Now the Lakers have shifted their attention to the disgruntled Dwight Howard, who openly asked for a trade out of Orlando, and has mentioned Los Angeles as one of the few cities where he'd sign a long term extension in.
After Brook Lopez of the New Jersey Nets went down with a foot injury (via ESPN), the Lakers seem to have the best odds at landing Howard and the two teams are currently engaged in a waiting war over the final terms of a possible deal.
Many believe the key issue in a Dwight Howard trade is Los Angeles' refusal to include power forward Pau Gasol with Andrew Bynum. Lakers owner Jimmy Buss was quoted saying, "You'd have to be kind of silly to give up two All-Stars like that for Howard" (via AOL). He also mentioned the Magic never asked for such a trade, and suggested they probably won't because "we'd either say no or they would sound crazy for asking."
The Magic are hoping to wait and find more possible trade partners so that pressure is put on L.A.
Most recently, ESPN reported the Hawks threw a sizable offer for Howard, which included All-Star guard Joe Johnson and forward Josh Smith, but you'd have to believe the Magic would hesitate to bear the financial burden of their bloated contracts.
So why should L.A give in? Could they come out of a Dwight Howard trade looking OK even if it means losing two of their top three players?
I believe they can.
First, we have to acknowledge something. Pau Gasol—as great as he is—is on the wrong side of 30 and is a very expensive player, being owed $57 million over three seasons. Gasol should still be a 20-10 player, but there's no denying that consistency and playing time could become an issue for the 31-year-old.
I believe Gasol will see a slight drop-off in his stats this season, and I predict he'll average closer to 17.5 points and 10 boards instead of last season's 19 and 10 stat line.
Meanwhile, Lakers fans have been selling Bynum's potential for six years now and he hasn't proven anything. I believe Bynum could be a solid double-double center moving forward and could even score in the high teens on the average NBA team, but his production is dwarfed by Dwight Howard's monster stat line of 23 points and 14 rebounds.
Dwight Howard is a player who can single-handedly lead a team of inconsistent role players to a 50-win season, and we must not underestimate star power in the NBA.
Take the Clippers for example.
Chris Paul is a 20-10 point guard who had some help in New Orleans, but failed to make it past the first round last season. When the Clippers traded for him they gave up a 20-plus point scorer in Eric Gordon, a lottery pick, a double-double center in Chris Kaman and the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft in Al-Farouq Aminu.
It seemed as though Clippers gave up too much—possibly two or three All-Stars for only one superstar. But the game changing impact Paul's star power had on the Clippers has already made many believe they will be contenders in 2012—while I really doubt anyone was predicting such an outcome before the trade.
It's the same story for L.A. They give up two All-Star level players for one superstar, but we should not underestimate Howard's franchise altering impact.
The Lakers could deal both of their starting big men for Howard and remain a top team, but they could address more than one need by trading for Howard. Many fans predict the Magic would ask for both Gasol and Bynum, and they would throw in Hedo Turkoglu's bloated contract to make the trade work financially.
I say the Lakers can easily squeeze Orlando and obtain guards Jameer Nelson and Chris Duhon instead.
With Nelson in the mix, the Lakers will have a potent back court with plenty of depth, and the will be in good position to fill the holes at the forward positions. The Lakers could now use their $8.9 million trade exception from Dallas to absorb a high caliber player.
The league's most talented position is the power forward, and finding one in the trade market shouldn't be too hard. A player like Andray Blatche is very talented, but is better known as a locker room headache on the young Wizards team.
On the Lakers, Blatche's production will be welcomed and his attitude shouldn't be an issue in a veteran locker room.
The Utah Jazz currently have a logjam at the power forward position and could opt to trade Paul Millsap as the 20-year-old Derrick Favors continues to impress. I doubt the Lakers have enough to offer for someone of Millsap's level, but according to Basknet, a rumor earlier in the month suggested that L.A wanted to offer Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and a first-round pick.
Even if we rule out the possibility of a top tier player joining the Lakers, they could still target a number of solid role players such as Al Harrington, Drew Gooden, Amir Johnson, Boris Diaw, Trevor Ariza or Marvin Williams.
While these names might not be very attractive, I believe each one could be a solid fourth option for L.A.
Overall, with Howard and Bryant L.A will almost instantly contend in the West. But, by adding Nelson and another piece to the puzzle using their trade exception, the Lakers will have great depth and could compete with any team in the league. If they don't act soon, the Lakers risk losing Howard the same way they lost Paul, and they cannot afford to do so.
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