Folks like to compare sports transactions to blackjack or poker strategies. The Orlando Magic for instance, have "doubled down" on their championship chase by taking on Gilbert Arenas, or are going "all in" in their quest to please Dwight Howard.
In this case, I find gin rummy to be the more appropriate reference.
Otis Smith held the nine, 10 and Jack of spades, along with the King and the ace. He could drop the 9-through-Jack straight for a solid 25-point trick, but he knows little Susie has that Queen. If Otis drops 9-10-J, Susie will drop the Queen, getting 10 points and taking a potential 10 more off Smith's ledger. So Otis waits for the Queen to be discarded, ready to pounce and put together a 60-point trick to seal the game. If it doesn't work, if Susie doesn't discard the Queen? He's probably going to lose with a slew of points left in his hand. Gil's the Queen of spades, and I mean that in the nicest way possible.
And now that I have lost every single reader with the worst card analogy in the history of the written word, let's look at the big trade in a visual format.
This is a graphic look at what the Magic, Wizards and Suns think they are committing to: a lot of money for a lot of production. Note that in using career P.E.R., we're playing with fire: Vince Carter, Jason Richardson and Turkoglu are all at least 30 years old, and Arenas is a very old 28. Otis Smith thinks (or at least prays) he's getting the Gil that puts up All-Star numbers and provides phenomenal swag. The Suns, with their legendary training staff, hope that like Grant Hill before him, Carter can be revived.
P.E.R. is a lovely but vindictive princess, and whether Arenas at his best is really that much better than peak Rashard Lewis -- that's a big ol' question mark. If Arenas and Lewis are actually closer in production than their career P.E.R. numbers let on, and under the assumption both are vastly overpaid, that final year on Gil's deal could figure heavily in how history judges Saturday's moves. If Arenas struggles to stay on the court, as he has for the last four season, scholars won't judge Otis kindly.
It's worth noting (again) that the Suns aren't really saving much in this deal, which means for it to be marked a success Marcin Gortat is going to have to produce a lot more than Hedo would have over his deal. Given how bad Hedo has been since leaving Orlando the first time, this shouldn't be difficult. But it's not a padlocked guarantee.
Either way, there's no middle ground for Orlando here. Phoenix could shrug through the deal, if Gortat is just OK. The Wizards likely won't make playoff noise until Lewis' deal has ended. But for the Magic, it's boom or bust. It's a 60-point gin rummy trick, or it's a loss holding a King and ace. Otis Smith refused to lay his cards down, and he has to live with the results.
Tom Ziller is the NBA editor of SBNation.com and a contributor to Worst American Sports Analogies 2010, available from Rick Reilly Publishing in January 2011.