By Cory Bernstein
The Dwight Howard trade saga has so far seen Dwight demand a trade to the Nets, explore trades to three teams, have a contender (the Lakers) blow up their roster to get Dwight, Dwight call out the GM saying they have “no relationship”, then inexplicably cool off this demand and say he may stay in Orlando after. And yet, this has been the second most bizarre trade sweepstakes of this offseason by a landslide. Needless to say, the Chris Paul debate/debacle/trade/collusion has taken over Sportscenter, Twitter and the league’s attention. But, the Dwight Howard trade obviously affects the Nets much more than the CP3 saga. Let’s handicap the Dwight Howard sweepstakes by looking at the eleven teams most likely to trade for him.
Mike’s edit: do remember the Nets have set a deadline, and even though they may be prepared to do so, they won’t go after Howard past this week. Or so they say.
DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT
Dallas Mavericks- The defending champs are in the market for a center, losing Tyson Chandler to the Big Apple a few days ago. The Mavs have interest in Howard and Howard has interest in the Mavs, as they were one of the three teams that Dwight’s agent has been able to speak to about the trade. However, the Mavs have only one semi-decent trade chip (Roddy Beaubois), and whole lot of older players whom the Magic would have no interest in. There’s no denying the value of players like Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, and DeShawn Stevenson, and if you need any proof of that see the 2011 NBA Finals. But, these are not players to re-build a team with. Unless if it happens in Free Agency, Dwight will not be a Maverick.
Golden State Warriors- The Warriors could have made a very good trade for Dwight, centered around Stephen Curry, with a first round pick and Louis Amundson to sweeten the deal. All the Warriors had to do was amnesty Andris Biendrins (three years, twenty seven million) to make the salaries work, but they decided to use the amnesty clause on Charlie Bell, who made only four million dollars this season and may have been useful for the Dubs this season, despite his off the court problems (where he needs serious help). And you wonder why there was a lockout.
Houston Rockets- We all know Daryl Morey would give his computer and nerd glasses for Dwight Howard, but Martin, Scola and two first round picks is not good enough to get Dwight. It can get Pau Gasol, it can get Marc Gasol, it may even be able to get enough to get Andrew Bynum, but it will not net them Dwight Howard.
Without further ado:
Group 1: No chance in hell
The trade: (click on all the hyperlinks to see the trade on ESPN’s Trade Machine for all these deals). This is not happening. Please tell me this is not happening. I can’t go through LeBron moving teams again. The world can’t. This will not happen it cannot happen. (If the Heat did this, they would be unbeatable. Wade and Dwight would make each other better, not worse).
Group 2: Both teams would say no
The trade: This would be a pretty bad trade for the Magic, as these are three good players, but there is no cornerstone of this trade like how Brook Lopez or Andrew Bynum could carry a trade for their respective teams. Noah is good on the right team, where he can be the defensive leader/motivator and are competitive. Deng may be the best basketball player of this bunch, but small forwards are dime a dozen and you can find five decent ones every year to over pay. Gibson may be great, but is it really worth it for to trade Dwight in a deal where the only young asset they’re getting back is the backup to Carlos Boozer?
The trade: (Note: this trade would include Marc Gasol and a first round pick going to Orlando and Hedo Turkoglu to Memphis). Gay and Gasol for Howard the Hedo’s awful contract is a very good haul for the Magic. Those are two youngish budding players who would keep the Magic competitive. However, this would keep the Magic committed to Gay (15 million over the next four years) and Gasol (probably headed for a four year, sixty five million dollar contract), would restrict the Magic financially for years to come. This trade puts the Magic in no man’s land, where they are just good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to make a championship run. A Z-Bo-Dwight front line would be scary, they would nix the OJ Mayo trade and have a solid bench (Darrell Arthur, Tony Allen, Xavier Henry), but there is no way the Magic would accept.
Group 3: Dwight would never sign there
The Trade: If the Magic want to totally blow the entire thing up they can do this trade. Millsap and Kanter would give them two legitimate pieces at both forward spots, and the Jazz have become a mini-Minnesota, with Derrick Favors, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, and Enes Kanter on the same team. Okur is not a complete scrub, and his huge expiring contract (along with a first round pick that would go to Orlando in this deal), would give the Magic, youth (Kanter, pick), flexibility (ten million in cap room), and a proven player (Millsap). It’s not the best offer the Magic, but certainly not the worse. But if your Dwight Howard, do you want to live in Salt Lake City for the next six years?
