon. Doron Lamb actually finished this season better than Moore and that gives me promise for his future. However, the Magic still can do better and rolling the dice on a PG late in this draft is well worth the risk.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Could Magic Pass on Nerlens Noel?

First off, I’m not buying into the rumors that Cleveland will pick Alex Len with the #1 pick next week. There’s just no fathomable way to accept that stupidity. I deem it terrible even as a ‘smokescreen’. Despite the optimism in his growth as a prospect, I've seen this kid play for the Ukraine youth national team. I wasn't impressed. He won't kill you on either end of the court, but he's not a legitimate starter in this league. No one should spend a top 10 pick on a guy they don't think can at worst be a 6th Man contributor. The Otto Porter rumors appear vastly more likely in comparison.

However, let’s imagine for a second that the Cavaliers do pass on Nerlens Noel, the high-top fade wearing guy we all assumed would be selected first upon witnessing those goofy Gilberts celebrating their Draft Lottery pick success. Let’s say the Cavs can’t trade down and that they’re so enamored with a guy like Ben McLemore that they choose the man out of Kansas and leave the athletic Kentucky big on the board. What do Rob Hennigan and the Magic do?

Obviously you would assume this Magic staff is indeed prepared for all scenarios. After all, Noel was brought into town to work out and have brunch with ‘Henny’. But can those potentially questionable knees deter the Magic from selecting what could be a potentially perfect complement for Nik Vucevic in the frontcourt?

There’s a lot to ponder I must admit. Do the Magic already have their favorite players ranked? Where do Noel, McLemore, Victor Oladipo, and Trey Burke rank on that list? Is the Orlando front office open to dealing Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis, and/or Jameer Nelson within the next 7 months? Which of those veterans do they want gone the most and the least? How badly do the Magic want to acquire Eric Bledsoe and groom him to be the franchise’s new staring point guard? Do the Magic have a strategy in place to trade down and grab a guy like CJ McCollum?

Here's what we know when it comes to comparing the 2 top shooting guard prospects: Victor Oladipo is renowned as already having a professional's mindset and work ethic, where as Ben McLemore is being greatly questioned. That's a red flag. We're the franchise that had a super-talented Tracy McGrady, but  T-MAC was constantly touted as lazy and someone who depended solely on his abilities without putting in the necessary effort to truly hit his prime. McLemore has without much doubt the highest ceiling to be a 'superstar' out of anyone in this draft class. But he doesn't defend and he's passive on offense. I've already previously determined that, between McLemore and Oladipo, I will happily take Victor

But what about Oladipo or Noel? Despite the rumored affiliation issues that Noel has which kind of makes you shiver over the Dwight Howard nightmare reminders, that's low on the concern scale in comparison to being able to keep himself upright and mobile on the court. We're all concerned about that damn left knee. Not just because of this year's ACL tear, but about his severe injury back in high school as well. Focusing on the present though, my worries are lessened when I hear such positive things out of Dr. James Andrews about Noel's current recovery. I highly value Noel's defensive awesomeness along side an already beastly Nik Vucevic. I also think Noel's offense isn't as terrible as advertised and that Nerlens can improve his scoring capabilities in a Serge Ibaka-type manner. 

So what am I suggesting? If Noel goes #1, the Magic should ecstatically take Oladipo with their 2nd pick. But if Cleveland passes on Nerlens, Orlando should draft him. The Magic can pick a shooting guard or a point guard with the 51st pick (I'll go over those options soon). Then once Chris Paul is locked up and re-signed with the Clippers, the Magic should deal Afflalo for Eric Bledose to help qualm the pouring cries that'll come from some Magic fans who are begging to obtain Trey Burke's services. And CJ McCollum I don't rate highly. I'm especially concerned with the Deron Williams comparisons since I haven't been much of a D-Will fan since he left Utah and settled for complacent play. 

