Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Who will win the Dwight Howard auction?

The hot topic entering the final days before the March 15th NBA trade deadline is where will Dwight Howard end up? The Magic have played relatively tight in terms of where they would like to go. There is a front runner (Nets) but it seems like the Magic aren’t afraid to send Howard to another destination. The situation is very similar to the Carmelo Anthony trade last year. But I feel as if the Magic have more leverage because of the variety of destinations they could send Howard (whereas for Melo it came down to New York with a couple of other minor contenders). The Magic also may roll the dice and hold on to Howard while trying to make a move for Devon Williams (whom Howard reported wants to play with).

A number of teams have been mentioned as possible destinations for the 6’11’’ center. The list includes the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, Mavericks, and even some suggestions that the Knicks could be in play for Howard. The Magic say they have received trade offers from almost every team in the league but there are only 6-8 strongly pursuing at this point. So it is unclear where the center will land. It is reported Howard is only willing to sign an extension with a certain number of teams. In this article I will take a look at some of the teams that have been rumored for a trade.

What do the Magic want to get rid of?

Obviously Dwight Howard will be the main component of the trade but I think the Magic may look to trade a few other players to clear cap space and rid themselves of expensive contracts. Trading Hedo Turkoglu would fit these parameters and the Magic would clear cap space and rid them of the big contract Turkoglu received from the Raptors.

What do the Magic want?

I think no matter what, any potential trade will end with the Magic receiving at least one 1st round draft pick. The Magic would probably look to get younger players as well.

What does Dwight want?

There have been many rumors on the reason Howard is demanding the trade. Some have said that Howard purely want to move to a more competitive franchise. Others have said that Howard is looking for the limelight and marketing ability that Orlando can’t offer and New York City or Los Angeles could offer. It’s really not clear, but no matter what, Howard wants that ring  he has been so close to obtaining in the past.

New Jersey Nets
Potential key players: Brook Lopez, Kris Humpries, and MarShon Brooks

The Nets have are the most mention team when it comes to trading for Howard. Howard has expressed interest in going to New Jersey and playing with Deron Williams. Lopez would be the key piece of the trade. He is a natural center that can play in the post and is good on the boards. Lopez isn’t quite Dwight Howard but has the potential to be a pretty good center in the near future. MarShon Brooks is also an interesting piece of the trade. He is a young player who has been extremely impressive in his debut season. The Nets are also 12-26 on the season so that could land the Magic another good lottery player in the draft. All in all this is a decently good trade for the Magic that would allow them to obtain a decent young big man with a lot of potential. The one thing that might drag down this trade is how much the Nets are willing to give up and Lopez series of foot injuries.

Los Angeles Lakers

Potential key players: Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace

The Lakers have some other role players that could factor into this trade as well but the major components would be Bynum and Gasol. This is another trade that could fetch the Magic another big man with the potential of being a superstar. Bynum has shown flashes of his ability in the past but has been limited by injuries. Gasol would help fill out the Magic roster and help include Turkoglu into the trade. However, recently there have been reports that Howard would not sign an extension. But the Lakers have to be an attractive option for Howard if given the chance. They historically are a competitive franchise with a front office that has made them a perpetual championship contender. Kobe is much closer to the end of his career than Deron Williams but he has a few good championship runs left in him, and he desperately wants that ring.

Dallas Mavericks

Potential key players: Dirk Nowitzki, Lamar Odom, Rodrigue Beaubois

I don’t know if the Mavericks have enough fire power to initiate a trade. While Nowitzki is probably the best player mentioned so far, he is, as is much of the Mavs roster, in the twilight of his career.  But if Howard is not traded (and he thinks he may not be moved) then I think the Mavericks could try to free up cap space and try to sign both Howard and Deron Williams during the offseason. This would be an impressive task. But recently Cuban has made statements saying that he thinks that signing Howard might not be the best thing for the Mavericks. But this could be written off as Cuban seeing chances at obtaining the pair somewhat difficult.

