Let’s Trade Dwight Howard
The Orlando Magic are nearing a crucial moment in their franchise history. Is Dwight Howard going to remain with the team and sign an extension or is he going to bolt to a larger market after he opts-out of his current contract in the summer of 2012?
If Howard leaves, this will be the second time the Magic have lost the game’s premier big man. In 1996, after leading the Magic to the Eastern Conference Finals, Shaquille O’Neal bolted for Hollywood and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Magic received nothing in return for O’Neal’s departure to L.A. and it took the Magic years before they were able to rebuild the franchise.
This has to weigh on the minds of the decision makers for the Magic, if Orlando loses Howard for nothing the franchise will likely be lottery bound for the foreseeable future. The Magic are currently over the salary cap and were one of the few teams that paid the luxury tax last season. They are likely going to be over the cap for the next two years regardless of what they do, so losing Howard would be devastating to the franchise.
The debate over whether to trade Howard now and guarantee the Magic get something for him or to let Howard play out his contract has been made here on HOOPSWORLD. However, Howard’s recent interview with Scott Raab of Esquire magazine throws doubt on whether there is any chance he will return to the Magic.
If Howard has indeed decided to leave the Magic, then the team needs to strike as soon as possible to move Howard for the best possible deal. A couple of things to keep in mind, Howard is arguably the best player in the league and it will be virtually impossible for the Magic to get anything near fair value for him, especially because he seems determined to enter free agency in 2012.
If the Magic do in fact decide to trade Howard, they will have several options, from acquiring veterans who might help the team make the playoffs the next few seasons, to young talent and draft picks that will help the Magic build for the future. No matter what option the Magic pursues, they should definitely be looking at shedding salary by adding a long-term contract to any trade scenario, like Hedo Turkoglu.
Without further ado, here is a look at some of the more realistic possibilities the Magic should be thinking about if they decide to trade Howard. All trade scenarios work under the just-expired CBA and are listed in no particular order.
The Los Angeles Clippers send Chris Kaman, DeAndre Jordan, Al-Farouq Aminu, Brian Cook and the Minnesota Timberwolves unprotected first round pick in 2012 to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu.
This trade provides the Magic with an instant savings of 12 million dollars. If the Magic decide to bite the bullet and buyout Gilbert Arenas’ contract with the rumored Amnesty Clause, the Magic could be under the cap by the start of the 2012-13 season. Few teams can offer the Magic this kind of savings.
Cook is an expiring contract as is Kaman. Kaman is still a starting caliber center in the NBA and could be flipped for another player; he has been linked to rumors involving Monta Ellis and Andre Iguodala. The other option is for the Magic to allow his contract to expire and free up more cap space that they could use in free agency.
In Jordan, the Magic would get a young, athletic center who could be the team’s starter for the next 5-10 years and in Aminu the Magic would receive a mostly unknown player that would be given plenty of minutes in Orlando and have the opportunity to prove he belongs.
The biggest part of this trade though, is the first rounder the Magic would be acquiring. It’s probable the T-Wolves are going to struggle this year and the pick is likely to turn into a lottery pick, if not top five pick, in a loaded draft.
Also, if the Magic make this trade, then buyout Arenas and then trade Jameer Nelson for expiring contracts and/or picks, the Magic are likely to be one of the worst teams in the league. It’s hard to sell a fan base on losing, but if ever there was a year to have two lottery picks in the draft, it is this year. If the Magic can land two top ten picks, Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, Austin Rivers, Anthony Davis, or Andre Drummond could make the fans forget all about Howard in just a few years.
Between the cap savings, two young players in Jordan and Aminu, and a potential lottery pick, this is arguably the best deal the Magic could hope to get. It might also make Howard happy landing in Los Angeles and getting to play next to two young stars in Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon, which could increase the chance that Howard avoids free agency and is willing to sign an extension.
The Los Angeles Lakers send Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and draft picks to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu.
If the Magic want a potential all-star center in return for Howard, this is their best bet. Bynum has all of the tools to be a star in the league for years to come, unfortunately he hasn’t been able to stay healthy; he has played more than 65 games just once in his career.
Bynum is an offensive and defensive threat. For his career he is a 57% shooter from the field and has averaged 1.5 blocks per game. The biggest question is whether or not he can stay on the floor, and whether the Magic would be willing to take that risk?
Odom is a solid player who can play the power forward and small forward positions, but his best days are probably behind him. He turns 32 on November 6 and if the Magic go into rebuilding mode, how long would Odom be able to play at an elite level?
Any draft picks the Magic acquired from the Lakers are likely to be either late first rounders or second round picks. It’s hard to build for the future when a team doesn’t have cap space or early draft picks. This trade for the magic is risky, it could land them a future all-star center, or could keep the team maxed out while their best player sits in a suit on the sidelines because of injury.
