The Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets did the impossible last week. Somehow, some way, these four teams came together, put their differences aside for the greater good of America, and ended the Dwightmare that has been haunting our nation ever since the 2012 trade deadline.
For that, we shall forever be grateful.
Unfortunately, the pleasantries and compliments end there.
This was a trade. Inevitably, every trade is comprised of winners and losers. In the case of this particular transaction, there is a legitimate case to be made that three out of four participants (L.A., Denver and Philly) are actually winners. Rather than delving into why those three teams are the winners and Orlando is a loser, though, let’s look at this from a slightly different perspective.
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In order to be a so-called winner, things kind of have to break your way. For example: if Howard’s back is worse than we think it is and Andrew Bynum shines with the Sixers, the Lakers are no longer winners here – right? Same goes in the event of Howard ditching Tinseltown next summer. (He won’t.)
And on the other side of spectrum, if the Magic lands a game-changer with one of their many, many picks, are they still a loser? Of course not.
With that in mind, let’s take a glass half full approach here. Rather than dubbing Orlando a loser and everyone else as winners, let’s look at what the best-case scenarios for all of the teams involved in this deal would look like.
Los Angeles Lakers
What did they get: Dwight Howard, Chris Duhon, Earl Clark
Best-case scenario: This one is obvious. If all goes according to plan, Howard’s back problems won’t cost him any significant playing time, and the Lakers will combine all their new pieces together with the old ones en route to a Finals appearance.
Almost as important to the Lakers’ future as Howard’s health is that he and Pau Gasol not be as clumsy in the post as Gasol and Bynum were. You’ll recall, L.A. never actually won with their twin towers at the top of their games, and even Phil Jackson and Jerry West noted that something about their styles just didn't jive. The hope is, obviously, that Howard’s strengths (toughness, defense) will balance out Gasol weaknesses (periodic lack of toughness, solid but not great defense) and vice versa.
Steve Nash will ensure that he and Kobe Bryant play in a way that’s conducive to Howard’s style, but what happens in the post is up to the big men.
What did they get: Aaron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, second round 2013 pick from Denver, 1st round 2014 pick from Denver or New York, conditional 1st round 2015 pick from Philadelphia, conditional second round 2015 pick from Los Angeles, conditional 2017 1st round pick from Los Angeles, trade exception.
Best-case scenario: If Rob Hennigan is really lucky, Harkless will turn into the stud that he has the potential to be. There was a reason that Philly was so reluctant to part ways with him. Of all of the actual players that they received in this deal, Harkless is the only one with whom you don’t know what you’re getting.
In Harrington Orlando gets a 32-year-old gunner who can light it up with the best of them, and whose impact on the payroll will actually turn into a positive when they inevitably waive him next summer.
Afflalo is either the most overrated or underrated player in the history of basketball, depending on who you talk to. If all goes according to plan, he’ll prove to be a steady complimentary piece that can fit around whichever superstars Magic brass is able to sign or draft. And, of course, it goes without saying that, best-case scenario, at least a few of the picks end up turning into special players.
What did they get: Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson
Best-case scenario: In a perfect world, Bynum will never be injured again. Then, as is the case when a guy isn’t constantly out because he’s hurt, he will continue to evolve and develop until he eventually transforms into the NBA’s best center.
If that actually happens and Bynum lives up to his full potential, Philly could emerge as a title contender in the East. Miami still doesn’t have anything even remotely resembling a legitimate post presence and Boston is so far past its prime it’s about to start a whole new life; the Sixers suddenly becoming legit title threats if Bynum does what people think he can do certainly wouldn’t be the craziest thing in the world.
Jason Richardson can attest to how far a dominant center can take a team.
What did they get: Andre Iguodala
Best-case scenario: If all goes according to plan for Denver, Iguodala will continue to be one of the league’s best wings and they'll become the West’s third best team. Even in a best case-scenario, there is no way that this squad ends up in a better position than the Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies. Two to three of those teams may struggle for whatever reasons, but there is no way all of them self-implode enough for the Nuggets to jump to No. 1 in the conference.