The Dwight Howard Sweepstakes

J.M. Poulard —  October 25, 2011

At some point, the NBA season will resume and talks will shift towards Dwight Howard’s potential free agency and it will be hard for the basketball world to focus on anything else. After a summer in which LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade entered the offseason as free agents and then all signed with the Miami Heat, the biggest news to follow that development was the potential free agency of Carmelo Anthony, which seemed to derail the Denver Nuggets to some extent as they sought to trade their high scoring forward during the 2010-11 regular season.

The biggest available prize at the moment has to be Dwight Howard: he is the best big man in the league, an athletic freak that affects games on both ends of the floor and a complete game changer.

Mind you, some of his qualities as a basketball player make it impossible for him to shake the Shaquille O’Neal comparisons: the brute force, the unprecedented athleticism for his size, his physical stature and the gigantic expectations all remind us of the Diesel. In addition, the fact that Howard plays for the Orlando Magic (O’Neal’s first team when he joined the NBA) and that he blatantly stole Shaq’s moniker and dubbed himself as Superman all the while selling himself as an entertainer (singing and dancing) and well D12 did little to escape the large shadow cast by the big Aristotle.

Thus, everything the Orlando Magic center does will invariably be compared to the future Hall of Fame center for better or worse. As a result, one would think that Howard should accept these comparisons head on and take it to another level by seeking to do outshine O’Neal.

Shaq was not fond of Dwight referring to himself as the Man of Steel and went as far as making his opinions on the matter public. Consequently, it’s almost as if Howard has to respond to the legend, but not in a public forum. Instead, the best answer D12 can provide has to come on the basketball court. Here are the three best possible responses (keep in mind, once the season resumes, Howard will be in the last year of his contract with the Orlando Magic which means he could only join a team via free agency or via trade if Otis Smith is certain he will lose his star center):

I. New York, New York

The last time the New York Knicks advanced in the playoffs came in the 2000 playoffs, when they advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, but were eliminated by the Indiana Pacers. In addition, the Knicks last made the NBA Finals in 1999 and also in 1993, losing both times to a team with a lethal big man (Olajuwon in ’93 and Duncan in ’99).

The New York Knicks are one of the most storied franchises in NBA history and yet have nothing in recent memory to show for it. The one lasting memory for the Knicks in that past 20 years has to be Larry Johnson’s famous four-point play from the 1999 playoff run; but other than that we would be hard pressed to find any other lasting memory for the Knickerbockers in recent years.

Consequently, New Yorkers have one memory to latch on: the Willis Reed game.

In Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, with the world wondering whether Reed would be able to suit up to play against the Lakers, the star center did just that and played despite a terribly injured leg and gave his teammates the inspiration needed to defeat the a Lakers team that featured Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain.

This happened over 40 years ago and yet we see video footage or hear stories about this at least once a year. For all of the media scrutiny that comes along with playing in New York, there is nothing quite like success in the Big Apple. Winners are glorified and immortalized. Names like Clyde Frazier, Bill Bradley and Dave DeBusschere are worthy of mention today specifically because the 1969-70 New York Knicks were victorious in the Finals.

Hence, Patrick Ewing will probably never get his just due for failing to win a title in NYC.

Mind you, what would happen if Dwight Howard took his talents to New York City and helped the Knicks win an NBA title?

New York would not only become relevant again in the NBA’s landscape but Howard would be revered for multiple generations as parents would share stories with their kids about the big man that saved New York.

In order for Howard to land in New York, given the fact that the Knicks do not project to have the necessary cap room to sign him, they would have to acquire him by trade; and also D12 would have to agree to an extension before New York would throw all of their chips to get the big man. With that said, here are the potential deals the Knicks could make with the Magic:

  • Amare Stoudemire for Dwight Howard straight up.
  • Amare Stoudemire and Landry Fields for Dwight Howard.
  • Chauncey Billups (expiring contract) and Landry Fields for Dwight Howard.
  • Amare Stoudemire, Chauncey Billups and Landry Fields for Dwight Howard and Gilbert Arenas.

The most realistic trade would essentially get Howard and Arenas to New York in a swap for Stoudemire and Billups. Could be an option, but perhaps Howard could better off with…

II. Bringing a title to Orlando

O’Neal left the Orlando Magic in the summer of 1996 for the Los Angeles Lakers. His departure essentially signaled the end for the Magic as an Eastern Conference contender. With Shaq on the roster, Orlando made it to the 1995 NBA Finals (where they were swept) and then made an appearance in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals and were dismantled by Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.