Orlando's possible starting lineup going into training camp next season looks solid in my eyes:
C- Nikola Vucevic
PF- Glen Davis
SF- Tobias Harris
SG- Maurice Harkless
PG- Eric Bledsoe

Jameer Nelson becomes your 6th Man while Hennigan can begin the process of dealing Jameer and/or Glen Davis to playoff teams needing an extra piece to compete for a championship just before the Trade Deadline come February 2014...right around the time Nerlens Noel should definitely be playing real-time games since it'll have been a year since his ACL tear. Cap space is more important than actual talent when it comes to dealing the popular veterans and co-captains...which sucks if you're a season ticket holder who appreciates what both bring to the squad and community. But business is business. The 'suffering' will go by swiftly. I still think the Magic will be closer to a playoff spot than a lottery bottom 5 record this upcoming season. However, even a late-Lottery pick in 2014 is better than possibly a top 5 pick next week. It hasn't been announced, but it's obvious that summer of 2014 is when Orlando will want to compete for playoff glory in what we assume will be Jacque Vaughn's 3rd season. For now though, enjoy another week with prospect speculation. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Jacksonville Will Host a Magic Preseason Game Again

I wasn't going to post about the announcement of the October 9th preseason contest between the Orlando Magic and New Orleans Pelicans (R.I.P. Hornets) simply because it was covered enough yesterday. However, there is an actual official video announcement that flew under the radar and it includes Magic Ambassador Nick Anderson, basketball and Jacksonville legend Artis Gilmore, and Mayor Alvin Brown discussing an exhibition contest that really isn't that important other than it'll be the Magic's first matchup of their 2013-2014 preseason. Not to dampen the happy mood of Jacksonville's mayor. It's the first time the Magic will have played in Jacksonville since 2008. That was when Dwight Howard and gang were prepping for what would be their 'Finals' season.

Orlando isn't heading up there for an entire training camp like they did in 2004 and in 2005 (Hello, UNF, Mario Kasun isn't around to hit on all of your women this time). Side note: That 2005-2006 team had some awesome characters. This isn't considered a 'home' contest for the Magic, so they'll still play 4 preliminary games at Amway Center to warm-up for Jacque Vaughn's 2nd season at the helm. Training camp officially begins on October 1st. We've got the draft, free agency, Summer League, and some EuroBasket action to keep us happy until then.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Playoff Formats Have Been Unkind to Orlando

Do you remember back in high school or college how there would at least come one time (or multiple in my case) in your educational life where over half your final exams would be piled up together to occur on one day? I should be intelligent enough and have studied enough to score well on those exams, but life would be WAY easier if I could spread these tests out.

Grantland kind of brought up this point to me today. The best team is expected to do well and ultimately succeed in a 2-3-2 Finals format, but it’s counter-intuitive from the 2-2-1-1-1 they dealt with in the previous 3 rounds. Well I was doing just fine having tests not bunched together. Why now? Well money and time is the answer in both cases.

In the NBA’s case, it’s once again revealing how archaic the 2-3-2 truly is. The format has been in use since 1985. Fans, the media, and basketball personalities have long bitched, moaned, and pleaded for the 2-3-2 to vanish. It was convenient for travel reasons, but in a much more technologically advanced era, why continue settling with this unfair format? 

The 2-3-2 format really made life extra tough on Stan Van Gundy’s squad in 2009. Lose both road games in L.A. and they were basically screwed in having a chance to win. Orlando should have had Game 2. Damn it, Courtney. The pressure mounted to win an unlikely three consecutive contests. The Magic held serve in Game 3 only to have Derek Fisher take advantage of Jameer Nelson (who shouldn't have even been playing in hindsight) to steal Game 4 and basically the series. Orlando folded in the fifth and final game as Magic fans were forced to view L.A. celebrating on that Amway Arena parquet floor. Not fun. Otis Smith would dump Rafer Alston and Courtney Lee to acquire Vince Carter, and the hustle element of that special group of men would leave with them. We're on the rebuild towards greatness again. 

Another nightmare situation the Orlando franchise faced that came to fruition was in 2003 when the league changed, from a 5-game first round format, to seven games. Lucky for Detroit. After Game 4 it should have been Orlando pondering about going up against their next opponent, either the Philadelphia Sixers or New Orleans Hornets (East team back then). The conference was so weak in that period of time, who knows how far that Magic team goes in the playoffs if they would've dispatched Detroit. I would love to hear Jacque Vaughn's player take on that postseason. What would have been an epic 8th seed upset of a #1 just a year before ends up becoming a tale of 3-1 ‘what if’ stories that would add to Tracy McGrady’s playoff curse legacy and set the stage for the ‘03-‘04 tumult and Doc Rivers’ firing. It’s okay, I too keep blaming it all on Juwan Howard.

