Dwight Howard Trade Winners and Losers: Lakers, Sixers, Magic, Nuggets
Not a single game of basketball was played on August 10, 2012. But, that did not stop the National Basketball Association from topping the Olympics, the NFL’s pre-season games, or the MLB pennant races in the sports headlines.
At long, long, long, long, long last, the saga known as the “Dwight-mare” ended with a four-team deal sending superstar center Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers as the key cog of the deal. Now, for the breakdown on who goes where, and who came out of this deal in better or worse shape.
WINNER: Los Angeles Lakers Receive Dwight Howard, Earl Clark, and Chris Duhon Give Up Andrew Bynum, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, 2017 1st-round draft pick
No team makes out better in this deal than the Los Angeles Lakers. General Manager Mitch Kupchak swapped out the league’s second-best center for the league’s best center, while taking back a couple spare parts. With the projected lineup of Nash/Bryant/World Peace/Gasol/Howard, coach Mike Brown will have arguably four of the league’s Top 20 players on the floor the majority of the time.
And when Pau Gasol represents a team’s fourth best player, things should generally go well for that team. This, in retrospect to last season, when some called Troy Murphy and Metta World Peace the Lakers’ fourth-best option before the season began.
Anyway, back to Howard, the only player in league history to win three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year trophies (2009-11), makes his biggest impact on the defensive end for the Lakers. After a season when they showed their age may be catching up to them—especially defensively—the Lakers now look a whole lot less vulnerable while defending the basket. Since he joined the league, Howard has also averaged a double-double in every season, and has missed only 19 games in his eight years as a professional.
Last season, before he missed the final 12 games of the season due to a back injury that required surgery, Howard posted 21 ppg, a league-leading 15 rpg, and 2 bpg—third among all NBA players and his Player Efficiency Rating of 24.3 ranked first among all centers, and sixth overall. For Howard’s career, he owns averages of 18 ppg, 13 rpg—including four seasons in which he led the league in rebounding—, and 2 bpg in his eight years the Magic selected him with the No. 1 overall choice in the 2004 NBA Draft.
Although Howard is a force offensively, his biggest contribution to the Lakers will come on the defensive end, where they gave up a pedestrian 96 ppg to opponents while Howard’s Magic finished seventh in team defense, at only 93 ppg. In addition, Howard led the league in Defensive Win Shares for four consecutive seasons from 07-08 to 10-11, as well as Defensive Rating for three years, which happened to be the years he won the DPOY. Overall, Howard’s total win shares average out to roughly 11 per season, with his highest coming in 2010-11 at 14.4. In addition, the projected impact of the trade on the Lakers’ record according to ESPN’s Trade Machine adds four wins to the Lakers’s projected record, the most out of anyone involved.
Grade: A+, for getting the best player on the market in 2012 AND keeping Pau Gasol. Additionally, Kupchak has built a time that is strong everywhere, but is strongest where the defending champion Miami Heat are weakest: point guard and the frontcourt.
WINNER: Philadelphia 76ers Receive Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson Give Up Moe Harkless, Nik Vucevic, 2015 1st-round draft pick
How the Sixers ever got involved in this deal is beyond me, but Philly fans should thank their lucky stars that the powers-that-be managed to wiggle in and land Bynum in Philadelphia. Bynum, the second-best center in the league, brings a superstar presence to the Sixers which the team lacked ever since Allen Iverson was traded to Denver all those years ago. With Bynum on the inside and Jrue Holliday and Evan Turner in the backcourt, the Sixers have a young core that should make them better than the bottom-seeded playoff team they’ve been for the past two seasons.
Bynum, who arguably was the NBA’s Most Improved Player last season, finally broke out as the dominant big man so many believed him to be when the Lakers drafted him out of high school in 2005. It seemed as if he was poised for a breakout in the 2007-08 season, but sustained a patellar subluxation which caused him to miss the rest of the season. At the time, he averaged 13 ppg and 10 rpg with a PER of 22.
In his first season as healthy as he has been since he entered the league, Bynum played 60 of 66 games. None of the six games were due to injury, but rather a four-game suspension at the beginning of the season for elbowing J.J. Barea to the floor in the closing minutes of the Lakers’ loss in the 2011 Western Conference Semifinals to the Dallas Mavericks, and then the final two games of the season at the behest of Mike Brown’s desire to rest his starters for the playoffs.
During the most recent season, and the season Bynum played the most basketball compared to any other season in his career, Bynum showed just what he can be. Bynum averaged career highs in points and rebounds at 19 ppg and 12 rpg, in addition to 2 bpg while posting a 23 PER—also a career-high. That should only be the beginning for Bynum, who will turn 25 in October, as he continues to develop and become a force in the paint.