These are the lasting memories of the former LSU Tiger’s time in Orlando.

Should Dwight Howard bring a championship to Orlando, he would have succeeded where a legend failed and thus would finally earn the respect that he has always deserved as a basketball player from fans and the media.

The one problem with this scenario: notwithstanding the changes that a new collective bargaining agreement could bring, does anyone see the Orlando Magic acquiring top flight talent to compliment Howard?

Their so-called big moves in recent years have been trading for Vince Carter, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas. If you were Dwight Howard, would you trust your general manager to get you there?

Which leads to…

III. Winning in Los Angeles

Nothing would scream “following in Shaq’s footsteps” louder than Howard joining the Los Angeles Lakers. Indeed, O’Neal left the Magic to join the purple and gold and helped them win three titles in entertaining and dominating fashion. However, what would it do for Howard’s legacy if he joined an aging Kobe Bryant and won four rings with him?

Not only would the world look at Howard different (look at what winning two rings did for Gasol’s reputation) but such a development could lead to D12 not only conquering his demons, but could also prove to be the silent remix of Kobe’s June 2010 statement “[this ring] means I got one more than Shaq” (in this case Howard would be saying he has one more ring with Kobe than Shaq does).

Furthermore, Dwight Howard would unquestionably be mentioned alongside the names of George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal on the list of great centers to have played for the Lakers.

With Kobe pushing and daring him to be great (when’s the last time you heard a teammate challenged Dwight?), Howard would not only remain the most destructive center in the league but he would finally be deferring to players with a pedigree to either match or surpass his own.

This scenario could prove to be the most tempting and the one that fans latch onto given how realistic and logical it sounds.

Los Angeles would provide Howard the forum he requires to entertain fans with his off the court activities, but more importantly he would be surrounded with players who have been to the mountaintop and that can accept the pressure that comes along with it.

Also, there are few experiences in the NBA that compare to playing with the Lakers. The pressure is always at its highest, the opposing stadiums are always filled and there is a certain prestige associated with wearing the purple and gold today that is the envy of most sports franchises.

Indeed, when superstars wear the Lakers jersey and consistently play great, it gets them mentioned in the same conversation such as Magic Johnson and the Logo.

In addition, by the time Kobe retires, Howard will still be young enough to help the Lakers remain title contenders and should also have a supporting cast to help him on that front given the franchise’s willingness to spend on quality talent to compete for rings.

Here are the packages that the Lakers could offer the Magic to get Howard (one has to assume that Orlando would try their best to unload one of their most unfavorable contracts):

  • Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom for Dwight Howard and Brandon Bass.
  • Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom for Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu.
  • Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Metta World Peace for Dwight Howard and Gilbert Arenas.
  • Kobe…wait never mind that one.

The most sensible trade involves Bynum, World Peace and Odom going to Orlando (although many could argue that the Magic would demand Gasol, but given that the Magic would be negotiating without much leverage, it stands to reason that the Lakers could swing the deal with Bynum) in a trade for Dwight Howard and Gilbert Arenas. In a perfect world, Los Angeles would also get Tiger Woods in a swap for Khloe.

The deal would obviously once again hinge on Howard’s willingness to sign a contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers.

With that said, while teams such as the Mavericks, Heat and Magic have made the Finals in the past few seasons, few have really noticed because the Lakers and Celtics were busy making history.

It’s obviously entirely subjective, but which scenario sounds like the best to you?

J.M. Poulard

Posts

32 responses to The Dwight Howard Sweepstakes

  1. Obviously, this post has a lot of speculation in it regarding how any team would go about acquriring Howard. So, the commenting guidelines regarding trade speculation are pretty loose here. I only ask that we thoughtfully explore this rather than finding a way to package Walton, Blake, Artest, and Odom for Dwight.

  2. Orlando wouldn’t want Odom, Gasol, or Artest. Highly paid aging players on the wrong side of 30 isn’t the way to rebuild a team. The only player they would want is Bynum.

  3. If I’m Orlando, I’d take something along the lines of Odom and Bynum. Both are top 15 at their respective positions, and Orlando would instantly have one of the top frontcourts. Also, for once, Orlando would have team options (rather than Dwight’s player option) to decide whether to keep Bynum/Odom or go full-blown rebuild by declining their respective options.