Hell, you can even make a case for the '95 Finals crew. Yeah, Brian Hill's squad got swept and it revealed the lack of mental toughness of a relatively young roster. However, what if Orlando dealt with a 2-2-1-1-1 in their minds despite dropping Game 1 in a crushing manner? Even after falling both times at home, the Magic should have won Game 3 and all but give up in Game 4 because they knew in their minds they would have had to steal Game 5 again in Houston. Orlando gets swept out of the Eastern Conference Finals in 1996 by the amazing Bulls, Shaq leaves, and the Magic's promising future disintegrates in a snap. 

Looking at that Grantland piece again, it’ll be hilarious if the Spurs knocking off the Heat in 5 games (please make this happen) is the tipping point that has David Stern and Adam Silver make sweeping changes and going to a 2-2-1-1-1 Finals format. It'll also be fitting if the first time Tracy McGrady progresses from a 1st round playoff series that he ends up being an NBA champion. Gregg Popovich would truly be a magician in my book. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Making the Case for Drafting Oladipo

I've been thinking long and hard about who out of Trey BurkeBen McLemore, and Victor Oladipo should be drafted #2 overall by the Magic on June 27th. I keep going with Oladipo. There's nothing to not like about the Indiana Junior. Nothing. He's 21 years old and reminds me of a Dwyane Wade-Luol Deng hybrid who at worst would be a Tony Allen type of player. Those players in each of their special ways are undeniable contributors to championship-caliber rosters. 

Don't expect Rob Hennigan to reveal his hand. 'Henny' is showing how creatively elusive he can be in hiding who the front office wishes to draft. The whole 'considering 9 players' thing is a wonderful smokescreen. It also opens the door for teams looking to desperately trade up to grab their guy. See the T-Wolves rumor about wanting Oladipo badly

My main concern with Oladipo is his height. Victor measured into Chicago's draft combine at a tad bit over 6'3" without shoes and a bit over 6'4" in shoes. That makes him a little shorter than Ben McLemore and Arron Afflalo. Afflalo is listed at 6'5" but that's quite generous in my eyes. However, Oladipo's wingspan of just over 6'9" is phenomenal and negates that height problem. It explains why Victor is a premiere defender and how he can crash the boards superbly for his position. Oladipo also passes the 'eye test' in interviews and just how he carries himself on the court. He's not absurdly cocky but there's no lack in confidence in his abilities. 

I've got to give the RealGM guys credit for these works of Magic logo copycat art. 

McLemore was SO passive at Kansas it scares me. Ben had his upperclassmen teammates looking at him to take over in important parts of contests, but McLemore very rarely rose to the challenge. Here's a very Orlando-specific interview you can enjoy that reveals a lot about Ben's character and thinking of how he'd enjoy living in the City Beautiful. Dwight, Disney, and BBQ are just a few topics touched on. McLemore will be working out in front of the Magic brass on June 11th. The main argument that supporters give in favor of McLemore is that the system he played for in Kansas wasn't ideal for him to show off his individual and athletic abilities. McLemore mentioned that in this recent interview. It's the same supporting argument I would have made for Marcus Smart had he remained in the draft in that the system he plays in at Oklahoma State doesn't show off his NBA capabilities. I just don't think Ben can be as creative off the ball as Oladipo and Victor's defensive prowess blows Ben's out of the water. 

Burke to me isn't worth a top 5 pick. Is Trey faster, longer, and taller than Jameer Nelson? Yes. But Orlando can find a potential starting point guard in men such as Myck KabongoC.J. McCollumDennis SchroederMichael Carter-Williams, or even local tiny man Shane Larkin, later in the draft by trading into the teens. How? Dangle a guy like Arron Afflalo (or even Glen Davis) to teams desperate to compete in the postseason in exchange for their first round pick and an unwanted contract. Of course, Afflalo could already be used in Clippers trade discussions.

Out of the point guard group of 2013 draftees I like Kabongo the most, and yet he's projected as a 2nd rounder right now. Or the Magic can ride another full season out with Jameer Nelson, sign a suitable backup that's better than Doron Lamb or E'Twaun Moore and just wait it out until a better crop of point guards is expected to come out in the 2014 Draft

There's still the matter of the $17.8 million Traded Player Exception from the Dwight Howard deal that expires on August 10th. There are franchises desperate for cap space. Orlando can accommodate that need no problem. Unfortunately for Magic fans, the TPE can't be utilized to acquire a draft pick. 

