TMC wrote:So, essentially, they traded T-Mac for cap space. And it wasn't on purpose.
Well, it wasn't on purpose at first... but, overtime, it became clear that they needed to throw everything out the window and start over.
McGrady is one of those players that can't take a team to a championship. I hold him in the same regard as Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, and Allen Iverson. All of their first instincts are to create for themselves... and it's hard for fans to find fault in that, since it usually creates spectacular results (at least, for the players themselves). But, in fact, very few teams have gone all the way with players like that. Look at Dominique Wilkins and Bernard King (two prime examples). They were spectacular players; hall of fame worthy, incredible scorers, and often made highlight-worthy plays. But, in the end, they could never get their teams to the top of the mountain. McGrady will be something like Bernard King when he retires; of course, old timers will remember him... informed fans will have heard of him... but he won't transcend time the way Jordan, Shaq, and Magic have.
As far as Francis goes, I think the Magic were simply trying to pair their future all-star (Dwight Howard) with a superstar point guard... that way, he could be groomed by one of the game's premiere playmakers and develop into one of the league's most feared post threats (Howard has the potential). Many post players have grown into superstars when groomed by the right point; look at Karl Malone (who started under John Stockton), Kenyon Martin (whose making millions, thanks to Jason Kidd), Kevin Garnett (who really expanded as a player once Marbury came into the picture), or Amare Stoudemire (who was MVP-worthy, thanks to Steve Nash). NBA posts are at their bests when paired with a superb point (and it was smart of Orlando to realize this, seeing as their future is with Howard). Unfortunately, the only point guard The Magic could swing was Steve Francis (who was stirring up all kinds of drama in Houston). They pulled the trigger a bit prematurely (I'm sure there was something of a race for Francis) and they soon realized that Francis wasn't the right fit for Howard. Firstly, he'd already failed to take Yao Ming to the next level in Houston (the first attempt the league gave Francis at improving a post player). Than, when you look past that, you realize that (even though Steve puts up a good amount of assists in a night), he's really a shoot-first point guard (rendering any quick development of Howard impossible). At last, Orlando realized that Francis couldn't shoot Howard's stock through the roof (and, on top of that, they were now swallowing all of the drama that he had previously started in Houston). The only logical thing to do was trade him... and, at this point, I think the team reconciled themself to the fact that they were going to start over from the ground up (building around Howard).
With Francis' trade value at an all-time low, they dished him away for Penny Hardaway's expiring contract (a genius move to pair with their 16 million dollar bonus from Grant Hill's contract the following season). Between those two players, that's over 30 million dollars. This gives any free agent on the market (during the summer of 2007) plenty of incentive to go hang out at Universal Studios all year long. And, if the Magic are truly trying to turn Dwight Howard into the next Kevin Garnett, they'll be gunning for a point guard come free agency (and 2007's class includes Mike Bibby, TJ Ford, and Chauncey Billips).
Now, out of those 3 point guards, Mike Bibby looks the most attractive... and I'll tell you why.
Chauncey Billips is indeed playing the best basketball of his life, but Orlando already gave him a chance (and he played mediocre). In fact, 4 other teams have tried Chauncey and the only place he's ever had success was in Detroit (making teams a little edgy about signing him). He'll resign to preserve his higher play (seeing as he wouldn't be nearly as good anywhere else in a different system).
TJ Ford is attractive, but unproven. The Magic's problem with Francis was that he couldn't help Howard improve... and that's something they'll be looking for when signing a free agent point guard. He's got the skills, but he has yet to make anything out of (either) Jamaal Magloire or Andrew Bogut (two potential-packed players). Ford will probably be Orlando's 2nd choice.
Mike Bibby will be persued aggressively by Orlando. First of all, it was clear that he was unhappy in Sacramento before the Artest trade. He was fed up with the always-changing, dramatic atmosphere... and it was clear that he was tired of carrying a team on his back. Bibby would much prefer to be a distributor than a 20 ppg scorer. The untrained eye might suggest that Artest's trade has solved his issues, but one only need look at Artest's file to see where this little experiment is going. Next season, when Artest blows up or makes a controversial comment in an interview and the league suspends him for 10 games, Bibby will wake up and smell the coffee. It's also apparent that Artest will be leaving Sacramento come free agency in 2008 (the very next season). Bibby will take this into consideration and come to the rightful conclusion that he must abandon ship on this failed Kings experiment of the 2000's. Bibby will then take his business to the free agent market, where Orlando will just recently have released Grant Hill's paycheck (giving them 30 million to throw around). Therefore, they can afford to overpay for Bibby on a 5 year deal (which would be smart, seeing as he'll turn Howard into a beast). An Orlando Magic with a fully panned out Darko, a newly motivated Mike Bibby, and a monster unleashed in Dwight Howard (not to mention Jameer Nelson, Carlos Arroyo, and Hedo Turkoglu) would be pretty dangerous in a Shaq-less Southeast Division (where Atlanta and Charlotte are already below them). Dwight Howard might not impress you now, but with a point guard like Mike Bibby, he'd average 20+, 14, and 2. Those are scary numbers, and this kid's definately got the tools to get them (provided the right leadership from the right point guard).
It sounds like a helluva future plan to me.