GM Otis Smith: The architect behind the Eastern Conference Champion Magic
"In a short amount of time, Otis has done a tremendous job in regards to player acquisitions, while at the same time, setting us up for the future. He brings a wide range of experience, great energy, dedication, leadership and vision to our basketball operations."
Let's take a look at some of Smith's key moves (in no particular order) in the three years that he has been GM that have brought the Magic the Eastern Conference Championship.
1) Drafting of J.J. Redick with the 11th pick of the first round in 2006. Redick proved to be valuable off the bench with his three point shooting this season and his surprisingly good defense on Boston's Ray Allen in the ECF Semifinals was one of the factors in the Magic advancing.
2) Firing Coach Brian Hill in May 2007. Even though the Magic made the playoffs for the first time in four years and Hill made the Magic a good defensive team, Smith realized that Hill, because of his stubborn, inflexible ways and lack of imagination on offense, needed to be replaced if the Magic were to continue to improve.
3) Hiring Stan Van Gundy as coach in June 2007. Van Gundy wasn't Smith's first choice, obviously, but Smith did excellent in hiring SVG after Billy Donovan bailed out after 24 hours.
4) Signing Rashard Lewis as a free agent in the summer of 2007. Smith was criticized for overpaying for Lewis, and for not signing a true power forward, but the combo of Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu at forward has given opposing teams matchup nightmares.
5) Electing not to re-sign restricted free agent Darko Milicic after the 2007 season. Smith was criticized also for this move, because the combo of Dwight Howard and Milicic on the floor together showed potential for the future. However, in his two years with Memphis, Darko has continued to struggle with consistency and injuries, while Lewis has more than filled the bill as the Magic's starting power forward.
6) Signing Jameer Nelson to a contract extension before the 2007 season. Again, Otis was criticized by giving Nelson such a big contract, because Nelson never really proved he deserved such an extension. Smith was steadfast in his support of Nelson, and Nelson justified his contract extension by having a breakout season, making the All-Star team before his season-ending torn labrum in February.
7) Signing Marcin Gortat before the 2007 season. Gortat has come into his own this season as a solid backup to Howard.
8) The drafting of Courtney Lee with the 22nd pick of the first round in 2008. Most people thought Lee would be very little, if any factor, for the Magic this season, especially considering the Magic's poor drafting record in previous years with a middle-to-late first round pick, even though Lee had a solid four year career in college with Western Kentucky. Lee has done so well with the Magic with his solid defense, good shooting, and aggressiveness on offense that he was promoted to starter during the 2008-09 season when Mickael Pietrus was injured or struggled.
9) Signing free agent Mickael Pietrus in the 2008 off-season. Pietrus looked to be a bust with his injuries and struggles on offense for most of the regular season; however, Pietrus has excelled in the playoffs as the sixth man with his aggressiveness on defense and solid three point shooting. Pietrus, by himself, outscored the entire Cavaliers bench in the ECF.
10) Signing free agent point guard Anthony Johnson in the 2008 off-season. Johnson, nicknamed "Dad", has been steady coming off the bench this season.
11) Trading for Houston point guard Rafer Alston in February 2009. After Nelson's season-ending injury in February, Smith first traded for Milwaukee point guard Tyronn Lue, but Smith quickly realized the Magic needed somebody better if the Magic were to contend for a championship. Alston was that man, and with the exception of a few games, has been solid as the starting point guard and has done well running the offense in Nelson's absence.
Otis Smith, while making some mistakes along the way in three years, has more than made up for those mistakes with his brilliant acquisitions and decisions over those three years, and has certainly lived up to everything Bob Vander Weide said about him when Otis was promoted to GM on May, 2006.