There's a lot of thinking, interview, and examining for the the Magic organization to do in these next few weeks. All Magic fans should know is that Hennigan and is crew can definitely be trusted with the small wonders they've already done just a year on the job. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Dealing Afflalo for Bledsoe Would Mean No More Tanking

That’s my main intrigue with Chad Ford’s rumor. If Orlando ships Arron Afflalo off for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler, as well as drafting either Victor Oladipo or Ben McLemore, then the Magic would need to go through a ridiculous amount of injuries yet again if they want to place themselves in the bottom 5 with a shot at the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. You bring back a healthy Glen Davis and Jameer Nelson and this Orlando squad is closer to .500 than they are the #1 pick this upcoming 2013-2014 season. Remember, 12-13 record before Glen went down. In Orlando's eyes, Afflalo failed as a go-to scorer and isn't worth the $8 million he's making over the next few years.

If Arron is so bad even for the Magic, then why would the Clippers want him? Well for one, I'm not one to make sense of anything that Donald Sterling says or does. Another team's 'trash' is another team's treasure. Afflalo as a third or fourth scoring option does work. More importantly, Afflalo actually plays better against the Western Conference than he does the East. Look below at Arron's comparisons, but also be wary of his atrocious 'clutch' numbers. 1.8 ppg more against the West than East and a 3% higher field goal percentage. Afflalo's +/- is still crap, but don't tell L.A. that.

Butler ($8 million) and Bledsoe (About $2.6 million) will be in the final year of their respectful contracts and will be free agents in 2014 barring them signing extensions. If the Magic acquire Butler, Hennigan and crew would most likely allow Caron to simply walk. Bledsoe would have a full season either as a starter or high-minute backup to show this Magic franchise if he can be a Russ Westbrook-type of piece. Seriously though, don't laugh at my Westbrook claims. Have a peak at their draft measurements. Eric may be 2 inches shorter, but his wingspan is on par with Westbrook's. Length more than height is a killer in this constantly changing league. It's also a reason why I'd bank on McLemore or Oladipo over Wade. But I'll get to that another day. 

Butler may be in the twilight of his career, but his shooting percentages were on par with Afflalo's last season. Only difference was Arron had a lot more scoring attempts because he was Jacque Vaughn's 1st/2nd option on offense. Caron hasn't had production this low (10.4 ppg) since basically his second season in Miami a decade ago (9.2 ppg). With Caron and Eric each playing for contracts, you think being on a losing team is in their best interests? I certainly don't think so. These two were viable pieces on a Clippers team that just had the best regular season in that franchise's history. So if Rob is pulling the trigger on this, he's doing it because he knows the 2013-2014 Magic can contend for a playoff spot in a watered down East. 

Below is NBA Stats Cube comparing the two players, including the one game that Afflalo and Butler actually faced off. If you need a reminder, it was kind of a big deal for Orlando. The Magic would end their 10-game losing streak on January 12th inside Staples Center. L.A. still had the best record in the league at that time. It's one of the few 'signature' wins considering they did it without Big Baby. Shortsightedness is why the Clippers THINK they're upgrading a lot should they make this rumored transaction. Afflalo had one of his very rare 50%+ outings by pouring in 30 points, while Butler only mustered a so-so 8 points. 


All of this discussion won't have a resolution until we hit July when we know if the Clippers will be able to sign Chris Paul to a new long-term contract. The latest is that CP3 is absolutely pissed at Clippers management for hinting that their star point guard had a hand in the firing of Vinny del Negro. The Clippers' brass have screwed up, but I don't think it's enough for CP3 to walk. Not unless Paul can team up with Dwight some place else, an entirely separate discussion. Clippers would have Paul, Jamal Crawford, maybe Billups, and maybe a young guy like Maalik Wayns or someone better they pick up via the draft or free agency. There's just no room for a blossoming Bledsoe who won't possibly be retained for cheap in the summer of 2014. The Magic should take him off of their hands and give Eric the chance to impress Orlando.