    For the Lakers, a Howard/Gasol frontcourt would be a dream’s dream. Though losing Odom would hurt, Howard is worth it. Orlando probably throws a bad contract (Arenas might be too much for salary purposes, but more like a Hedo) with Howard.

    However, globally speaking, I don’t know if getting a center should be the team’s first priority. I understand Howard is the perfect type of personality to succeed Kobe one day. I also understand he is a once in a generation defensive player, but our biggest hole remains (point guard and perimeter players) and we would effectively have no trade chips to upgrade. So our center would go from a B+/A- rating to an A+, while we lose our PF depth and have no more trading chips.

  4. A lot depends on the details of the new agreements,and the physical condition and production of Bynum under a new coaching staff and systems. Bynum and Odom for Howard and ? might be the best deal for both sides.

  5. I would go for a trade that involved Gasol to get Howard. He’s too good to pass up, even if it means trading a guy that has been one of my favorites since he came to the NBA.

    Realistically, packaging Bynum wouldn’t land Howard, unless another big name came with him. So the best bet would be the Metta-Odom-Bynum deal, taking on Arenas’ awesome contract to get that behemoth in the middle. Bad as he is playing, Arenas should get a performance boost playing alongside Kobe. If not much, he’s still a step up from what we have now.
    I can imagine a lineup with *a penguin at the 1*-Kobe-Barnes-Gasol-Howard being an offensive juggernaut, dumping the ball in the paint, playing inside-out to get the most out of the tall dudes.
    That, however, leaves us with exactly ZERO decent backups for the bigs.
    So if this trade happens, another one should as well… I should stop now.

    Lockout sucks.

  6. I’m going to get out front with a possibly unpopular opinion here: I don’t like Dwight Howard.

    Yes, he’s one of the most explosive players in the game, a defensive terror, and a growing offensive threat (he’s always been unstoppable within 5 feet of the hole, now he’s getting some other moves to complement the power stuff). But he’s also a cheap-shot artist with the worst “Who, me?” body language since Jail-Blazers-era Rasheed Wallace. He racks up a ton of technicals, mostly from his varied cheap shots, and they’re nearly always uncalled for.

    And without dragging this into a flame war on multiple fronts (as opposed to just the way he plays the game), his very public stance on his religious beliefs doesn’t square with his game-playing on how he casually throws some of the scariest elbows in the game since Karl Malone’s.

    I’m not saying he’s a bad player, or a bad guy, I just don’t like the way he plays the game. But everyone outside of Boston hates the way Garnett plays too, I know it will likely end up a case of him being “our asshole”, just like Derek Fisher has long been our asshole, whose antics we forgive–or even celebrate. That being said, I will forever maintain that Luis Scola deserved it. ;-)

    That being said, it’s probably a done deal, once we figure out the new salary cap implications–this may end up being one of those torturously complex four-team deals, involving a number of moves like dumping an expensive player that’s not a front-line trade piece (like Odom) to a team that has a lot of salary-cap space (Sacramento), at which point they move someone on a rookie deal (like Cousins) to Orlando.

    So, flame away.

  7. I had to chuckle at the mention of what winning two rings did for Gasol’s rep.

    Look at what winning ONE ring did for Nowitzki!

    Look at what winning a ring did for LeBron James. Oh, wait …

  8. No one is going to come and play with an aging, spent Kobe who insists and will forever insist that he “still has it” and will always demand utter deference. Especially not a younger better player trying to build his own legacy. Playing on the Lakers now would be like going to a really hot club with your fat, bossy, B.O.-reeking dad.

  9. 8. Wamples. Where else could he play where he’s 1) the Man; 2) the other team has assets that Orlando would take to give up their superstar. Knicks? Wanna be #3 to Amare, Melo? Clippers? Be #2 to Blake?

    Yes Kobe is an Alpha dog. But what gives you the impression that Dwight is also an Alpha dog? Maybe he’s more of a Gasol, who is better served being a #2 option.

  10. I like the Bynum and Odom for Howard and Bass trade best, but frankly, I’d take any of those three.

    I like the trade of Gasol and Odom the least. Setting last season’s playoffs aside, I’d rather hang onto Gasol than Bynum and it’s not even close. You’re talking about a proven, multi-time all-star vs. a guy who plays the EXACT SAME POSITION as Howard, is injury prone, and has maturity issues.

    Of course, knowing Jim Buss’ insecure man-love crush on Bynum and need to prove that he’s his own man, the Gasol trade instead of any of the Bynum ones are way more likely.

