NBA Rumors: Why Dwight Howard Needs to Be Traded Sooner Than Later

Avi Wolfman-Arent@@awolfmancomethCorrespondent IIJanuary 24, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 28:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic sits on the bench during a timeout before the final seconds against the Atlanta Hawks during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 28, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Let's say you're the tooth fairy.

First off, congratulations. I understand tooth fairy is a position of great importance. If you could re-visit my compensation claim from 1994, I'd appreciate it.

Now, in your first act as tooth fairy, assuming tooth fairies can do this, you wave your magic wand and transform me into Magic general manager Otis Smith.

Now you're the tooth fairy and I'm Smith.

In my first act as Smith, I hire three assistants.

The first assistant's job is to explore every possible trade option for Dwight Howard. He/she will do this night and day without cease until he/she finds what he/she believes is the best possible deal.

The second assistant does the exact same thing.

The third assistant's job is to tube-feed the first assistant, second assistant and me, Smith, as we compulsively commit ourselves to the above task.

Because the Orlando Magic must—wait, let's put that in all-CAPS—MUST do everything in their power to trade Dwight Howard as soon as they can.

Going by the recent history of superstar trade demands and their bloody outcomes, the Magic have no other choice.

The alarmist rhetoric comes on the heels of recent rumors that Smith may hold onto his All-Star center through the remainder of the season and risk losing him in free agency.

This from Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie:

"Stuck with precious little trading options for Dwight Howard, Smith and the Magic have decided to forge forward in the hopes that Howard sticks around this summer once he becomes a free agent, which is an incredibly risky move. "

Or as it's now known, the "Danny Ferry."

Should Dwyer's prediction come true, Orlando would meet the same fate the Cleveland Cavaliers met in 2009: a second-round playoff exit, a painful farewell and an elevator ride to the bottom of the league.

Unless Otis Smith wants to lose basketball games, he needs to trade Dwight Howard.

For a look at best practices in these matters, consider the tack Masai Ujiri and the Denver Nuggets took with Carmelo Anthony.

Denver shopped Anthony throughout the 2009-10 season, scouring the league for deals and using the public eye created by the process to play rivals off each other.

At one point, it appeared they had a deal in place with the New Jersey Nets before they pulled a last-second bait-and-switch and sent him to New York.

The process wore on coach George Karl and embittered sections of the fanbase, but it got Denver the pieces they needed to stay competitive.

Now, due in large part to the players they got for Anthony, Denver is 12-5 and has a strong case as the Western Conference's second best team.

New York is 6-10 and, in an ironic twist, jonesing for Dwight Howard.

At first glance, Denver's example seems to counter the contention that Orlando should pursue a trade right now. After all, Denver didn't consummate the Anthony trade until moments before the NBA's trade deadline.

But that's merely the surface result, the rote outcome of a process that started early and maintained an aggressive tone throughout.

Ujiri made it clear from the outset that he wanted to trade Carmelo Anthony, that he would trade Carmelo Anthony and that suitors should get on line.

The Denver front office was so forthright in their intentions and public in their presentation that Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov threatened to pull his team from the sweepstakes because he felt the media attention harmed his team's on-court performance.

Of course, Prokhorov was lying, and the stunt only further stoked speculation swirling around Anthony's fate.

All of the build-up played into Denver's hands, and in netted the Nuggets an impressive quartet of young players in exchange for a score-first forward who had won just two playoff series in his NBA career.

Looking back, it seems absurd that New York would give up that much for a player so one-dimensional, but the sacrifice matched the hype.

Compare that to what Otis Smith has done in Orlando.

He's wavered. He's demurred. He's surrendered to the the hope that the Magic might somehow keep Howard, go on a remarkable playoff run and convince the center to stay using that momentum in place of cultural capital.

In short, he's pandering to the emotional interests of the fans and keeping his ass off the line.

The Cavaliers proved that strategy doesn't work. It may make a villain of your superstar, but it won't make your team any better.

I'm not suggesting Otis Smith trade Dwight Howard tomorrow for Josh Harrellson and a box of matches.

But Otis Smith should pursue a deal for Dwight Howard with the kind of urgency that says, "I could trade him tomorrow."

The only alternative is to pretend like none of this is happening—to ignore reality and replace with the most convenient, appealing logic available.

But that would be like believing in the tooth fairy.