Has Alston Started Screaming Yet? Nets – Magic Post-Trade Roster Anaylsis
Prior to the 2009 NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic traded Rafer Alston, Tony Battie and Courney Lee to the New Jersey Nets for Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson. For Orlando, it’s pretty obvious they wanted to upgrade the backcourt scoring and hedge their bets against Hedo Turkoglu. With the Nets, this was pure cost-cutting and boy, did they just open a can of worms in the locker room.
Let’s look at the new Magic potential line-ups. Everything hinges right now on how expensive Turkoglu will be to resign. I wouldn’t say that the Magic have shut the door on him. I would say they’re going to see what kind of money they’d need to match or beat before they make a decision, though. The other big wild card here is back-up center Marcin Gortat. Gortat looked good in a back-up role and played well when Dwight Howard was out for a game. He’s going to get some serious looks as a restricted free agent and with Battie traded, there’s no back-up for Howard under contract (the almost unused Adonal Foyle is also a free agent).
If (and this is an if) both Turkoglu and Gortat re-sign, you’re looking at:
C: Dwight Howard; Marcin Gortat
PF: Rashard Lewis; Ryan Anderson
SF: Hedo Turkoglu; Michael PietrusSG: Vince Carter; J.J. Reddick
PG: Jameer Nelson; Anthony Johnson
That’s without re-signing anyone else. Anderson’s an offensive upgrade to Battie and has 3-point range. Pietrus probably sees most of the swing minutes backing up the 2&3. That’s a very good squad.
Otherwise, you’re looking at:
C: Howard; ?
PF: Lewis; Anderson
SF: Pietrus; ?
SG: Carter; Reddick
PG: Nelson; Johnson
The Magic should be a better team with Carter & Pietrus than Turkoglu and Lee, but that bench is pretty thin and a back-up center is a big priority, as well as another bench scorer. Still, Carter can get his own shot in the 4th quarter and shouldn’t have a problem playing second banana to Howard’s ascending star. As long as there’s some reasonable patching of bench holes if Turkoglu and Gortat leave, the Magic have stepped up and answered Cleveland’s acquisition of Shaq.
As for New Jersey… OK, let’s be honest here. The Nets are dumping salary right and left for two reasons. First, they have dreams of landing big stars in the 2010 free agent period. You’ve all heard rumors about how badly they want LeBron. Secondly, while we all know they’re moving to Brooklyn, that construction isn’t exactly on schedule and they’re looking at playing in New Jersey for at least a couple more seasons. Lame duck teams aren’t the biggest ticket draw. Hence, their desire for salary dumping and expiring contracts like Alston and Battie. And at this point, things start to get goofy.
Why was Alston traded? Partially, because he was already pouting at the idea of playing behind Jameer Nelson. Let’s be fair. Alston was the starting point guard in the NBA Finals. Granted, he was acquired to step in after Nelson was injured, but he got them through the play-offs. To the Nets, he’s just an expiring contract. Will he start over Devin Harris? Highly doubtful. So here you have the starting PG of a Finals team, going into a contract year, about to turn 33, and he’s suddenly coming off the bench on what looks like a sad team on paper. Oh, you think he was grumbling about Nelson, you ain’t seen nothing yet. And I can’t blame the guy. His last big contract is in jeopardy. This isn’t to say he doesn’t have a tendency to hot dog and throw up stupid shots, but he could start for a lot of teams.
And with Courtney Lee, also starting on a Finals team, he’s going to be looking over his shoulder at Terrence Williams, the Nets new lottery pick for shooting guard. Hope that locker room doesn’t get too ugly. But it probably will. That’s 3 young players slotted for the shooting guard. Perhaps one of them will get transitioned to small forward?
Probable depth chart:
C: Brook Lopez; Josh Boone
PF: Yi Jianlian; Battie; Sean Williams; Eduardo Najera
SF: Bobby Simmons; Trenton Hassell
SG: Lee; Williams; Chris Douglas-Roberts
PG: Harris; Alston; Kenyon Dooling
They could also exercise an option on Jarvis Hayes, but let’s put it this way: if the Nets don’t have at least one player (other than Harris) step up quite a bit, and get at least one impact free agent, they’re going to be a long way from the play-offs and hoping a big time free agent or two take pity on them and their vast salary cap space. And if Alston is screaming as loud as I expect, it could get pretty interesting weighing the value of an expiring contract against locker room unrest on a team that isn’t going anywhere.