Let’s Trade Dwight Howard (Again)
Way back in October HOOPSWORLD took a stab at coming up with balanced, sensible trades for Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard because of possible status as a free agent come July. Since then the landscape of the NBA has changed but nothing with Howard’s situation has, other than he did make a request to be traded.
We also now know the details of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. In addition we know Howard has given Orlando management a list of teams he would like to play for – New Jersey, Dallas and the L.A. Lakers – and we know that no matter where he is traded Howard has no intention of signing an extension to his current contract because re-signing with Bird Rights rather than extending earns him a higher annual raise.
And while the Orlando Magic shouldn’t necessarily be counted out when it comes to retaining Howard, most of the rest of the NBA world does not share Orlando’s optimism. Recently it’s been rumored Howard may give the Magic one more year to, in his eyes, properly build a team around him. He could do this by not invoking his $19.5 million Early Termination Option (invoking the option makes him a free agent) by June 30, 2012. All that would guarantee is another year of “As Dwight Howard Turns” – and no one wants that.
Lots of teams would love to get their hands on Howard, but few of them are willing to do what it takes to acquire him by the March 15th trade deadline because there is no guarantee he stays beyond this season. Yes, the team acquiring him would have a leg up on the free agent competition, but Howard could just as easily walk, leaving his new team nothing to show for the assets they gave Orlando in trade. Some teams are willing to take that risk if the price is right, namely the three teams on Howard’s list plus the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. As much as fans may want the Chicago Bulls to get involved, they aren’t prepared to do what it takes to acquire the league’s best defensive center.
So the question becomes what does Orlando want in return? Howard counts for $18.1 million this season. Because the Magic are within range of the luxury tax (they sit at $68.7 million) they are limited to a range of 75% to 125% of Howard’s salary – $13.6 million to $22.6 million. In return for Howard the Magic want a center to take his spot, they want some All-Star talent, maybe some cap relief, and they want to get a little younger and more flexible financially. But, above anything at all, the Magic want to maintain or improve upon their status in the Eastern Conference and once again be a championship contender. That’s the bottom line – stay on top.
To that end here are some potential deals that could make sense for the teams involved. In every case these are not real trade rumors, they are only possible moves that seem to work well for both sides.
Los Angeles Lakers send Andrew Bynum, Josh McRoberts, and two 2012 first-round picks to Orlando for Dwight Howard
This trade isn’t exciting, that much is true. However, it gives Orlando a starting center in return among the best in the league. The two draft picks aren’t great – both Dallas and the Lakers will probably pick in the 20s – but they are something. McRoberts is needed to balance the trade.
Yes, Orlando fans want some kind of deal where they also get Pau Gasol and send out Hedo Turkoglu, but the reality is the Lakers simply will not do that. Nor should they. Acquiring Howard is all about combining him with Gasol and Kobe Bryant, not gutting the team. Trading two All-Star talents and only returning one, no matter how good, doesn’t make sense.
What adjustments would make sense? Add Turkoglu and Metta World Peace? That doesn’t do a lot for either team. As much as the Lakers would love Howard and as much as the Magic may feel Bynum is acceptable, the fact is Bynum isn’t as good as Howard and they won’t get another difference maker with him.
Dallas trades Brendan Haywood, Lamar Odom and Rodrigue Beaubois to Orlando for Dwight Howard and Quentin Richardson
This deal gives Orlando a little bit of everything, but it’s not sexy by any stretch of the imagination. Beaubois gives the Magic young talent in the backcourt and Haywood gives them a starting center, albeit not one in nearly the same bracket as Howard. Including Odom allows the Magic to cut Odom and save $5.8 million in 2012-13, but it doesn’t accomplish their goal of staying an elite team in the East.
Dallas simply doesn’t have the trade assets to get it done. Even replacing Odom with Shawn Marion doesn’t do much for them. The Mavericks have set their team up to be under the cap this summer and because of that have a lot of ending contracts, something the Magic aren’t looking for in return for their star.
A deal with Dallas and Orlando seems unlikely.
