The Los Angeles Lakers and Dwight Howard don't make for a good combination. It isn’t because Howard lacks the seriousness that a championship-hungry town like L.A. needs. Similarly, it isn’t because he doesn’t want to play in another superstar’s shadow. It’s simply because some scenarios are just a lot better on paper than they are in reality, and this was one of them.
Two years ago, when Howard was still at full strength, the fact that Mike D’Antoni can't adequately gameplan touches for him wouldn’t have been a problem. The superstar center did most of his damage by way of collecting misses from around the rim and hustle work by the basket. He got hacked by opposing defenders in those days, too, but it didn’t result in him losing possession of the ball – which is exactly what has been happening this year.
There is no denying that Kobe Bryant’s ball-controlling nature and D’Antoni’s weak schemes have thrown the 27-year-old for a loop, but a lot of his struggles can be attributed to him simply not being good this year. For whatever reason, be it injury or something else, he just doesn’t seem to mesh with this team.
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The Lakers are unlikely to trade Howard before the deadline simply because his value is at an all time low right now. Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss waited until Andrew Bynum had the best season of his career before unloading him – it’s difficult to imagine them not following the same game plan on this go-round. But if the right deal comes along, it also wouldn’t be especially shocking to see them peddle their recently acquired big man for something better.
Obviously the biggest problem at this point is getting fair value. While he has been terrible this year, it’s also important to note that when he is at the top of his game, Howard is the league’s best center. That's not something you just scoff at.
The candidates for a possible trade are the same ones that were candidates three months ago – there are no questions about who is interested. At this point, the questions center solely around what those candidates can offer L.A.
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As noted by the good folks at HoopsWorld:
The same three teams that have been eyeing Howard for quite some time have once again been mentioned as potential suitors. The Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets would like to trade for Howard rather than attempting to pursue him in free agency. Teams want the remainder of the season to sell Howard on their situation and they also want his Bird rights. Howard may not love Atlanta, Dallas or Houston, but does he dislike those situations enough to leave money and an extra year of security on the table? It’s unlikely, and these teams realize that. Howard’s preference would obviously be a trade to the Brooklyn Nets, but they don’t seem interested at this point in time.
Three points about that:
One, the Nets are still interested, they just realize that they lack anything L.A. wants.
Two, Houston and Dallas don't have the pieces to make a deal. From top to bottom, there is just nothing on either team’s roster (aside from James Harden, who is obviously untouchable) that would intrigue Lakers brass in the slightest.
Three, it’s extremely unlikely given the relationship between Howard and Josh Smith, but a Howard-for-Smith swap would make the most sense for all involved. It would allow Pau Gasol to play center like he has been wanting to, and it would set L.A. up with a young piece for the future who sort of fits into D’Antoni’s scheme. It probably won’t happen, but it’s the deal that makes the most amount of sense at this point in time.