Preparing for the potential departure of center Dwight Howard, new general manager Rob Hennigan went into the draft looking for frontcourt help. And he found it.
Although Hennigan rejected numerous trade offers on draft night for Howard, the prospect of losing him remains very real. Hennigan won't pull the trigger on a trade until after meeting with Howard in Los Angeles in early July. The Magic continue to hold to the slim hope that Howard might buy into a new vision of the future that Hennigan will present him.
But they won't hold their breath too long.
"These next few days will be very key for the franchise," Hennigan said on draft night. "I'm excited about the chance to talk with Dwight. I won't say much more."
Hennigan drafted power forwards Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure) and Kyle O'Quinn (Norfolk State) in hopes of getting some help in the frontcourt. Hennigan is more of an offensive player, while Nicholson is better defensively.
Hennigan, the youngest general manager in the league at age 30, will be busy. He hopes to hire a new coach to replace Stan Van Gundy, then prepare for the start of free agency. He also left open the possibility of jumping into the free agent market with both feet, depending upon what comes in return for Howard.
The Magic also extended the qualifying offer to forward Ryan Anderson, making him a restricted free agent, which allows the Magic to match any offer he receives. They still have the option on whether to guarantee the contract of J.J. Redick for next season or let him walk in free agency.
The Magic opened strong, winning 10 of their first 13 games. In that stretch, they won five consecutive, including four during an early West Coast swing. Dwight Howard was dominating around the basket and Ryan Anderson was responding well to his first season as a full-time starter.
Although the Magic played through Howard's early trade request, they were wildly inconsistent in the middle of the season. Then late in the season, Van Gundy told everyone that Howard had gone to management and asked for him to be fired. It wasn't long afterward that Howard sustained the ruptured disk in his back, which ended any hopes the Magic had.
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