Hostile franchise takeover take two? With what seems like an inevitable first round exit to the Hawks the Dwight Howard trade rumors are about to go from DEFCON 5 to 1. Our long orange haired friend at the site that must not be named has already reported he has heard through multiple sources the Magic are expected to shop Howard prior to next season before his displeasure-meter reaches Melo status. LA and New Jersey are allegedly on Howard’s wishlist, but outside of that and the precedent set with the Shaq trade their really isn’t a ton of comparitive examples to draw on in the past of dealing a once in a generation type center. It’s reasonable however the Magic will want 4 things in return:
1. A star they can sell to their fans to keep them off the ledge
2. A big/center (Dwight is the only legit big man on their current roster)
3. Financial relief in the form of dumping Hedo or Arenas
4. A suitor in the West to get Howard out of the conference.
Howard in turn also holds significant leverage barring a radical change in the new CBA (ie a franchise tag). He can opt out of his current contract after next season, so like the Melo scenario he has to actually want to resign with a team in order for that organization to surrender signficant assets for him (at least in theory, though there are exceptions). In essence Dwight can pick his location, and if Orlando doesn’t comply he can just opt out of his deal regardless of where he’s dealt and sign with his desired team in 2012 free agency. We know Dwight wants a big stage and to play for a title contender, so taking that into account as well as Orlando’s desires we can outline a list of potential trade partners.
The following are the 5 most likely destinations for Howard via trade based on the above factors (note: the trades include only main principles in potential deals and not specifics such as draft considerations/fillers):
The Trade: Howard for Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom
Orlando’s Angle: It would be difficult to beat this return if you’re the Magic. Bynum when healthy has flashed top 3 center ability, especially defensively. In the right system as the go to post option I have no doubt Drew could be a 20-12 guy. The issue with Andrew is of course health, but given Orlando’s cap and personnel situation it makes sense to roll the dice on pretty much the only center that can replace 80% of what Dwight brings defensively. The addition of Odom in the deal who would start for basically any other team and could serve as a legit “stretch 4″ in Orlando’s sytem fortifies value in the deal in the event of another Bynum injury. When you factor in the Magic are receiving two quality froncourt starters with size/skill and are dealing Dwight out of the East it’s easily one of if not their top option. The only facet the deal lacks is financial savings/cap relief, but when you consider the sunk costs Orlando already has on the roster (Hedo/Arenas) recouping value regardless of cost could be the most logical avenue..
LA’s Angle: At first glance this seems like a lot for the Lakers to give up in sacficing 2/3 of their main competitive advantage. Many think it might just take Bynum to get Howard, especially considering LA is one of the few locations Dwight has hinted interest in. However, it’s going to take a “godfather” offer for LA to land Dwight because they have no leverage. Other teams such as the Nets and Knicks have the cap space in 2012 to actually sign him as a free agent. LA doesn’t. They’d have to firesale Pau for pennies/expirings, decline Andrew’s option and buyout the final year of Odom’s non guaranteed deal just to have the cap space to make an offer and at that point the cost is too great to be realistic. The Lakers only shot at Dwight is via trade, and if it takes both Drew and Odom to land a once in a generation type center I’m all for it. When you factor in the fact both Pau and Dwight play 38-40 minutes a game there isn’t much playing time for Odom anyway. The Lakers could ask for Brandon Bass back as well but two big bodies capable of playing 8-10 minutes regardless shouldn’t be overly difficult to find. No brainer deal from LA’s perspective, though admittedly as a fan it would be hard to see Odom go.
The Trade: Howard and Hedo Turkoglu for Brook Lopez, Jordan Farmar and Anthony Morrow
Orlando’s Angle: This deal accomplishes 2 main objectives: it returns a competent center and sheds an abundance of salary. Brook Lopez is overrated and the Magic defense will quickly turn Raptor esque but he is a 7 footer who can score in the post. Those players dont grow on trees. On top of Lopez the Magic shed Hedo’s contract at 2 years and almost $23 mil guaranteed (the third year is non guaranteed). This is critical not only to wipe out his salary/tax hit but more importantly with the new CBA expected to have an amnesty clause allowing a team to release a player (and thus avoid the tax repercussions) Orlando would be able to use that on Arenas and save a boatload of tax money.
