Tuck: How GM Otis Smith Failed The Orlando Magic

By Mike Tuck
Host, Tuck & O'Neill

Otis Smith came on board as Magic general manager in 2005.  During his tenure he made some great moves that extended his shelf-life.  Most notable to his success was as an assistant general manager the year before in convincing John Weisbrod to select Dwight Howard at #1 and trading for the draft rights of Jameer Nelson, and also signing Hedo Turkoglu.

After that, we begin the judgement.

Coaches

He hired Brian Hill.  That wasn’t good.  The Magic made the playoffs once and were swept.  Smith then hired Billy Donovan, who then changed his mind, opening the door to hire Stan Van Gundy.  I’d say that worked out pretty well.

Overall: Hill was a mistake, and Donovan was a mistake (?).  But getting Van Gundy almost completely erases the errors.  Grade: B

Drafts

2005- Fran Vazquez (1), Travis Diener (2)- I am going to going out on a limb and say this was an epic fail.  This was a bad draft, but every Magic fan remembers Danny Granger going shortly after, and former Gator David Lee going with the last pick of the first round.

2006- JJ Redick (1), James Augustin (2), Lior Eliyahu (2)- Chalk this up as a win, even including some stiff I have never heard of.  There were a lot of mistakes to follow, but Rajon Rondo was not one of them.  PG wasn’t a need for the Magic, but I’d imagine having Rondo, or even Kyle Lowry would make the situation better than it is now.  Maybe even worse was Augustin in the second round over Paul Milsap, and brief contributors Daniel Gibson and Leon Powe.

2007- Reyshawn Terry (2)- Traded him to Dallas.  Zippo to discus further.  The Lakers took Marc Gasol four picks after.  Oops.

2008- Courney Lee (1)- Turned into a valuable contributor as a rookie helping Orlando to the Finals.  Nice job.  They did turn Lee into Ryan Anderson in a trade the following year.  Anderson was selected one pick before Lee.  After both were Serge Ibaka, Nic Batum, and George Hill however.  Not sure how to look at that.

2010- Daniel Orton (1), Stanley Robinson (2)- Orton might walk as a free agent.  Barely knew he was here.  Not much happened after, but Landry Fields would have helped.

2011- Justin Harper (2), DeAndre Liggins (2)- Too early to tell, but doesn’t look promising.  Passed on Isaiah Thomas, now the starting PG for the Kings.  I’d say Orlando could have used him.

Overall: 7 years of drafting (or not because of the absence of picks) yielded 1 starter (Lee/Anderson) and one bench player (Redick).  Nobody else even could be considered rotation material.  That hurts.  A lot.  Grade: D

Free Agency

Rashard Lewis’ max deal was terrible.  The 6 year deal for a 28 year old player added up to two solid seasons, a mediocre one, and a bottoming out in the 4th year.  The player helped for 2 years, but big picture it failed.

Full mid-level deal for Mickael Pietrus just didn’t add up.  He had his bright moments for certain, but scoring a little over 8 ppg in his time in Orlando isn’t what the Magic had in mind.

Keyon Dooling, Keith Bogans, Adonal Foyle, Anthony Johnson, Matt Barnes, Jason Williams, Larry Hughes, Malik Allen, Ish Smith, and Quentin Richardson aren’t wins or losses, or better put, barely worth talking about.

Chris Duhon’s signing was a mistake, dollars, years, and results.

Signing Brandon Bass was a fair deal, and decent.

Resigning Marcin Gortat was a brilliant move.

Resigning Jason Richardson isn’t looking very good.

Overall: A lot depends on how you gauge the Rashard Lewis signing.  If you just look at the first 3 years, and the team’s success, then you probably are more forgiving and give Otis Smith a passing grade.  If not, like me, then you give him below average.  Grade: D+

Trades

Otis Smith gave up a high draft pick, 15th to Detroit for Darko Milicic.  I still can’t believe that happened.  The Pistons took Rodney Stuckey.

Otis Smith hit a home run, actually, make it a grand slam a week later.  He managed to move Steve Francis, his craziness, and his contract to New York for Penny’s expiring deal and Trevor Ariza.  Well played.

Otis then followed that up by giving away Ariza to the Lakers for Brian Cook and Mo Evans.  I’d say that didn’t come back to haunt you, but actually it did with Ariza helping the Lakers to a title in the Amway Arena.

Keith Bogans for Tyronn Lue was insignificant.

It led to the Magic giving up Brian Cook and first round pick to get Rafer Alston.  I’ll give that a W because without Skip-to-my-Lou the Magic don’t make it to the Finals.

The next year, the Magic took on a different look moving Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston, and Tony Battie to New Jersey for Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson.  They won 59 games again, and Ryan Anderson was the best player in the deal.  Another win.

A year and a half later, December 18 happened.  Rashard for Gilbert Arenas.  In hindsight, a fail, but not a major loss.  Nobody really wins that deal.

Also, Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, and a 1st round pick to Phoenix for Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Earl Clark.  I say it’s a mistake, and for many reasons.  Most importantly, you gave up your number one trade asset in Gortat and it made you worse instead of better.  You had to win any deal you moved him in, and you not only lost, but lost and hurt the long-term future because of Turk’s contract.

Finally, trading Brandon Bass for Glen Davis and Von Wafer.  It’s basically eye of the beholder until you factor in the following: Would you rather have one more year of Bass at $4 million or 3 more of Baby at $19.4 million?

Overall: Otis saved the franchise and his job by moving Francis and helped the Magic to the Finals by landing Alston.  His failure was giving up assets and picks and not just not getting enough in return, but getting back players that failed and whose contracts haunted or continue to haunt the franchise.  Grade: A generous C.

Other decisions

Otis Smith did well in convincing Dwight Howard to sign an extension with the team, and then convincing him to opt-in this season.  8 years of Dwight is twice as many as Shaq was here.

He signed Jameer Nelson to an extension.  Hard to judge strongly either way.  Yes, Magic fans would have liked more, but they also could have done worse, and when they signed him to that extension, there wasn’t much available.

He let Hedo Turkoglu leave in free agency.  I gave him kudos for recognizing Turk’s declining skills and not wanting overpay for a role player who was getting old.

Grant Hill walked, and the Magic got nothing for him.  It’s hard to let players leave and get nothing in return, especially when they can still play.

Overall: Dwight is still here.  That alone deserves Grade: A

Overall

The success of the franchise certainly helps make the job Otis Smith did look better than it probably was.  Although he had a say in drafting Dwight Howard, trading for Jameer Nelson, and signing Hedo Turkoglu as a free agent, he wasn’t the GM directly responsible for those big decisions right before he took the job.  Those moves all helped set up this latest era in Magic basketball.

Taking that away, Otis Smith did a below average job.  He failed to move a contending team to a championship team.  You could argue the merits of his biggest decision (Rashard) and condemn him for his other big moves (Suns and Wizards deals).  The draft was never utilized to support his young star or add to a playoff team on the brink of more.

There is a reason Otis Smith was fired, perhaps it came a year too late.

Grade: C-

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