New Jersey trades Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro, Mehmet Okur and two 2012 first-round picks to Orlando for Dwight Howard, Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon
The problem with finding a deal that works with the New Jersey Nets is they have Deron Williams making $16.4 million, Okur at $10.9 million, Kris Humphries at $8.0 million, and the rest of the team is cheap contracts. Williams is not on the table for a Howard trade. Humphries, as a player on a one-year contract whose Bird Rights would be terminated by being traded, can veto any trade (not that he would veto a trade to Orlando, but he could). That leaves Okur’s expiring contract as the big chunk of change.
Lopez, Brooks and Morrow would step in and contribute immediately in Orlando (Lopez after recovering from his sprained ankle). The Magic would seemingly be obligated to match any offer to Lopez in restricted free agency to keep a center. They also get rid of the bad deals of Richardson and Duhon, which Jersey would gladly take to get Howard. The two draft picks would be New Jersey’s own and Houston’s, which is lottery protected so would be dependent on the final standings in the Western Conference.
In all honesty this is probably a pretty good deal for the Magic. They don’t seem too keen on Lopez – he’s the polar opposite of Howard on the floor, especially when it comes to defense and rebounding – but he is a valuable player and those draft picks could turn out pretty good in a top heavy draft. It could also be argued the Nets are giving up too much, but they seem prepared to do whatever it takes to put Howard and Williams together. They would rather keep Brooks, but he’s not going to make them turn down Dwight Howard.
Houston trades Samuel Dalembert, Kevin Martin, Jordan Hill, Marcus Morris and a 2012 first-round pick to Orlando for Dwight Howard, Jason Richardson, Quentin Richardson and Daniel Orton
In Dalembert the Magic would return a center who is a good defender and solid rebounder. Kevin Martin is an upgrade over Richardson, the Magic get out of Q’s contract, Jordan Hill can fill minutes in the middle, and Marcus Morris deserves playing time. Orton’s involvement is incidental. The Rockets could also offer future first-round picks in addition to the one pick they can give (which came from New York in the Tracy McGrady deal a couple years ago).
For Houston, Jason Richardson is an adequate replacement for the disgruntled Martin, but really it’s all about Howard. The real question here is does this move make the Magic better? Are Howard and J-Rich a wash for Dalembert and Martin? It may not be worth it to the Magic to say yes, even if the return could be solid.
Golden State trades Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins and Klay Thompson to Orlando for Dwight Howard, Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon
The Magic get rid of their two worst deals not named Turkoglu and return a center – yes, a questionable one – a star in Ellis, and a potentially very good player in Thompson. Magic fans will want Stephen Curry, whom the Warriors aren’t absolutely opposed to including. It doesn’t make sense to include both Ellis and Curry – for either side – so the deal could be adjust to be Curry/Biedrins/Thompson/David Lee for the Orlando trio.
Lee and Curry would give the Magic a solid return and Biedrins could at least take up space in the middle, even if his $9-million-for-two-more-years contract is a bit overpriced. Potentially the Magic could still re-sign Ryan Anderson as a restricted free agent and move him to small forward, allowing him and Lee to play together. The Warriors could also throw in their 2012 first-round pick (or more), which looks to be a lottery choice.
In the end none of these deals really look like what the Magic really want, which is probably the biggest reason they want to do everything they can to convince Howard to stay as opposed to trading him. The problem with trading the best center in the NBA is it’s simply impossible to return equal value. The teams that have multiple All-Stars aren’t looking to trade them for Howard; they want to add Howard to make their team stronger.
One of these teams could try and get a third team involved to give the Magic additional value in return, but the difficulty there is convincing that team they should help out. What’s in it for the Minnesota Timberwolves to give up Derrick Williams, for example? The three-way rumor that has since been shot down still had the Lakers sending out both Bynum and Gasol, which isn’t going to happen without returning another star player with Howard. Adding a third team to the mix doesn’t make trading both of them more likely for the Lakers.
So therein lays the conundrum for the Magic. Their superstar has asked to be traded, but they can’t find a deal that makes sense for the franchise because no team interested in Howard can offer them equal value. This is why the trade deadline very well could pass with Howard still wearing Magic pinstripes whether he likes it or not. It also could be the reason the Magic go all in trying to keep him. In the end, not making a bad deal and letting Howard do whatever he chooses to do in July could be the best option.
Do you like any of these deals? What team should give up what for Dwight Howard? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! Follow Jason Fleming on Twitter @jfleminghoops and hit up his weekly chat Monday at 8pm Eastern.