Golden State Warriors

Potential key players: Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry, David Lee, Andres Biedrins

The Golden State Warriors, though an unlikely destination, have been pretty active in going after Howard. It is unclear if Howard would agree to sign an extension (Stephen Curry isn’t quite the same as Deron Williams). The Warriors seem very keen on moving Ellis for Howard. Curry is a potential component of the trade, but it is unlikely the Warriors would be willing to move Curry. Ellis is an attractive player who is still fairly young and proven in the league. The Warriors would also likely need to throw in another big man to equal out the deal. David Lee is an ideal candidate or this and a player that might not fit in the same system with Howard (both a strong rebounders who play around the basket, though Lee has a decent mid-range jumper). I don’t see the Warriors being able to make the trade and hold on to Howard, but the Magic might see them as an attractive trade partner especially considering what the Warrior (15-20) draft picks could turn out to be. Consider the scenario where Golden State trades this year’s and next year’s top draft pick and Howard leaves during the offseason. This could potentially mean a top 5 pick in the next two years for the Magic.

New York Knicks

Potential key players: Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Landry Fields

The Knicks are another less likely suitor, but they do have potential. Earlier this season, there were rumors that the Knicks may try a Stoudemire-Chandler trade for the Magic. But since Jeremy Lin has emerged, Anthony hasn’t really fit in the system extremely well. But would the Knicks would be willing to move him and keep Stoudemire (whose stats have been down this season and critics have accused him of losing his burst) Howard would function in the system in the same manner as Chandler (pick and roll, defense, rebounding). He would be an attractive partner to match with Lin. New York has the big market and championship potential. But it’s unclear if the Knicks are willing to disrupt their team and newly found depth for yet another star. The Magic would definitely be interested in moving one star for another and the Knicks would likely be accepting of Turkoglu (who would give them another great perimeter shooter).

Chicago Bulls:

Potential key players: Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Ronnie Brewer

Chicago may be an underrated option for Dwight Howard. He would get that bigger market that he has been rumored to be looking for. He would be paired with another MVP quality player in Derrick Rose and be part of a team with a good winning history. The Magic would receive a decent collection of talent to replace Howard. Boozer isn’t the most attractive part of the trade, but Deng is a solid defender, with potential to grow, and is continually overlooked. Noah would also at least be a start in replacing Howard’s defensive presence in the paint.

Boston Celtics:

Potential key players: Rondo, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett

The Celtics might have the most fire power they could unload for Howard. Their have been rumors  that the Celtics are looking to get rid of the Big Three whom are all near the end of their contracts (and Allen and Garnett may be near the end of their careers). But the Celtics deny these rumors. Ray Allen and Garnett are not particularly attractive trade bait, but the prospect of obtaining Rondo might be (especially considering the game he put up against the Knicks). Boston is the type of environment Howard is looking for but it is unlikely that Howard would want to resign with the Celtics unless they were able to obtain an elite guard (if Rondo was traded). This trade may be the least likely but maybe not the worst option for the Magic. Pierce is a solid player that still has perhaps a couple of years left in his legs. Rondo is a top caliber point guard and still fairly young.

Orlando Magic

Many analysts are overlooking the potential for Howard to stay pat. I think if the Magic got the idea that there is a chance that Howard would sign an extension they might roll the dice and not trade him. However the risk in that situation is them falling into a LeBron James situation where the Magic would lose Howard and get nothing in return. The Magic would be smart to press Howard to sign a new deal and but if they can’t get the deal before the trade deadline then they definitely have to move Howard. The Magic don’t have enough talent outside of Howard to be able to bounce back from the loss of him.

My take: I think all 6 or 8 of the teams going after Howard could be reasonable good trade situations for the Magic. Right now it is all about bleeding the teams dry and using one team against another. The Magic have done a good job of spreading out the interest in Howard and they will likely receive a better collection of players as a result of this strategy (I wouldn’t be surprised if the Magic have been behind leaking a number of the potential trade rumors).  

However I am tempted to agree somewhat with Cuban when he says that the best thing for his team might not be splurging in free agency. The Knicks are a great representation of this. They gave up a collection of talent for two stars. At this point both stars are somewhat struggling in the D’Antoni system, and the newly found depth of the Knicks is helping them win games. The Nuggets received a good amount of this talent, and are now a decent team in the West. This might show how depth is just as important in the NBA as having big name star players. It also might show how some players can turn out to work in one city or system and struggle in other systems. It is difficult for a player to find the correct situation sometimes.

That being said, Howard (and Deron Williams potentially) is a player that I think would be valuable to most teams.  He excels in key areas that many people are apt to overlook. He is a great defender and shot blocker. He also is an excellent rebounder and ungodly athletic for a player that is 6’11’’. I think a duo of him and Deron Williams could be deadly for the Nets and anyone that may be lucky to obtain both of them. No matter what, the Howard situation is going to make the final days of the trade deadline very interesting.

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