  11. I have to agree with Jim C. If Howard was coming then Gasol has to stay. Pau is clearly no a fan of playing in the low post. With D12 downlow Pau could really flourish in that 12ft to 15ft range. I don’ t think he has much interest in playing center at this point.

    As much as LA needs a PG if the option was there to get Howard I just don’t think it can be passed up.

  12. Seeing these trade scenarios, as well as how Jim Buss handles his business, what are the chances that he would pull the trigger on a Kobe trade? Like he would take Bynum over Kobe if need be? He seems like the kind of douche to do so.

    As far as this article is concerned, Howard for Bynum is a win-win for both sides.

  13. I swear to Zeus that if Jim Buss ever trades Kobe I’ll go on a six state killing spree that will make most Arnold Schwarzenegger movies look like the kissing booth at the local fair.

  14. Kobe can’t be traded can he? (No trade clause in the contract?)

  15. I think thatthis very discussion as well as the “Decision” is why the Dan Gilbert’s and the other small market owners are vitriolic in these negotiations. think about it. Nothing rubbed the owners who let’s not kid ourselves are a bunch of elitists to swallow the fact that “their employees” are dictating major facets of their business. Do you really think there will be any system in place that ever allows 3 players to dictate and change the course of the entire league ever again. This negotiation is a backlash to the “decision”. The owners want something in place that will prohibit the type of player movement we have seen from small markets to larger. LBJ and bosh, Amare and carmelo, the potential D12 move. This is exactly what these owners are going to eliminate.

    This CBA negotiation is about control. Bryan gumbel said it poorly but he’s right. The billionaires can not stomach the “hired help” dictating how much they make, who they play with and where they play. Darius please tell me im wrong?

    Dom

  16. As far as the post goes. Guys D12 might be a cheap shot artist but come on Drew is worse lol. Look Orlando has no chance without some restrictions in the new CBA, so lets say things stay status quo. Id trade Metta, Luke and Bynum for D12 and arenas (plus whatever throw in the make the salaries match. Then id trade Pau for CP3 straight up. NO gets an international star Pau and they are getting a world champion big for a small. CP3 has knee issues but with Kobe D12 and Odom, he has 4 options that will take a lot of wear off of him and Kobe… Thoughts?

  17. Kobe CANNOT be traded. Literally. There is a no trade clause in his contract. He has to approve any trade.

    So, basically, forget it. Besides the fact it is a ridiculous idea.

  18. the other Stephen October 25, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    17. it’s conceivable if Jim Buss created a toxic enough atmosphere for him to consider bolting.

  19. Howard’s staying in Orlando.

    It’s an example of what the owners want.

    And are going to get.

  20. I’d like to keep Odom but…seems impossible…oh, well.

    Bynum + Odom is the best deal. Gasol? He stays a Laker for a long time, imho.

    Cheers.

  21. With the new CBA, I do not think that Buss can keep a 91m+ payroll. Wasn’t some kind of cap to keep teams like the Lakers from being able to buy Championships a current issue between the owners? So, I really do not think the Lakers are going to do anything except shed salary, now if that can be done, and we get Howard, fine. Kobe is not going anywhere, period. What team would want his 30m a year contract under the new CBA, with the possible cap being more stringent?

  22. How about this one. 3 team trade Lakers magic and hornets. Lakers trade Drew for D12. Pau for CP3. NO gets Pau and arenas. Orlando gets drew ariza and okafor. works in the trade machine. Essentially NO gets an all star big for an all star small. Orlando gets a center and a back up center and sheds arenas contract. plus they get defense and atleticism with ariza. lakers get two studs. Cp3 and D12 are out of Orlando and No respectively and both teams get some nice pieces in exchange

  23. The more I think about it these trades, the more I find it less likely to happen.
    The new CBA won’t let owners dishonor a contract, so the most optimistic of scenarios has us thankful we only had to shed Bynum’s contract. Most likely, we lose a couple of pieces. Although I think a Kobe-Gasol combo is still good enough to carry a team to the title, given the right pieces around them, like Metta wanting to play ball and Odom not thinking about candy.

    What I fear is that the new CBA will, as has been stated before, not let major deals like this happen and a lot of teams will have to shed salary. That will weaken top spending teams and strengthen low tier teams. But Miami will probably stay the same. In this case, the championship should be decided between Miami, OKCity, Memphis, Chicago.

  24. #23. Feel free to leave. I know there are plenty of other sites in which to get Laker information and analysis.