Alongside Bynum, the 76ers receive Jason Richardson, a player who could turn out to be a nice complementary piece especially with Bynum manning the paint. Richardson ion undoubtedly past his prime, but still brings a quality three-point stroke to the table at a career rate of 37%. Last season, J-Rich averaged 12 points spreading the floor for Howard in Orlando, and should do much the same—likely off the bench—in Philadelphia.
Grade: A, for acquiring the league’s second-best center, who has not even hit his prime, as a result of facilitating the move of Howard to Los Angeles.
WINNER: Denver Nuggets Receive Andre Iguodala Give Up Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, 2014 1st-round draft pick
Denver General Manager Masai Ujiri just put the cherry on top of his rebuilding of the Denver Nuggets from a bunch of guys who stood around and watched Carmelo Anthony shoot to a young, exciting team that is deep, explosive offensively, and plays tough defense. Not only that, this trade also makes Ujiri undeniably one of the best general managers in the NBA.
Ujiri turned Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington’s corpse, and a draft pick likely in the 20’s into arguably the league’s best defender on the perimeter, and one of the most athletic, all-around talented players in the league. With Iguodala in a Nuggets uniform, Denver now is a serious contender for the Western Conference title. The team is young, athletic, and can play any style of basketball and play it well.
Iguodala’s on biggest impact with the Nuggets will be along the lines of the role he plays with the United States’ national team, in that he will be a bona fide stopper on the perimeter. Alongside another young player, Corey Brewer, the Nuggets will often field a lineup that features two of the Association’s best defenders. Having such an asset will come in handy especially in the Western Conference where the defending conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder field players like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden at the same time.
Over the course of Iguodala’s career, he averages 15 ppg, 6 rpg, 5 apg, and 2 spg and owns a career PER of 17.1. At 28 years old, Iguodala remains one of the league’s most durable players as he averages 38 mpg over the course of his career, and missed only 25 games to date since his joining of the professional ranks in 2004. Although known more for his defense, Iguodala is an efficient shooter with career 42% clip from the field, and last season posted his best mark from three-point range at 39%.
Grade: A, for giving up nothing of great value and getting arguably the second-most valuable piece in return, who happens to be the league’s best perimeter defender and takes Denver from a perennial sixth- or seventh-seed to a Northwest Division title contender.
LOSER: Orlando Magic Receive Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, Nik Vucevic, Moe Harkless, 2014 1st-round pick, 2015 1st-round pick, 2017 1st-round pick Give Up Dwight Howard, Jason Richardson, Earl Clark, Chris Duhon
This offseason is the worst in the Magic’s short history as a franchise. Even worse than 1996, when they lost Shaquille O’Neal to the Lakers. And really, what happened didn’t need to happen and it all goes back to far before the trade was made. Otis Smith, who built a playoff team, was fired. Stan Van Gundy, one of the league’s best coaches and one of the league’s winningest coaches in his tenure in Orlando, was fired. Dwight Howard, the league’s best center, was traded for nothing. If anyone has a clue what Rob Hennigan is thinking, I’ll be the first to listen, because the senseless gutting of the Magic and the franchise altogether was completely unnecessary.
Trading Howard was a foregone conclusion, as the organization knew he would not return after this upcoming season, and you don’t want the league’s best post player to escape your team’s grasp for nothing. But this trade is just ridiculously bad.
To give a rough metaphor on how bad this trade really is, it’s as if the kid from A Christmas Story took his cherished Red Ryder BB Gun to his friend’s house and decided to trade it to his friend for a yo-yo and some yarn because the kid got bored with it.
In terms of money, it’s as if someone took a five-dollar bill to a cash register, asked for change, and got 35 cents.
Players like McRoberts, Harrington, and Eyenga probably will be bought out or cut. Vucevic will not amount to much more than a role player over the course of his career, and why he was included beats me because the Magic already have Gustavo Ayon. The draft picks received will not turn out to be lottery picks, as all of the teams that sent picks to Orlando are playoff teams. A likely projection for those picks is that none will turn out to be lower than No. 22 overall. Three picks in the bottom ten slots of the first round do not help a team rebuild. Picks in the Top 10 help a team rebuild. Which the Magic got none of.
The only possible bright spots the Magic bring in are Afflalo and Harkless. Afflalo had his best season yet last year as the starting shooting guard in Denver, averaging 15 ppg while shooting 47% from the field and 41% from three-point range. Afflalo’s role pertains closer to the defensive side of the ball, as he usually draws task of guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player. At only 26, he still has potential to develop into something better than he is, and he will likely get the minutes to prove that as he enters the age range designated as an NBA player’s prime years.
The Magic have the foundation for a solid young core of big men with Harkless—the Big East Rookie of the Year after averaging 16 ppg and 9 rpg at St. John’s—and fellow recent draft picks Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn.
Grade: C-, for bringing back a lot of spare change and draft picks that will amount to little more than bench players down the line. The only thing slightly saving the Magic’s grade is the potential of Afflalo and Harkless.