6 Dark Horses in the Dwight Howard Sweepstakes

Kwame Fisher-Jones@@joneskwameContributor IIIJanuary 28, 2012

6 Dark Horses in the Dwight Howard Sweepstakes

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    NBA trades make the sports world go round.

    Who got Deebo’d and who beat the house always adds a little spice to the season. This year is no different, with the top prize being Dwight Howard. Every team in the league has lusted for the big, but only a few have true honorable intentions for the Orlando Magic center.

    We have all heard the stories about the Lakers acquiring Howard. Those screams have been accompanied by the whispers of the New Jersey Nets and Los Angeles Clippers obtaining the center. The fact of the matter is few trades ever happen as reported, so the likelihood of Howard rocking the Purple and Gold is slim at best.

    Yet, it is likely Howard gets traded, but the question is to where exactly? What team will be able to convince Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith to sell his most valuable stock?

    NBA history suggests the destination will either be the Lakers or a team no one has mentioned confidently. It may be a team mentioned by a pundit who, once they uttered said club, was quickly dismissed as if they suggested Good Times was better than Whats Happenin'.

    Now, in full disclosure, it would behoove the Magic to keep Howard rather than trade him for a plethora of mediocre players with hideous contracts. These contracts will hamper Orlando and retard their
    rebuilding process. The Magic would be a team stuck with players who do not want to be there, but have no other choice. We all know how well those players perform.

    However, only a fool would expect Disney’s hoops team to disregard the public pressure and hold on to Howard.  

    So in an attempt to not sound foolish, here are six teams and four dark horses in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, each with championship dreams and early playoff nightmares. The list includes players who have been named and teams that have been mentioned.

6. New York Knicks

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    The Trade: For Amar’e Stoudemire (18.2 million) and Tyson Chandler (13.1 million)   

    This falls under the obvious, but unlikely section.

    Simple question: Why would the Orlando Magic want or take Amar’e? Because Stoudemire has proven he only chooses to participate on one end of the court, which would mesh well with head coach Stan Van Gundy. Van Gundy is known as a laid back coach who believes in just scoring.

    Sarcasm aside, should Howard bounce on the Magic, he would leave them with uncertainty at every position. This uncertainty would not be cleared up by the acquisition of Stoudemire, who is not capable of carrying a team to the NBA Finals.

    More importantly, Stoudemire would keep the Magic out of the lottery, thus inhibiting them from rebuilding. The forward would keep them from being cellar dwellers and likely keep them from acquiring a top-three pick.

    So the Magic would be faced with a rebuilding project and their only viable commodity would be a forward who only plays offense and has one rebuilt knee.

    And that’s why Howard will not land in New York based on this current deal.

5. Dallas Mavericks

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    All the players named, excluding Shawn Marion, were named based on salary, not rumor. Word on the street is Dallas is in hot pursuit but have nothing “legally” to offer Orlando.

    This deal could happen, but again, how does this trade make the Magic better?

    The thought process here is salary cap space and movable players. Both Cardinal and West have expiring contracts at the end of the 2011-2012 season. Odom’s contract is set to expire at the end of the following season and the Magic would have removed over $11 million in cap space in just two years.

    There are two major factors that make this trade baffling. The first factor is that it does absolutely nothing for the Magic. Orlando would not even get back an All-Star for the best center in the game. What the
    Magic would get is cap space, which they would have if they were unsuccessful in retaining Howard.

    The second factor is public scrutiny. After the garbage Mark Cuban threw out regarding the Lakers and the Chris Paul trade, how can he sell acquiring Howard? How will he look a fan in the eye and say the
    Lakers getting Paul was an example of the rich getting richer, but the Mavs grabbing Superman is copacetic? No one outside of Dallas would buy that one. Hence the league would need to think long and hard before allowing this one to happen.

    Dwight would make the Mavs a formidable force in the West. Yes, they would have to rebuild their roster with Dirk and Howard, and then just with Howard. Yet, that is what we in the business call a good problem.

4. Atlanta Hawks

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    Agreed, a trade to the same division to a team that beat you in the playoffs the year prior is a ridiculous notion.

    The only factor that seems to give this trade credence is that Howard is from Atlanta. The
    Hawks also would need to completely revamp their offensive philosophy and feature a more traditional game plan. This game plan would need to have more high-low action with Howard and Al Horford.

