Aug 022012
 

In case you’ve been asleep for the last month, Dwight Howard wants to be traded. Howard is entering the final year of his deal, but even though Howard agreed midseason to opt into the final year of his contract, rather becoming a free agent this summer, the great flip flopper now wants out of Orlando. Here’s a look at the parties involved in what’s becoming a major Dwightmare.

Orlando Magic

If this were medieval times, the Magic would be like the father with the one beautiful daughter and five daughters with 3 eyes (each, or combined, you decide which is worse). Howard is obviously the former, while the 3 eyed daughters include Hedo Turkoglu (2 years, 23.8 million), Glen Davis (3 years, 19.4 million), Jason Richardson (3 years, 18.8 million), and Chris Duhon (2 years, 6.6 million). If you want to get with the beautiful daughter, you’ll have to take the 3 eyed girls as well.

What’s even more pathetic is that 2 of those 3 players were signed just last offseason. The Magic just can’t stop. Even as they’re trying to get Turkoglu’s, Davis’, and Richardson’s awful deals off their books, they’re simultaneously extending Jameer Nelson (12 points, 6 assists) for 3 years, 19.2 million. If the Magic HAVE TO trade Howard (and I’m not fully convinced they feel they have to yet), they’ll want a combination of young players, picks, and cap space in return.

Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn is the one place where Howard said he would definitely sign an extension. It originally looked like Howard was going there earlier in this offseason in a massive 4-team megadeal. However, something happened and they dropped out and signed Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez, two players who would have gone elsewhere in the proposed Howard megadeal. Now the Nets cannot be contenders for Howard until January 15th, when they can trade Lopez again, and that’s, of course, assuming Howard is still in Orlando then.

Los Angeles Lakers

With Brooklyn out of the picture, the Lakers seem like the most obvious destination for Howard. He has not yet said he would sign an extension with the Lakers, but you have to think the possibility of playing alongside Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Pau Gasol in one of the league’s biggest markets in a city where it never is colder than 70 degrees, would be a very intriguing choice for Howard. The Lakers have pulled off blockbuster deals for centers in their history before, whether it be Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabber, or Shaquille O’Neal. Seeing as 3 of the top-5 centers of all time have been Lakers at one point or another, it seems only fate that Howard end up in Los Angeles.

However, the only tradeable asset the Lakers have is Andrew Bynum and some expiring contracts. Orlando is not interested in Bynum because he, like Howard, is a free agent after the season and he won’t agree to a long term deal with the Magic. Bynum has, however, named Houston, Dallas, and Cleveland as three destinations where he would be interested in signing long term.

Houston Rockets

The Rockets are incredibly desperate to get Dwight Howard. I would not be shocked if it were reported that GM Daryl Morey has a shrine of Dwight Howard in his bedroom that he sacrifices a player to weekly in order to please it. They basically did that by using their amnesty on Luis Scola and flipping Kyle Lowry to the Raptors for a 1st round pick.

On one hand, I don’t blame them. You can’t win a title in this league without a top-10 player and if you have one, it’s a lot easier to attract other elite supporting cast members. It’s almost never a bad idea to trade cents for dollars in the NBA because you can always find cents in free agency, but you can’t find dollars unless you have other dollars.

On the other hand, the rumored deals involving Howard to the Rockets essentially have the Magic swapping situations with the Magic. Why would anyone want to be the Magic? The Rockets are reportedly willing to swap a package that would include some of the 5 players who have been top 16 picks in the last 3 drafts (Patrick Patterson, Maurice Morris, Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones, and Royce White), as well as two 2013 1st round picks (Toronto’s and their own) and take on the contracts of Richardson, Davis, and Turkoglu. They currently have the league’s lowest payroll and they have Kevin Martin’s 12.4 million dollar expiring contracts to trade.

That would leave them in exactly the position Orlando is in now. Not good enough to win a title, saddled with bad deals, and with a franchise player in Dwight Howard who could easily jump ship next offseason leaving the Rockets, best case scenario, with a nice compensatory package in a sign and trade, no 1st round picks, and 3 terrible contracts on their books. And unlike Orlando, Houston would be in the Western Conference. They might not even make the playoffs in the West in 2012-2013 with Howard/Davis/Turkoglu/Richardson/Lin. The Rockets might be better off trying to build around their young building blocks and keeping their two 1st round picks, both of which might be in the top-10 considering how bad Houston and Toronto might be.

