Dwight Howard's eventual landing spot hinges on what's best for the Magic?
It's beginning to take on a feeling of absolute inevitability.
Dwight Howard is leaving Orlando, but where is he headed?
If it was up to Howard, then he'd be heading to Brooklyn according to The Star-Ledger. It's not though. Howard is many things, but he's not a man in possession of a "no-trade" clause. In other words, as long as he's under contract to play for the Orlando Magic, he can be dealt to any team the Magic deem worthy.
The Magic's top priority is not to ensure that Dwight Howard is happy in his new locale. It's to try and maximize the value of whatever package Orlando eventually accepts in return for Howard.
If what's good for Dwight is good for Orlando, that's fine. If not, then the Magic will simply take the best deal available and let Howard deal with the fallout, be it good or bad.
What's available to Orlando? What offers are out there, and which one is the best?
Dwight Howard would be a major upgrade at center for Dallas.
The Dallas Mavericks would need to hope that other teams just weren't as serious about pursuing Dwight Howard as they were in order to pry him out of Orlando.
The package the Mavericks would be able to offer Orlando just is not as tempting as the ones other teams could propose.
What Dallas could offer would be a collection of young, but not particularly inspiring talent. Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones and Jared Cunningham could all be part of the deal. Dallas could also ship draft picks to the Magic.
Dallas doesn't have room to help Orlando shed other expiring contracts. That's yet another obstacle for the Mavericks to traverse if they intend to pair Howard with Dirk Nowitzki to make another run at an NBA Title.
Dallas seems like a decent trading partner for Orlando, but only if the rest of the teams in pursuit of Howard fall out of the running.
The Houston Rockets haven't had a top center since Yao Ming retired.
The Rockets would be taking a huge risk by acquiring Howard. He will be a free agent after the 2012-13 season, and there's no evidence suggesting that he'd be willing to sign a long-term extension to stay in Houston.
That's of no concern to the Orlando Magic.
The Rockets can put together an impressive and massive package of former first-round picks and pair them with a talented duo of expiring contracts.
The expiring contracts belong to point guard Kyle Lowry and shooting guard Kevin Martin. Both players are free agents next season. Both are also decent players.
Martin has spent eight years in the NBA and has averaged over 20 points per game five times.
Lowry was beginning to emerge as one of the league's top point guards last season when a bacterial infection sidelined him for several weeks. While he sat, Goran Dragic assumed the point guard duties, and when Lowry returned his starting job was no longer "his."
The Rockets also have six first-round picks they've accrued over the last three seasons.
Those six players—Royce White, Terrence Jones, Jeremy Lamb, Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris and Donatas Motiejunas—are an impressive group.
All six could conceivably be made available.
If the deal became one where Orlando was able to ship Howard and some of their bad contracts to Houston to get all eight of the players listed above, this deal would be very tough for Orlando to say "no" to.
It would also be nearly impossible for other teams to match or exceed.
The real question is: Would Houston make an offer that bold just to acquire a player they could easily lose next summer? It seems a bit far-fetched, and for that reason this deal seems like one that won't end up happening.
Brooklyn appears to be the top choice of Howard, but is it the best deal for Orlando?
The Magic might deal Howard to Brooklyn, but it's not going to happen simply because Howard wants it to (per ESPN).
It's going to happen because the Nets put together a really nice package and Orlando thinks it's the best deal they can get.
The deal, as reported by ESPN, involves multiple players and draft picks heading to the Magic while Dwight Howard and the cumbersome Hedo Turkoglu contract end up in Brooklyn.
Those players are Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez and MarShon Brooks. The draft picks are all first-round picks in the years 2013, 2015 and 2017.
For Orlando this has to be tempting. Orlando receives two frontcourt players to replace Howard. Humphries is one of only eight NBA players who averaged a double-double last season. His rebounding is more impressive than his offense.
Brook Lopez on the other hand, is an impressive offensive force for a seven-footer. He's got great footwork and a soft touch around the basket as well. Through four NBA seasons, Lopez has averaged over 17 points per game on 50.4 percent field goal efficiency.
Neither Humphries nor Lopez are adequate replacements for Howard as individuals, but, as a pair, Orlando would be getting back decent value.
MarShon Brooks is also a player that the Magic would love to add. The 25th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Brooks is coming off an up-and-down rookie season in which he started off hot, was sidelined with an injury and then had trouble finding his rhythm when he returned to health.
Brooks is inexpensive and could blossom into a solid NBA shooting guard.
Assuming that the Nets become a pretty good team after acquiring Howard, those three picks might not be lottery picks, but they're first-round picks nonetheless. Three of them.
Those three picks plus the three players make the deal pretty decent for Orlando.
Is it the best deal? Probably not, but this deal is basically there for Orlando's taking. It needs a few tweaks, but the heavy lifting has already been done.
Could Josh Smith's friendship with Dwight Howard help seal a deal to Atlanta?
That combination will allow the Hawks to have a mountain of free cap space next summer. That's the summer when Dwight Howard's one-year deal expires, and Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers may be on the market as well.
If the Hawks could grab Howard now and then sign him to an extension, they might be able to lure Paul away from Los Angeles and start up a new dynasty in Atlanta.
The trick, of course, is getting Howard.
What would it take? And what can Atlanta offer?
Atlanta's package may very well include Al Horford, Jeff Teague, 2012 first-round pick John Jenkins and some future draft picks.
That's a strong offer for Howard.
Horford is a better individual player than either Lopez or Humphries. He's a great defender, and he can score as well.
Jeff Teague really started to emerge last year. In his third season, the 23-year-old guard averaged over 12 points and almost five assists per game. Teague is a solid defender and a great athlete.
John Jenkins, who was Atlanta's first-round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, is a shooting guard out of Vanderbilt who has plenty of potential as well.
The draft picks probably wouldn't be that much better or worse than than what Brooklyn offered. The players involved offer a little more in the backcourt and a little less in the frontcourt.
The Hawks, and new General Manager Danny Ferry, have been very active. Ferry's willingness to reshape his roster by making bold moves may end up making this deal the right combination of talent and workability for Orlando to pull the trigger.
Could Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard exchange uniforms this summer?
Of all the deals floating around as potential options for the Orlando Magic, only the Los Angeles Lakers are offering up a player as good as, or even better than, Dwight Howard.
This deal would not look like most of the others. It would really be centered around the two centers: Howard and Andrew Bynum.
Howard is more established as a player and has been in the league longer.
Bynum is younger, more athletic and a player whose production and numbers could easily improve in the coming years.
It's not like his current numbers are that bad either.
Bynum averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game last season. He's only 24 years old, and when one considers that he was sharing the low post with Pau Gasol and was on the same team as the NBA's leader in shot attempts, Kobe Bryant, the ability to exceed those numbers seems very real.
For that reason, this might be the deal that Orlando would most like to make (per Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski).
That alone won't make it happen though.
In order for this deal to make sense for the Magic, Bynum would have to agree to sign a long-term extension in Orlando. He's a free agent next summer, and the Magic aren't about to deal Howard only to watch his replacement skip out of town one year later
Another problem is that the Lakers might not even want Howard that badly. Yes the deal for Bynum is being talked about, but the Lakers' owner Jim Buss is a big fan of Bynum's.
In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Buss didn't sound like someone in a hurry to trade Bynum.
The Lakers are like the Yankees of basketball—despised by Boston fans and always popping up anytime a major star's future location is in question.