    Outside of the hometown factor there is little evidence to believe this trade will ever transpire. It is blasphemy to trade a star player in conference, and it is asinine to trade him within your division.  

3. Chicago Bulls

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    The Trade: Carlos Boozer (13.5 million) or Joakim Noah (12 million) Luol Deng (12.3 million)                         

    Chicago blew it when they signed Carlos Boozer, and they knew it before the ink dried. They have been trying to push the toothpaste back in the tube ever since, but to no avail. Now with Superman attainable the Bulls are looking to pounce.

    This would be the perfect place for Howard, but it is hard to fathom Orlando building a dynasty for another team, especially one in their conference. It is hard to imagine Orlando creating a line-up that features Derrick Rose, Rip Hamilton, Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver and Dwight Howard. This scenario seems more likely should Howard wait until season’s end and indicate he plans on signing with the Bulls.

    The Bulls would then try desperately to gain cap space. However, no team in their right mind should help the Bulls acquire Dwight Howard. This move would take creativity and tenacity by Chicago.

    With that said, of all the landing spots this seems the most likely if Howard is not traded, so one should expect the Bulls to wait and see if he does in fact make it to free agency.


2. Philadelphia 76ers

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    The Sixers are interested. However, Howard is not. The Sixers are willing. However, Howard is not. One can call this an idiotic fan’s pipe dream or request a drug test be administered—and both would be warranted responses. But in the NBA, bigger and stranger things have happened.

    The Sixers must first believe they are capable of such a move. "Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week"—this has to be the mantra in Philly. There is no credible article that indicates that Philly is in
    the race or that they have a chance to win the derby. Most of the stories involving the two have been contrived by diehard 76ers fans who still rock 1983 championship garb. Few moves would provide Philly with the championship swagger necessary to achieve the crown.

    This is the only move on the table that gives Orlando a young player and cap space. If this is enough to pry Superman from them remains to be seen. After the initial shock of hearing this statement and
    upon further review, the trade makes sense for Orlando if they can obtain Turner.

    The second pick in the 2010 NBA Draft is still viewed as a possible NBA star in some circles, and that may be worth a look from the Magic. The move also would not interrupt the obscene amount of cap space they will have with the loss of Howard.

    Lastly, from the Orlando perspective it does not put the Sixers on the cusp of a title. The trade would not, in the Magic's eyes, create a team that could rule the Eastern Conference for the next five to eight years.

    There is a question of whether or not Howard would re-sign with Philly if they traded for him. However, this should not deter the club in the least bit. The Sixers are also fortunate to have a Plan B offer that could include Andres Nocioni and his expiring contract (team option 2012-2013), Lou Williams and Evan Turner. So the resources are there.

    The opportunity to grab one of the best defensive forces in the game and the lack of a true NBA dynasty to compete against for an NBA crown should entice the Broad Street crew to go extremely hard in their pursuit.

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    The Trade: Kendrick Perkins (7.1 million), Serge Ibaka (1.2 million), James Harden (4.6 million) and Nazr Mohammed (3.7 million)       

    This makes the most sense for all parties involved.

    The Magic get three starters in Ibaka, Mohammed and Harden, in addition to the cap relief they aspire for. The Thunder would have one player excel at what used to take three players to excel at. He will block shots like Ibaka. He will score like Harden and provide tough interior defense.

    There is no justifiable reason for the Thunder to not acquire Dwight Howard, absolutely none. They have the pieces, cap space, and most of all they a chance to win. Howard would flourish playing the role of rebounder and defender while Durant scored.

    The center would allow Russell Westbrook to play the passing lanes with no regard for human life. Offensively, Howard would force teams to defend the Thunder honestly. Teams could no longer
    load up and have five players facing Durant at all times, opponents would be forced to account for Howard’s rebounding dominance.

    The Magic would get three starters and possible stars in Harden and Ibaka. They also would not receive any irremovable salaries, thus allowing Orlando to be active in free agency and in any possible
    trades. The Magic also would not have to worry about Howard punishing them for the foreseeable future. OKC reside in the Western Conference, and the only way Orlando would see him is come playoff time in the NBA Finals.

    OKC needs to sell this trade to the Magic daily. They must operate under the fierce urgency of now and get this deal accomplished by any means necessary. The Thunder have been positioned and sold
    as a young team on the rise. If they add Dwight Howard, they will go from on the rise to have arrived.