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Dwight Howard Rumors: Lakers Must Swap Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard to Win Now

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 30:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic attempts a shot over Ian Mahinmi #28 of the Dallas Mavericks during the game at Amway Center on March 30, 2012 in Orlando, Florida.  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 Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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Sam R. QuinnSenior Analyst IIIJuly 5, 2012

The Los Angeles Lakers have been almost as busy this offseason as the city in which they play.

Up until recently, the bustling was mostly in terms of swirling rumors and speculation. That all changed once the Lakers acquired veteran point guard Steve Nash via a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns.

GM Mitch Kupchak and owner Jerry Buss must not rest on their laurels for too long, though, as there is much work still to be done before the season begins.

The front office's next priority must be to contact the Orlando Magic and swing a deal that would send Dwight Howard to the West Coast for Andrew Bynum.

According to Hoopsworld.com's Alex Kennedy, Howard has had Nash on his mind for quite some time:

Dwight Howard asked the Magic to pursue Steve Nash in February. With Nash, will Howard give the Lakers a long-term commitment? We'll see.

— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) July 5, 2012

Sure, there's the problem of Howard not wanting to sign an extension with any team but the Brooklyn Nets, but the fact that he inquired about playing with Nash in February speaks volumes.

It's not as though the Lakers signed Nash to a one-year deal in hopes of making one last run to the NBA Finals. They signed him to a three-year, $27 million deal.

According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Magic want Bynum:

As Orlando works to unload Dwight Howard, Magic focusing on Lakers' Andrew Bynum as top target, sources tell Y! Sports. Story soon on site.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 3, 2012

Swapping Howard for Bynum would also ensure that the Nets could not sign Howard through free agency if D12 chooses to leave after next season. After grabbing Joe Johnson and signing Deron Williams to a max contract, the Nets cannot possibly acquire Howard through any other way but a trade.

Even if Howard carries out another circus act toward the end of next season like he did in Orlando last year, the Lakers would still be in control of his destiny. If Howard pushes to go to Brooklyn at the end of next year, the Lakers could either trade him before the deadline comes or send him to the Nets in a sign-and-trade for a king's ransom.

Howard is clearly a better player than Bynum. The gap between their offensive games isn't too huge, but Howard is far and away a more imposing defensive power.

He has never finished outside the top-five in blocks per games and has established himself as the best rebounder in the NBA over the last half-decade, leading the league in six of the last seven seasons.

They both have health issues, but Bynum's are recurring. He has played just two full seasons since breaking into the league in 2005, one of which came last year in the lockout-shortened campaign. Just because he missed just six games last season doesn't mean that he's going to be the picture of durability in the future.

Howard's issues are less serious. Well, as "less serious" as a back injury can be. He missed a total of seven games over his first seven seasons before missing the final 12 contests of 2011-12. That's absolutely unheard of for a big man who spends entire games banging around in the paint.

He's more of a focal point for the defense as well. With Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Nash and Howard, defenses wouldn't know what to do with the Lakers.

That doesn't mean that opposing teams will have an easy time with Bynum instead of Howard, but there's no denying Howard would be more valuable to the team.

Call him immature all you want, but his on-court play is never affected by the off-court drama. The same cannot be said about Bynum.

Bynum clearly hasn't hit his peak yet, and the window of opportunity for the Lakers to win another championship will be closing quickly in the coming years due to Kobe and Nash's respective age.

If the Lakers want to raise the Larry O'Brien Trophy next June and a banner in the Staples Center, they need to pull the trigger on the prospective Bynum-Howard swap.

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