The other option for Houston would be trading a smaller portion of that package in a deal that lands them Andrew Bynum. Bynum is currently with the Los Angeles Lakers, who are also trying to acquire Dwight Howard. However, the Magic are not interested in Bynum straight up for Howard because Bynum won’t agree to a long term extension with the Magic. He said he might be willing to agree to one in Houston (he also mentioned Dallas and Cleveland).

Bynum isn’t the top-10 player Howard is, but you can win a title if he’s one of your top-3 players and he will make Houston a relevant destination for free agents. He would allow the Rockets to either take back less of Orlando’s bad contracts and/or keep more of their prospects. And, unlike Howard, he would sign an extension with the Rockets. Of course, this option would force Houston to abandon their quest for Dwight Howard AND help facilitate his trade to a conference opponent.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers could be another team that would help facilitate a Howard to the Lakers deal. This would allow them to get Andrew Bynum, to pair with Kyrie Irving and make them not only a playoff team in the Eastern Conference, but would actually make them an intriguing free agent destination for a 3rd player. Could Cleveland end up with a Megateam? Stranger things have happened. Wait, no, they haven’t.

However, the Cavaliers pulling the trigger on this deal would also allow them to screw over LeBron by helping to create a Big 4 in Los Angeles that would make Miami’s Big 3 look like yesterday’s news. The Cavaliers definitely have assets. They have a good amount of cap room, a legitimate starting center in Anderson Varejao at a reasonable contract, Luke Walton’s expiring contract, three 1st round picks in 2013 (Miami’s, Sacramento’s top-12 protected, and their own), and the last two #4 overall picks (Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters).

However, at this moment, the Cavaliers are not willing to part with either Thompson or Waiters. I don’t know if a package of Varejao, cap space and, three 1st round picks would be enough to attract Orlando. Substitute Waiters or Thompson for one of those picks and now we’re talking. Substitute both for the three 1st round picks and I think that deal gets done. With that in mind, let’s look at the possible scenarios from least to most likely.

Impossible

Dwight Howard to Brooklyn this offseason: I’ve already covered this. At the moment, this is impossible.

Unlikely

Dwight Howard to Brooklyn at the trade deadline: Now this, this is possible. The two sides appeared to have an agreement on a four team deal that would send Brook Lopez to Orlando, Kris Humphries to Cleveland, and Marshon Brooks somewhere else, and parts from Cleveland and the 4th mystery team going to Orlando along with Lopez and some of Brooklyn’s picks. If Howard is not moved this offseason, the two sides could definitely revisit this deal at the deadline, assuming Orlando is not one of the top-3 teams in the East at the time. However, I think it’s pretty unlikely that Howard begins the season with the Magic…

Possible

The Magic keep Dwight Howard: …And if they do have him on their roster to begin the season, who is to say they wouldn’t keep him past the deadline. Why not go for one last run, try to sell Howard on Orlando’s new regime and the fact that they can offer him an extra year on a max deal, and worst case scenario, sign and trade him somewhere else next offseason. We had a lockout to make it easier for teams to keep their stars. Why not take advantage of that? And if you’re not a contender at the deadline and you can’t get him to sign an extension, then you consider shipping him somewhere, but only for the right price.

Dwight Howard to Houston: I’ve already gone through this scenario. The Rockets have a package of 4 top-16 picks, three 2013 1st round picks, a boatload of cap space, and a 12 million dollar expiring contract to intrigue Orlando. There’s no guarantee he’ll stay in Houston beyond the season, but the Rockets have already gotten rid of two key contributors (Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola) in an effort to free up cap space for Howard, so if you’re going to go big, don’t go home in the middle of it.

 

 

Likely

Dwight Howard to Los Angeles through Cleveland or Houston: Below, I’ll detail 2 deals that could make sense, one involving Cleveland as the 3rd team and one involving Houston. I’ll start with the Cleveland deal.

