Are the Brooklyn Nets Giving Up Too Much for Dwight Howard?
Brad Pitt isn't the only superstar with a deep connection to the undead these days. So, too, is Dwight Howard, whose desire to leave the Orlando Magic for the Brooklyn Nets has long been bemoaned as a plague on the NBA and always seems to rise from the grave when the odds against it doing so are greatest.
Not to mention how the talks between the two teams move at a slow zombie's pace.
Any talk of Superman taking up residence amongst the hordes of horn-rimmed hipsters in Brooklyn seemed to die on Monday, when the Nets and the Atlanta Hawks all but consummated a blockbuster deal that would make Joe Johnson (and his cap-choking contract) Mikhail Prokhorov's latest millionaire buddy. With Iso-Joe on his way, Gerald Wallace set to re-sign for four years and $40 million and Deron Williams (fingers crossed) back in the fold on a max contract, there would presumably be no room at the Barclays Center for yet another high-priced star.
But, apparently, that hasn't stopped Nets GM Billy King from engaging Rob Hennigan, his 30-year-old counterpart with the Magic, in trade talks. According to ESPN's Chris Broussard, the Magic are currently weighing an offer that would send MarShon Brooks, Brook Lopez (via sign-and-trade), Kris Humphries (also via sign-and-trade) and first-round picks in 2013, 2015 and 2017 to Orlando in exchange for the team's six-time All-Star.
The Miami Heat wouldn't have to jam on the panic button in the Eastern Conference just yet, though the time would be decidedly nigh. The Nets would count in their employ three perennial All-Stars (Howard, Williams and Johnson), two of whom star at positions of considerable weakness for the Heat, those being center and point guard.
Of course, there's the not-so-small issue of a D12 trade putting the Nets well over the salary cap and leaving them with little leeway to improve the rest of the roster through the draft and free agency. Add Howard's salary (just under $19.3 million) to Johnson's ($19.75 million), Williams' ($17.2 million, assuming he re-ups in Brooklyn) and Wallace's ($10 million), and the Nets would already sport a payroll of more than $66 million between four players. That would leave Billy King to fill out his team's ranks with the mid-level exception (four years at $5 million per) and veteran's minimum contracts, along with trade exceptions of $3 million and $1.39 million with which to absorb salary in deals.
All told, Brooklyn's roster would be among the most top-heavy in the league, even with the team now set to use its mid-level exception to sign Croatian forward Mirza Teletovic (per ESPN's Chad Ford).
But if that's the price to be paid for having three top-flight performers and another former All-Star in the starting lineup, then so be it. The Nets' proposed fearsome foursome would be good enough (at least on paper) to upstage Hannah Horvath and her Brooklynite posse on Girls, if not Miami's Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
For Howard, specifically, giving up Lopez, Humphries, Brooks and a trio of draft picks for the best big man on the planet would count as nothing short of highway robbery on Billy King's managerial rap sheet. To be sure, Lopez and Brooks are both strong, young talents with the ability to be All-Stars themselves within the next few years. And Humphries, while not on that level (especially from a PR standpoint), has averaged a double-double in each of the last two seasons.
Clearly, there's more to the guy than being the short-lived Mr. Kim Kardashian.
Still, none of those three players can so much as hold a candle to what Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, brings to the table. Lopez, Brooks and Humphries may be able to influence games together, but they can't change them outright quite like Dwight can on his own. Lopez, too, spent much of last season sidelined by foot injuries, which are always cause for concern among seven-footers (see: Walton, Bill; Ming, Yao).
Nor would any of the three draft picks involved be cause for lost sleep in Brooklyn. A four-man core of D-Will, Superman, Iso-Joe and Crash would presumably vault the Nets into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference, if not onto the short list of title contenders. As a result, any picks sent from Brooklyn to Orlando would land the late first round, where the Magic might find bench players and others to send overseas, if they're lucky.
In all likelihood, an actual Dwight-to-the-Nets deal would be markedly different from the one above. Chris Broussard himself says that the Nets are seeking out a third team to include in the deal, perhaps to sweeten the pot for Orlando and/or help the Magic offload one or more of their bad contracts:
Sorry. I meant "No Nets-MAGIC trade imminent", not Nets-Hawks......nets looking for 3rd team to join Magic deal, say sources— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 3, 2012
In any case, the Nets would have to be ecstatic if a trio of decent players and a modest collection of draft picks were enough to bring Dwight to Brooklyn. Considering that the Los Angeles Lakers and the Atlanta Hawks may well offer up All-Star big men of their own (Andrew Bynum and Al Horford, respectively) to get Howard, the Nets' package would easily be the least enticing one on the table.
But if it turns out to be the winning one, folks in Brooklyn can thank King's persistence and Dwight's zombie-like fixation on
brains the Nets for the emergence of yet another "microwave" contender in the ever-reshuffling East.
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