The Chicago Bulls Send Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Keith Bogans, Jannero Pargo, John Lucas, Taj Gibson, and a future first round draft pick from the Charlotte Bobcats to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu.
This is the one trade that is likely to keep the Magic in the playoffs for the next several years. The downside is, unless Gilbert Arenas returns to all-star status, it is unlikely the Magic will be anything more than a first round playoff team.
Noah is a solid center, but has dealt with injury issues the last two seasons. When healthy he is one of the best defensive and rebounding big men in the game and can affect the outcome without ever scoring a point. Noah could also help the Magic retain fans after losing Howard, because he won two national championships at the University of Florida.
Deng is a solid, but not flashy small forward that can score and guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player. He has dealt with injuries in the past, but seems to have put it behind him; he was one of the leaders in total minutes played last season.
Bogans, Pargo, and Lucas each have non-guaranteed contracts that could be waived immediately and would save the Magic millions of dollars this season.
Gibson proved he could be a starting power forward when he began last season in the starting lineup in place of an injured Carlos Boozer for the Bulls. During his time as a starter, Gibson averaged over ten points a game and blocked almost two shots. He is still under his rookie contract and would be the Magic’s starting power forward for the foreseeable future.
The pick the Magic would acquire from the Bulls is a protected future first rounder from the Bobcats that could wind up being a lottery pick in a few years. For a veteran team like the Magic, having a lottery pick in 2013 or 2014 could help them rebuild on the fly, or help them take the next step in the playoffs.
This may not be the best offer on the table for the Magic, but if Howard agrees to sign an extension with the Bulls, this deal would help the Magic stay competitive for the next several years. Few teams can offer the Magic a trade that lands them three starters, like the bulls can. The Magic could have a starting lineup of Arenas, J.J. Redick, Deng, Gibson, and Noah. Barring injury, that should be a playoff team for several years.
The New Jersey Nets send Brook Lopez and draft picks to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard.
If Howard pulls a Carmelo Anthony and demands to be traded to the New Jersey Nets, there is only one trade that makes any sense for the Magic, Brook Lopez and draft picks.
Lopez is a solid player, despite regressing some in his sophomore season, but there isn’t another player on the roster that the Magic should target, assuming Deron Williams is off the table. The Nets sent several picks to the Utah Jazz in last year’s deal to acquire Williams, so any picks the Magic receive aren’t likely to be future lottery picks.
If Howard says he won’t sign an extension with any team but the Nets, which will all but eliminate the market for Howard, the Magic would probably be better served to hold onto Howard for the season and make one last playoff run.
The New York Knicks send Chauncey Billups, Landry Fields, Ronny Turiaf, Bill Walker, Toney Douglas, and draft picks to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson.
This is another situation where the Magic might be better served just holding onto Howard and playing out the season rather than trading him for expiring contracts and a fringe starting shooting guard in Fields.
If Howard demands to be traded to the Knicks, this is the best offer the Magic could hope to receive. This deal does provide about five million in instant savings off their cap, and with Billups, Turiaf, and Walker all being on the last year of their deals, it’s possible the Magic could be under the cap by the start of the 2012-13 season.
The question is whether that cap space is worth trading Howard for? If the Magic keep Howard they are all but guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, but is that playoff run worth the potential of losing him for nothing?
If the Magic do make Howard available every team in the NBA will be after him, the problem is most teams aren’t likely to give up anything close to fair value unless they know Howard will agree to an extension with them. If Howard continues to insist on becoming a free agent, the Magic’s options will be very limited.
In fact, it’s unlikely any team would trade anything more than draft picks and expiring contracts for Howard, even though he all but guarantees that team a spot in the playoffs. If Howard were to agree to an extension though, several other teams could be in play.
The Miami HEAT may consider offering LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh for Howard. James or Wade is as good a deal as the Magic could ever dream of getting for Howard, while Bosh may not be on the same level, he is only 27 and has proven he can lead a team to the playoffs.
The Oklahoma City Thunder could put together a package of players and picks that includes James Harden, Serge Ibaka, and Kendrick Perkins. The Thunder could provide the Magic with cap space and several players to build around in Ibaka and Harden.
The Utah Jazz could also offer draft picks and young players. They could offer Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Mehmet Okur’s expiring contract and draft picks for Howard and Turkoglu.
There is no right answer in all of this, and time will tell if Howard demands to be traded, leads the Magic to believe he will return, or if he says nothing at all about his impending free agency. One thing is certain though, whenever the season starts, the Magic are going to have a very difficult decision to make regarding their franchise center.
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