  25. Food for thought: Whichever team wins the championship in this shortened season will not get their just due, rather will have an asterik next to that championship. Which sucks, because if the Lakers win it again, no one will acknowledge it. So Kobe will have his six rings, but everyone will put an asterik next to that sixth ring. And that applies to anybody. That, to me, is a big reason why I hate this lockout. Duncan is regarded as a 4 time champion, but a lot of people will say he is actually a 3.5 time champion.

    Sorry, this is off topic, but just something that’s been on my mind for a while.

  26. It would be interesting, no doubt.

    But our problem was never really the front court.

    We need some outside shooters and a ball handler that can take the rock out of Kobe’s hands. Not only does that save Kobe, but it also makes opposing teams focus both on the ball AND a ball-free Kobe, which leads to many opportunities for our big men.

    So while Dwight wouldn’t hurt, I think we’d be much better off landing CP3 somehow. For CP3, he could have a genuine chance to outshine Magic when all’s said and done, and even if not, he’d be in the short list of best Laker PGs of all time.

  27. Obviously the Lakers don’t need help at Center… They already have the second best big man in the NBA. However the Rockets already had Clyde Drexler as they passed on Michael Jordan. Imagine if we could convince the Magic to send over Dwight without having to give up Andrew? The two best big men in the NBA on one team? We wouldn’t have two seven footers anymore but the 6-10 Howard and 7 foot Bynum would give the Lakers possibly the best defense of all time for a decade.

  28. Mea culpa, I didn’t address Bynum’s issues with bodying up a little too hard at times, but continuing on with the “our asshole” theory, I still feel the Wallace hit was pure bad luck (but definitely a hard hit) that it turned out as seriously as it did.

    The Beasley play seemed like textbook big-man enforcing–would anyone have gotten as worked up about it if someone like Charles Oakley had done the same thing? I know, different era, but players were scared to drive on him, as they should be in the case of any good defensive big man. Not excusing it by any means, but the paint needs to be protected.

    The Barea play, however, was inexcusable. I know why he did it, since the defending champs were getting completely skunked, but it’s still no excuse. And don’t forget Odom taking himself out of that game with a cheap shot a few minutes later.

    But as far as “cheap shots” go, that’s three in five years, one of which happened to a guy nicknamed “Crash”.

    Bynum certainly has a history, and it’s not pretty, but it’s nothing like Howard’s. And setting even that aside for the moment, it’s the false innocence that Howard plays up that bothers me more than anything.

    I still think the chance that Howard comes to the Lakers after this season is fairly high, I’m just saying I’m not going to like rooting for him.

  29. +1 Harold( except CP3 outshining MAGIC)

    I have said from the very first D. Howard talk this summer that LA needs D. Williams or CP3. Whether its Pau and pieces, Bynum and pieces it still leaves LA in the same scenario as last season. No outside shooters and one of your best players on the bench LO, Pau or Bynum depending on which big is moved for acquiring Howard. I know the thought of trading a big for a small is against the grain, but its not like LA doesnt have two more.

  30. What about Bynum, Odom and Blake for Howard, Nelson and Bass? Orlando gets to unload Bass and saves $3M, but the Lakers are able to get a PG that’s serviceable, moving Fisher to the bench.

    Likely too good to be true. Orlando will want to dump Agent 0 in order to acquire Howard, making Nelson impossible to obtain simultaneously (unless the Lakers trade everyone not named Kobe and Gasol or on a rookie deal).

    It would look something like Howard, Nelson and Arenas for Bynum, Odom, Artest, Blake and Walton. The Magic save nearly $6M per year.

    But the Lakers need a SF (unless Kobe moves down and Arenas plays SG).

  31. 1) If any trade takes place, Arenas and/or Turkoglu will be moved along with D12. Orlando will want to dump toxic contracts.

    2) A third team has to be involved simply because Bynum is the only young talent to send back, and that’s not enough. That third team will want Odom or Pau in return for their promising talent. At that point, the Lakers would be dismantling their entire starting line-up, and I just don’t see that as a plausible scenario. Kobe doesn’t have the time to develop chemistry with so many new teammates.

    So the only way this trade happens is if D12 goes to Otis Smith and says “I’m going to L.A. one way or another.” Then the Lakers send Bynum, Odom, Walton, Blake and picks for D12 and Arenas.

  32. JB: You’re not alone. I’m in about the same boat. If he comes to LA, I’ll have to root for him. But I won’t like it. I’d much rather target somebody like Paul.