As first reported by ESPN, it appears that the long awaited Dwight Howard trade saga has come to an end, as a four-team trade involving Howard was agreed upon in principal on Thursday evening. The teams will conference with the NBA on Friday to get league approval and make it official.
Sources indicate that the trade will send Howard to the Lakers. In exchange the Philadelphia 76ers will get Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson, the Denver Nuggets will acquire Andre Iguodala, and the Magic will get Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, the Sixers’ first round draft pick Moe Harkless and one protected future first-round pick from each of the three teams.
Let’s jump right into the fantasy implications of this trade:
Dwight Howard and the Lakers: The Lakers finally got the player they’ve been chasing for the last year plus and reloaded this offseason in a big way after their disappointing exit from the 2012 playoffs. The team will now sport a starting five of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Howard (one of these things does not belong…).
It’s hard to see the 26 year old Howard actually improving on his already all-star level numbers, although putting the distractions of Orlando behind him will allow Howard to focus on just playing basketball… or acting. But his numbers shouldn’t take a hit in LA either.
Howard played 38 minutes a game last season compared to Bynum’s 35, so he could see a couple less minutes a game with the Lakers, although he could easily make that up with improved efficiency on the court. He and Bynum both took the same number of shots per game last season (right around 13.5), and his still very good 57% field goal percentage could easily bump back over 60% playing alongside Nash, Kobe and Gasol. Howard should be able to easily score 20 points a game in this lineup, especially since he’ll already be replacing Bynum’s 19 points.
Bynum took a huge leap forward last season, but still only averaged 11.8 boards a game compared to Howard’s 14.5. Howard will be the alpha rebounder on the Lakers (and likely steal some boards from Gasol), but playing alongside Gasol (10.4 rpg) instead of Ryan Anderson (7.7 rpg) could suppress his rebounding numbers slightly.
And no change of scenery will remove Howard’s true fantasy kryptonite – his horrible free throw shooting. The easiest way for most teams to stop Howard will still be to send him to the line, so expect his category killing FT% ways to continue. Overall, it might not be Brooklyn, but it’s a good trade for Howard for the simple reason that he can finally stop complaining… for now
Andrew Bynum: Spencer Hawes is a nice, young player, but Bynum gives the Sixers a true all-star level big man to build around. Well, provided he actually signs a long-term extension with the team and he can stay healthy. But for this season at least, Bynum will give the Sixers a strong low post presence and huge body in the paint.
He’s probably not going to be able to take another huge leap in production over last season’s 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game – stats that put him #18 overall on the GMTR fantasy basketball player rater for last season. But he could quickly become the main focal point of the Sixers’ offense and 20+ points per game seems obtainable. People are going to be all over Bynum in fantasy drafts – he could end up the top center taken in a lot of drafts – the only hesitation I’d have is can he stay completely healthy for two straight seasons?
The Sixers’ new small forward (Thaddeus Young?): The trade does leave a gaping hole at small forward for the Sixers that will be filled by Thaddeus Young, Dorell Wright, Evan Turner or Jason Richardson. For what it’s worth, the Sixers used Evan Turner at SF in three of the four games that Iguodala missed last season. Although with Lou Williams gone to the Hawks and Jodie Meeks a free agent, both Turner and Richardson will likely be needed at the two guard spot. This means that Young, who is still only 24 years old, is in very good position to have a breakout season this year. Turner, who has been maddeningly inconsistent over his short career, will likely also get every opportunity to be part of the Sixers’ starting lineup.
Kenneth Faried: The trade of Al Harrington clears the way for Faried to get more minutes in the Denver starting rotation. Faried is at the very least a solid sleeper in all drafts at this point and could end up being even more valuable than that as a potential top 75 player. Watch out, 2013 is about to be the year of the Manimal!
Gustavo Ayon/Nikola Vucevic: GUSTAVO! Right now, either Ayon – who averaged 5.9 points, 4.9 rebounds in 20 minutes a game with the Hornets last season – or Vucevic slots in as the Magic’s new starting center. Enjoy that Magic fans. There is still plenty of time for the Magic to make additional moves this offseason, but as things stand Ayon is solid sleeper material in all fantasy leagues. He’s a solid defender who averaged nearly a steal and a block in limited minutes his rookie year. Vucevic could also have sleeper potential if he wins the starting job (either at center or maybe even PF). He is more offensively focused than Ayon and has a nice inside outside game that has potential to lend itself to a small ball fantasy team.
It Is What It Is:
Arron Afflalo: Afflalo leaves the Nuggets, where he averaged 15.2 points and knocked down 1.4 threes per game last season, to presumably score and hit threes for the Magic. He could end up fighting for minutes alongside someone like J.J. Redick, but with Jason Richardson gone to the Sixers in this trade, there should be enough time on this fairly shallow Magic team for them both to co-exist together. Afflalo should continue to get 30-something minutes a game as the team’s starting SG with decent offensive numbers.
Al Harrington: Harrington had a bounce back season in 2011-12, averaging 14 points, 6 boards and 1.6 threes a game while playing 27 minutes off the bench for the Nuggets. He’ll come to the Magic and fill Ryan Anderson’s role of big man who prefers to camp out at the three point line. Not as good as Anderson mind you – Harrington is not nearly as good of a three point shooter – but considering his competition at the PF spot is Glen Davis or possibly Nikola Vucevic, Harrington should see a good number of minutes for the Magic either as a starter or off the bench.
Andre Iguodala: It’s not a horrible trade for Iguodala, who is likely to step into the starting SG role vacated by Arron Afflalo. At 28 years old, he’s still relatively young and averaged 12.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists for Sixers last season to finish the year at #29 on the GMTR fantasy basketball player rater. It’s that for better or worse over his career, the Sixers were Iguodala’s team and he was able to run the show.
Iguodala is good, but he’s not that good, and his role is likely to change in Denver. It’s tough to see how his assists remain at over five a game playing alongside Ty Lawson. Iguodala’s assist rate in 2011-12 was 23.7%, which compares to 11% for Afflalo. Also for comparison, Lawson’s assist rate was 30.2% last season, a good 9 points higher than Jrue Holiday’s 21.6%. So, Iguodala is likely to play off the ball more with Denver. This could end up benefitting Iguodala’s scoring numbers a bit, but I would not bet on Iguodala on what looks to be an incredibly deep Nuggets team.
Jason Richardson: The trade can’t hurt Richardson’s fantasy value any more than he did himself last season, averaging a career low 29.5 minutes and 11.6 points a game on 40.8% shooting from the floor for Orlando. Richardson is 31 years old and dealt with nagging injuries for nearly all of last season. He seems like a good bet to come off the bench behind someone like Evan Turner at this point in his career, but there is always the chance that Turner crashes and burns one more time. However, hold off on Richardson until something like that actually happens.
The Orlando Magic: Yes, you could say that the Magic were in a no-win situation with Dwight Howard. But they dug their own grave and after all their kicking and screaming, ended up turning Dwight Howard into Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless and some late first round draft picks. Not exactly a great haul of either talent or picks.
Afflalo is a nice role player who is discussed above. Harrington has a big contract and could be cut after this season as a money saving move. Moe Harkless left St. Johns after one year, so he’s still got some developing to do, but he’s definitely got some upside and could eventually become a great defender in the league. Nikola Vucevic’s ceiling in the NBA reads as backup center.
Whew… and that’s officially the biggest story that GMTR will have all season. I guess we might as well pack it in and talk to you all again in 2013 – when Howard decides that he’s going to leave LA and become a free agent. Hey, a man can dream, right?