The Los Angeles Lakers made a blockbuster deal on July 4, by acquiring two-time MVP Steve Nash in a sign-and-trade deal with the Phoenix Suns.
Now that the deal is done, the next issue is Dwight Howard.
Yes, Dwight Howard, the center for the Orlando Magic, who has been at-the-center of NBA rumors, for what seems like an eternity.
As strong as Howard is, he has little influence over which team the Magic trade him to. If the Magic think the best deal is being offered by a team that is willing to roll-the-dice on acquiring him as a one-year rental, then they are well within their rights to trade Howard to that team.
Right now, it appears that the Orlando Magic would love to be able to pull off a deal to send Howard to Los Angeles, in exchange for Lakers center Andrew Bynum.
As much as I respect Magic Johnson, who is one of the greatest basketball players ever, adding Dwight Howard is not the solution to all that ills the Lakers.
It would be a huge deal, it would lead SportsCenter and all the various sports media websites and social media outlets as well as radio and television.
It wouldn't make the Lakers any better than they are right now with Andrew Bynum. It might even make them worse.
Before the 2011-12 season started, there were three qualities that Dwight Howard possessed that made him a more attractive player than Andrew Bynum. Howard was (and still is) older and ostensibly more mature because of those extra years of age.
Howard was healthier and put up much better numbers.
Unfortunately for the Orlando Magic's management, all three of those differences have become far less distinct.
Howard is still older, that's not going to change. When the 2012-13 season starts Dwight Howard will be 26 years old. He'll turn 27 before the year 2012 ends.
Andrew Bynum will be 25 years old when 2012 ends. The two players are separated by two years and a few days. Generally speaking it would make sense for the Lakers to retain the younger player. Unless the older player was far more mature.
Bynum has had his issues with maturity. He acted immature when the Lakers were eliminated by the Dallas Mavericks. Infamously tearing off his jersey when he was ejected for a flagrant foul, as the Lakers' season wound down.
This past March, Bynum got benched by head coach Mike Brown for jacking-up an ill-advised three-point shot. He then compounded the problem by acting indignant when the media questioned him about the incident.
Okay, but what about Dwight Howard? Isn't this the same guy who took private inner-team issues about the Orlando Magic public? Isn't Dwight Howard the same guy who said he wanted out of Orlando as the trade deadline approached, then in a span of 24-hours changed his mind and decided he wanted to stay through 2012-13?
It's been less than four months since Howard decided to stay in Orlando through the end of next season. The Magic have fired their head coach, Stan Van Gundy, and general manager, Otis Thorpe, in an effort to appease Howard, but he's changed his mind again and now he wants to leave, (again).
If this is a maturity upgrade over Andrew Bynum, I'd hate to see what a lateral move looked like.
Dwight Howard is no longer a picture of perfect health himself. Howard ended up missing the end of the regular season and all of the playoffs, after being diagnosed with a herniated disk in his back. The surgery went well, and a full recovery is expected, but back issues can linger.
The most compelling case for Howard has always been his production. After all, Howard has been the dominant big man in the NBA, for nearly all of his eight-season career.
Bynum? Entering the 2011-12 season he had barely even played a full season, due to injuries, and as a player he was slower to learn how to play at the NBA level.
Last season was really the first one that Bynum was on the court, as a key part of the team, with consistency. With Lamar Odom no longer a part of the team, Bynum's potential finally started to approach its zenith. He became the player that most people probably saw him as when Los Angeles selected him right out of high school, with the 10th overall pick of the 2005 NBA Draft.
Howard's numbers were still better, but Howard has played for an Orlando Magic team that has built its entire offense around creating shots for him. Howard doesn't just play the center position—he's the center of Orlando's offense.
The ball goes in to Howard, and he either shoots it or reacts to a double-team and dishes it to an open perimeter player for a three-point shot. That's why Orlando led the NBA in three-point shots attempted last season.
Bynum, meanwhile, has learned how to play on a team, not as the centerpiece of one. He plays next to two other top NBA players—three if you count the newly acquired Steve Nash. Last season, playing alongside Kobe Bryant, who attempted more shots per game than any other player in the NBA, Bynum averaged only two points per game less than Dwight Howard.
Howard edged out Bynum on the glass as well. But Bynum played next to Pau Gasol. There were only eight NBA players who averaged more than 10 points and 10 rebounds a game last season, and Gasol and Bynum were two of them.
Howard's rebounding totals are higher because he wasn't getting any help under the boards, not because he's that much better a rebounder than Bynum.
Who Would You Prefer on the Lakers?
Then there's defense, where Howard does block more shots (2.1 per game) than Bynum (1.9), but once again, he's the only guy who can block shots on the Magic. Not one member of the Magic averaged more than one-block per game last season. Pau Gasol averaged 1.3 blocks per game for the Lakers.
Both players have great field goal percentages, Bynum's was established while playing alongside other great players, while Howard has never had to compete for shots with anyone. At the free-throw line Bynum doesn't shine, he's a 68.7 percent free throw shooter for his career. Howard is awful. He's at 58.8 percent for his career, and he shot 49.1 percent last season.
The simple fact is that there is no good reason for the Lakers to deal Bynum for Howard. Bynum is already or may end up being as good a player as Howard. More importantly, he knows how to play alongside Bryant and Gasol, and he knows Los Angeles. He's won, and he's been around winning.
What has Howard won? Nothing. He went to the finals, and when he was there the Lakers beat him and the Orlando Magic in five games.
The Lakers dealt for Steve Nash to win now. Dealing Bynum for Howard would mean a full year, at least, of waiting for Howard to figure out how to play alongside other players who aren't standing on the perimeter, waiting to see if Howard can get a dunk to score some points.
It's a bad idea. If the Lakers are going to win another NBA Championship then the right trade for Dwight Howard is no trade at all.