New Jersey’s Angle: No cost it too great for Russian Mark Cuban to pair D-will and Dwight together as franchise cornerstones for the Nets move to Brooklyn. New Jersey has deep pockets and may be the one team willing to take on Hedo in a deal. Including Farmar and Morrow under the range of the expected salary cap should allow the Nets to absorb both Howard and Hedo, but slight adjustments can always be made. Even if Howard doesn’t agree to an extend and trade the Nets as we saw with Derron would still run the risk based solely on the fact the potential best case scenario is to good to pass on.
3. New York
The Trade: Howard for Amare Stoudemire
Orlando’s Angle: Amare is the best individual piece the Magic could land in return for Dwight. His offense would certainly lessen the blow of Dwight’s exit. Unfortunately the Knicks dont have a ton of quality pieces to throw in on the side. If Ronny Turiaf accepts his player option he could be a nice defensive acquisiton for the Magic at center. Basically this deal comes down to Amare, who is from Florida, and recouping all-star talent/a player you can sell to your fans that will keep the team competitive.
New York’s Angle: Amare has been outstanding in New York, but his skill set as a scorer who dominates the ball is redundant with Carmelo. The addition of Dwight would dramatically improve the Knicks defense (or lack thereof) and provide the size the Knicks currently lack at center. Most importantly, the Knicks would still have legit cap room (around $14-16M) to offer Chris Paul a near max deal pending the cap under the next CBA. A Paul/Melo/Dwight big three > a Paul/Melo/Amare big three as far as fit and satisfying a diversity of skill set requirements. If the Knicks added a defensive oriented stretch 4 along with a defensive floor spacer at shooting guard they’d leapfrog Miami and Chicago and become the favorite in the East over the next half decade..
The Trade: Howard and JJ Redick for Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer
Orlando’s Angle: You could do a lot worse if you’re Orlando than a Noah/Boozer frontcourt that has already proven to be productive and cohesive in a winning environment. I’ve always thought Boozer was overrated but his pick and roll ability as well as his offense from the post in general would be a nice addition for the Magic post Dwight. Ditto for Noah’s defense and rebounding. By committee both could essentially replace a large portion of what Howard brought.
Chicago’s Angle: This is a no brainer for the Bulls and on the contrary to what I assume will be the popular belief giving up both Boozer and Noah isn’t too much for Dwight’s services. You dont get the opportunity to pair the best young point guard by most accounts with the best center very often, and even if it takes surrendering Boozer and replacing him with Gibson (the superior defensive player) you do it. The Bulls aren’t getting Dwight for just Noah. They’ll need to spice up their offer ala LA for they similarly dont possess the cap space in 12 to land him as a free agent. Chemistry is really the only issue I see playing a role here as it’s unclear how Dwight and Rose would mesh both being the alpha dogs of their respective teams. From on on court perspective Redick would provide a much needed boost at shooting guard and another floor spacer/big body can be acquired via the mid level exception (assuming it still exists). The Bulls are really good now. With this trade they would be great..
The Trade: Howard for a combination of Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and James Harden.
Orlando’s Angle: If Orlando shifts gears and decides to rebuild in acquiring young talent the Thunder have the most assets to srike a deal. Perk is one of the best post defenders in basketball and would serve as a nice replacement at center. Ibaka and Harden are both young productive prospects that could emerge into pseudo stars. OKC could also throw in draft considerations as well.
OKC’s Angle: I dont think the Thunder would do this deal as Presti values chemistry too much to sacrifice what he already has going but you cant deny the intrigue here. In the end it’s doubtful Dwight would find the Oklahoma City stage satisfactory and his reluctance to sign an extension in that market would probably be the undoing of the deal (not to mention the Thunder already have enough issues as to who is getting touches between their stars ect), but the sheer idea of a Durant/Westbrook/Howard trio is downright frightening. For the sake of the Lakers hopefully we’ll never see it..