The Trade: Now we’re talking. The Pacers have improved their roster in the last 48 hours from the seventh or eighth best team in the East to the fourth or fifth. The Pacers are a budding team with six good young players (Paul George, Darren Collision, Psycho T, Roy Hibbert, George Hill and OJ Mayo very soon), a near-superstar (Danny Granger), and a season veteran with a good contract (David West). The Pacers are solid, and can give some of their impressive young talent and Granger for Dwight Howard. Roy Hibbert is a good center, albeit a poor defender, Granger is a borderline all-star who is good for twenty points a game, and Tyler Hansbrough had a quietly effective season (16.4 PER) and has shockingly emerged as a good power forward option. The Magic would also get cap relief in the form of Hedo’s contract being shipped to Indiana, and the Pacers would surrender a first round pick this season.
If the Pacers made this trade, I would make the audacious claim that they are on the same level as Miami, Boston, and Chicago as contenders in the East. Collision, OJ Mayo, Paul George, David West and Dwight Howard is a really good starting lineup, with George Hill as a super-sixth man. A backup big man and that is a deep, good team that would play hard defense and have no problem scoring the ball. That being said, there’s somewhere between a .000001 and .0000000001 percent chance Dwight takes his talents to Indianapolis for the next half decade.
The Trade: This is by far the weirdest trade I made, with four teams, three former all-stars, five top-six picks and a lot of headaches. This trade failed on the machine, but would have succeeded in real life when Derrick Williams has a contract and incoming salaries can be up to 150% of outgoing salaries. The Timberwolves would get Dwight Howard and keep Kevin Love, sending three of their many young assets to Orlando. Without a need for Jameer Nelson, the Magic send the Celtics Jameer Nelson, ending the Rajon Rondo trade controversy. Rondo gets shipped to Utah, a breeder of point guards, and for this major gain gives up Paul Millsap and Enes Kanter. Minnesota trades their 2014 first round pick to Orlando (their 2012 pick is with the Clippers and a team is not allowed to trade first round picks in two consecutive drafts), and Utah gives their 2012 first round pick to Boston.
In this trade, Orlando is allowed to re-build their roster and get good, fast. Rubio, Wes Johnson, Millsap and Derrick Williams is four fifths of a good starting lineup. With an additional first round pick two years away and Hedo’s expiring contract coming that same year, the Magic would need two years, but could become very competitive at Oklahoma City-like speeds. Utah would get a point guard to follow in the footsteps of John Stockton and Deron Williams, and the two forwards are not that big of a loss because they already have Derrick Favors and Al Jefferson. Devin Harris would switch to his natural position at shooting guard.
So Why would Boston do this trade?
The short answer to that is there is no way this team is making it through the schedule this season. Sixty-six games in 120 days are too much for an aging team. After what Danny Ainge has put Rajon Rondo through the last two weeks, he has to be traded. For someone with a fragile psyche already, this will put Rondo over the edge. Amnesty Garnett (and then run for the hills as he goes on a The Town-esque killing spree if any team claims him) and re-build from there. The Celtics put all their eggs in one basket, and it failed. Now it’s time to move on. (Note: none of this could happen because it would involve David Kahn doing something mildly intelligent.)
Group 4: The Sleeper
Oklahoma City Thunder
The trade: This trade would net the Magic the best player they could possibly get in a Dwight trade. It seems like Durant and Westbrook will not be able to co-exist with one and other, and a Durant-Dwight combo would send me into a dream-like state. This would be incredible basketball. Those two stars sharing the court in a game where All-Star uniforms would not be donned is a dream for fans of the game. Knowing Sam Presti, he would convince Dwight to sign the mid-level exception and then get a point guard and win the next five titles, but Durant, Dwight, and Harden alone would make them good for a top-3 seed in the West for the next five years.
That being said, the Thunder need to wait one more year to see if Westbrook and Durant can co-exist. It is one of the most interesting subplots of this NBA season, and the Thunder can get great value for Westbrook (Rondo), for Westbrook in seven months. If Westbrook and Durant figure out how to play together, they will become of the best scoring duos in NBA history, and they have a supporting cast that would allow them to win titles in the coming years.