Los Angeles Lakers acquire: Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu

Houston Rockets acquire: Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson, Glen Davis, Metta World Peace, Chris Duhon

Orlando Magic acquire: Jeremy Lamb, Royce White, Toronto’s 2013 1st round pick, Houston’s 2013 1st round pick, Kevin Martin, Josh McRoberts, Shaun Livingston

Deal for Lakers: This gets them their guy, Dwight Howard. Even if he won’t sign an extension right away, it’s worth it to make this deal because he’ll make them immediate favorites in the NBA and he’d almost definitely sign an extension midseason. This gives them a legitimate big 4 with Howard, Kobe, Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash.

Plus, while Turkoglu is overpaid, the Lakers don’t care about the luxury tax or anything and he’s still a decent starting small forward. And if they really care about the luxury tax, they still have their amnesty to use on Turkoglu next offseason. With Antawn Jamsion coming off the bench and Jordan Hill and Steve Blake serving as the 7th and 8th man, the Lakers would be the team to beat in the NBA.

Deal for Orlando: This is all about rebuilding. The Magic wouldn’t take back a contract that’s either not expiring or a rookie contract and would get essentially four 1st round picks if you count Jeremy Lamb (12th in 2012) and Royce White (16th in 2012). They would also rid themselves of their 3 worst contracts and give them financial flexibility going forward.

Next offseason, the Magic would have just 7 players under contract, Lamb, White, Chris Duhon (3.5 million), Jameer Nelson (6.6 million), Quentin Richardson (2.8 million, player option), Gustavo Ayon (1.5 million), and Andrew Nicholson (their 1st round pick). They’d also have three 1st round picks, including two that could be in the top-10 (theirs and Toronto’s). Isn’t that better than paying the luxury tax to be the 5 seed in the East and potentially having your best player leave for nothing? Yes, yes it is.

Deal for Houston: This is all about them getting a top-20 NBA player. You can win a title with Andrew Bynum as one of your top-3 players. You can’t say that about any of the other guys on their roster. Lamb and White will be missed, as will their two 1st round picks, but they have plenty of young talent to make up for it (Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Patterson, Maurice Morris, Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones). They also have Jeremy Lin, who, if he keeps it up, could be a guy capable of being a top-3 guy on a Championship team.

Los Angeles Lakers acquire: Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu

Cleveland Cavaliers acquire: Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson, Glen Davis, Metta World Peace, Chris Duhon

Orlando Magic acquire: Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Cleveland’s 2013 1st round pick, Miami’s 2013 1st round pick, Luke Walton, Josh McRoberts, Daniel Gibson

(Copy and paste) Deal for Lakers: This gets them their guy, Dwight Howard. Even if he won’t sign an extension right away, it’s worth it to make this deal because he’ll make them immediate favorites in the NBA and he’d almost definitely sign an extension midseason. This gives them a legitimate big 4 with Howard, Kobe, Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash.

Plus, while Turkoglu is overpaid, the Lakers don’t care about the luxury tax or anything and he’s still a decent starting small forward. And if they really care about the luxury tax, they still have their amnesty to use on Turkoglu next offseason. With Antawn Jamsion coming off the bench and Jordan Hill and Steve Blake serving as the 7th and 8th man, the Lakers would be the team to beat in the NBA.

Deal for Orlando: Similar to the last deal, but with a few differences. Rather than getting Lamb and White and Houston’s and Toronto’s 1st, you get Cleveland’s 1st, Miami’s 1st, and Tristan Thompson, who was the 4th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. You also get to get rid of Chris Duhon’s deal, but you take on Anderson Varejao’s deal. Varejao, however, is a legitimate starting center in the NBA and at 17.4 million over the next 2 seasons, he’s pretty reasonably paid. His contract also has a team option for 9.7 million in 2014-2015.

Deal for Cleveland: You have to part with Tristan Thompson and two 1st round picks and take on some bad contracts, but they have the cap space and right now they’re irrelevant. They couldn’t get anyone to sign with them without overpaying and the guys they’re getting back are actually decent players, just overpaid. Andrew Bynum, paired with Kyrie Irving, makes them relevant and makes them a more attractive free agent destination. They also get to keep 2012 4th overall pick Dion Waiters.

Bynum/Davis/Metta/Richardson/Irving with Waiters starting his career as a 6th man makes them with a playoff team in the East with upside and makes basketball relevant in Cleveland again. Also, this deal creates a mega team in Los Angeles to help prevent their public enemy #1, LeBron, from winning a 2nd title (or not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6…wait that’s not funny anymore. Damn it LeBron).

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