Howard is an Atlanta native, and he is 10 times the superstar and face-of-the-franchise player that Joe Johnson is or ever will be.
According to ESPN's Marc Stein, both Johnson and Hawks' big man Josh Smith were offered to Orlando in recent trade discussions.
The Magic would be fools to pass on the combination of a 30-year-old Johnson and a 26-year-old Smith, or as Stein reports, potentially acquiring the uber-athletic and supremely-talented Al Horford, even if it means trading Howard inside the division.
As great as Howard is, he can't not measure up to the production of two or three borderline all-stars.
Horford is a double-double waiting to happen night after night, and his presence in the paint would have a similar affect on Orlando as Howard. Horford's offense is every bit as polished as Howard's (15.3 PPG on 12 field goal attempts per game in 2010-11), and his defense is underrated (1.5 BPG this season).
Joe Johnson would bring the Magic additional wing scoring and a guy who could take the last shot for Orlando if needed.
A potential deal with Atlanta would undoubtedly bring in more talent than a trade with the Lakers, who would most likely send Andrew Bynum to the Magic Kingdom for Howard straight up.
Bynum adds nothing new to the Magic, at least nothing more than what Howard already gives them at center.
A Jameer Nelson-Joe Johnson back court would provide plenty of scoring for Orlando, and if the Magic could pry Horford away from the Hawks, the defense wouldn't miss a beat.
If Howard is destined for a new home by season's end anyway, why not make the best move for the franchise?
Howard wants to contend and he wouldn't be able to do that in Atlanta without the Hawks' proposed trade pieces, but it's a business and winning is the name of the game.
Making Howard happy in Orlando is priority No. 1, but getting the best talent in return for the disgruntled big man is a close second.