Group 5: A Realistic shot
The Clippers (COULD BE NULLIFIED IF PAUL IS TRADED)
The trade: (DeAndre Jordan would be sent to Houston, who would flip New York’s 2012 first round pick to Orlando. The Clippers own Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 1st round pick, which they would send to Orlando as well). This is the first team that has a very realistic shot at trading for Dwight Howard. Dwight would probably be willing to go to Los Angeles for either team (more on that in a few paragraphs), and the Clippers certainly have the assets to make a formidable offer for Dwight.
Orlando gets rid of Turkoglu’s contract, and gets two young building blocks in Aminu and Bledsoe. With three first round picks, the Magic could instantly rebuild their team in the very strong 2012 draft class. The T-Wolves pick will probably be in the top-10, and their own pick may even be better than that. If they were to draft Bradley Beal and Jared Sullinger, Aminu, Bledsoe, Marcus Morris, Sullinger, and Beal would be the start of something pretty solid in Central Florida. They also get Donatas Motiejunas, who is in Europe this season, but could come over in a year or two and be a very good player.
The Rockets come out of this trade not getting Dwight Howard, but a solid center in DeAndre Jordan. Although it cost them essentially three first round picks (Morris and Motiejunas were their first choices last year), they get the center they have lusted for so long. Now the Rockets could be a playoff team in the West. The Clippers would have one of the greatest frontcourts in NBA history with Dwight and Blake Griffin. Eric Gordon, Griffin, and Howard would be downright scary and the Clippers would be a power in the West for the next decade.
The New Jersey Nets
The trade: (Note: This trade fails on the trade machine but if we amnesty Outlaw then we have the cap room to make this deal) Here’s where it affects us. The Nets have been offering Brook Lopez and two first round picks for Howard and Hedo Turkoglu’s contract (he is not Hedo Turkoglu, he is Hedo Turkoglu’s contract). This is a decent offer, but we have just went through eight other teams that have better offers for Dwight Howard than that. Although six or seven of those teams have no interest in Dwight, they still have the ability to offer a slightly better package than we have for Howard. So, I brought in a third team to facilitate the deal, the only team that would be stupid enough to give away a good player for nothing.
The T-Wolves could give Michael Beasley, who is a restricted free agent this season and has by my count three and a half players who do the exact thing he does. There is no reason why Wes Johnson, Martell Webster, Derrick Williams, Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, and Anthony Randolph should all be on the same basketball team. Doesn’t it make more sense to flip Beasley to Orlando and get the Nets 2013 first round pick in return. The Nets would give their 2012 pick from Houston (It’s lottery protected) to Orlando and they would get a great young center, and another young building block for Howard.
(If you can get a better realistic deal, tweet me it. But I think the only way Dwight is Brooklyn bound is if Dwight goes Carmelo on us and says New Jersey or nothing, which I don’t think is happening.)
Mike’s edit: The Brooklynettes also have something that other teams don’t have. Billy “The Trade Ninja” King. Right now, I only expect Morrow and Deron to be safe. The rest (of course limited by contracts, and whatnot) can easily become trade bait.
Group 6: The Favorite
The Los Angeles Lakers
The Trade: It pains me to say it, but the Lakers should have Dwight Howard on their roster in the coming days, weeks or months. They can give the Magic Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. In this deal I worked out, which is similar to the Chris Paul trade that was vetoed last week, the Rockets get Pau Gasol and give Kevin Martin, the aforementioned Knicks pick and Luis Scola to Orlando and Johnny Flynn to Los Angeles. The Lakers get Dwight and Hedo from the Magic, and would send the pick they got in the Lamar Odom trade to Orlando.
This deal makes the most sense for many reasons. Dwight Howard has clearly had a notion of him being in the gold and purple for some time now, following in the footsteps of Shaq, Wilt, Kareem, and Mikan. He wants to be the global superstar, starring in movies while winning titles, and obviously joining the Lakers would make that happen. The Lakers would have Dwight and Kobe, two of the game’s biggest stars on the same court every night. There is simply no rationale in trading a key player (Odom) to your team’s success unless if something big was on the horizon for the Lakers, and this trade would be just that. The Magic would have to do this offer. It would keep them competitive while allowing them to build for the future. The Rockets get their big man, and the Lakers get their superstar. It’s a perfect match.
Mike’s last edit: In regard to Howard’s Hollywood career, one must remember that he starred in “Just Wright”, a film that has Nets written all over it. And even if Common played the part of Deron (little did I know), you can never be too sure.
Get more great New Jersey Nets analysis over at Brooklyn-Bound.