The Seattle Supersonics just drafted two up and comers in the June draft and have a great foundation to build their future. The best news for them came when Rashard Lewis opted out of his deal and decided to retire in Florida.
Lewis is a unique talent in the NBA and many people are measuring up new Sonic Kevin Durant to be a long lost twin of his as they both have similar size, frame and game. But the Orlando Magic, who have not been making smart trades since Tracy McGrady’s departure (bringing in Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley, then separating the two love birds when Mobley was traded for aging guard Doug Christie), are hoping Lewis is a move in the right direction.
Now the Magic opened up their purse for Lewis, but it wasn’t enough for the 6′10 tweener. Lewis’ agent somehow convinced the Magic to give up a conditional 2nd round pick to add another year and higher annual pay increases (10% versus 8%) . Let’s examine what the Magic are receiving.
Before anyone blasts me, I think Lewis is a remarkable NBA player. Instantly, Lewis makes the Magic a contender in the Eastern Conference and, if they add more bulk to their front court, they could be serious favorites to win the East.
What Lewis gives the Magic are match-up problems across the board. With his height, he can shoot over most perimeter defenders and has the quickness to drive past bigger forwards to collect his points in the paint. With the young core in Orlando, Lewis will only be 28 at the season’s start and can grow with the Magic.
Lewis is also a great athlete and can fit into a running offense if new coach Stan Van Gundy chooses to unleash his hounds. His athleticism and the range on his jump shot allows him to play the three in most offenses, while his height can allow Orlando to go big and play him down low at the four. He could even run at center if Howard is on the bench and Van Gundy goes with a quick line-up.
The most promising aspect is giving the Magic a devastating line-up with Howard dominating the paint. Lewis should draw more attention away from Howard and this could help Howard develop his offensive game. Orlando also has some great shooters on the team and they have the potential to be a top scoring team in the East.
There are several aspects about Rashard Lewis that would scare off a few suitors. For one, he is a one-tool player. He does one thing well and everything else is somewhat mediocre. Lewis will score 20+ points per game but he’ll still have problems matching-up with premier defensive players. Long, quick guards can give Lewis problems because he has a tendency to take what the defense is giving him. If there isn’t much room to create, he takes a bad shot.
The most troubling aspect is that for a 6′10 forward who played several years on a Seattle team with no dominant big man, he only pulled down about six rebounds per game. He isn’t a good rebounder on either end of the floor and his defense is non-existent. When you are labeled as a tweener, it may be attractive for the offensive end, but it could kill you defensively. Lewis is an athletic forward but isn’t quick enough to guard most small forwards and, while Lewis is a long forward as well, he is not capable of being immovable on the block against big bangers playing the four.
He is not a shotblocker, he is not a player who roams the passing lanes and he is not a presence of the defensive end. Whether he will be a player to be reckoned with in Orlando remains to be seen.
The last time a contract like this was made, Kevin Garnett received $126 million and the league’s owners forced a lockout. Since then, there have been several $100 million dollar deals for some of the league’s best and brightest stars. But Lewis is, as some would put it, a “Robin” type player and not “Batman.” The best he has shown is playing second fiddle to more prominent stars like Ray Allen and Gary Payton.
Lewis is a nice player who was already making a sum of money that defines his worth, but for him to be given max money like he was a top-10 player in the league is ridiculous. If Orlando would have gone through with their original 5-year, $75 million dollar deal, there would not be as much criticism. The sign-and-trade
nearly destroyed their cap status and will hinder them from getting involved with next season’s free agency period, that promises to be a beauty.
In the short term, Orlando will threaten for the Southeast division title and hope to make headlines in the playoffs. And they should, this is a team that can compete to make the finals and that is whats important in the NBA. The long term implications are troublesome and Magic GM Otis Smith better hope he didn’t strike enough fear into the NBA’s league of owners to cause an uproar with the same impact as Garnett’s mega deal years ago.
Darko going to Graceland
Darko Milicic is moving in with Elvis and Pau Gasol after agreeing to a deal with the Memphis Grizzlies. Basketball wise, this is a smart decision for both parties because Darko has the ability to shoot, block shots and run the floor for new coach Marc Iavaroni, a disciple of Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni’s run and gun offense the Suns execute. You know the Grizzlies with Mike Conley Jr., Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick are going to sprint on every possession and Darko fits in with that.
The southpaw is still an enigma as a ball player in the NBA and has made strides since getting out of Detroit. But his price tag, reportedly more than the $5.3 mid-level exception tag, is a bit high for a player who has yet to prove he can grow to even be a valuable role player in the league.
If Darko excels in Memphis, he will have come relatively cheap in the process but that is a question that can only be answered on the basketball court.
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