Following the out of nowhere sign-and-trade for future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers' fans and media members began asking, "Alright, now when's Dwight Howard coming to town?"
Although the Lakers will be pairing Nash in the backcourt with Kobe Bryant, it's still not enough to make them the favorites in the Western Conference. That title still belongs to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have the best young player combination in recent memory.
If things were to go as planned, the Nash acquisition would be step one in a larger scheme. Nash put the Lakers ahead of the San Antonio Spurs on paper, in terms of favorites for next season. But acquiring Howard would be step two—the game-changer. Acquiring Howard is the move that would make the Lakers the champions of the off-season, similar to the Miami Heat two summers ago.
Like the New York Yankees of MLB, the Lakers franchise measures itself on championships alone. It's the only coaching job in the NBA where two second round playoff exits in a row can get a man fired.
Since 1975-76, the Lakers have only missed the postseason twice. They have reached the championship game 32 times, winning the title on 17 occasions. Their Los Angeles counterparts, the Clippers, have only made the postseason eight times in franchise history. Basically, the Lakers are the gold standard in the NBA. They are the model franchise—love them or hate them.
That's why the sign-and-trade for Nash is not enough to suffice the fan base. The Nash acquisition makes the Lakers a better team, but it still does not make the title favorites. The backcourt defensive depth and overall team athleticism is still questionable.
Other than Nash, the Lakers still lack shooters to spread the floor. And although the Lakers top four guys are all great players, the Thunder's top four guys are still scarier.
The only available move that could make the Lakers the Western cream of the crop is an Andrew Bynum-Howard swap. It's the most move logical in terms of purely swapping talent. Of course, Howard has been sour on the idea of signing an extension with the Lakers and Bynum would likely wouldn't sign an extension with the Orlando Magic either. The trade proposal has made little progress and now the Brooklyn Nets are once again back in the fold.
Without Bynum agreeing to a contract extension, the odds of a Howard-Bynum swap appears unlikely. But if you're the Magic, doesn't taking a chance with Bynum's Bird Rights seem like a better deal than a max contract for Brooks Lopez? Lopez is not a franchise player. He scores a lot of points on a bad basketball team. Someone needs to score right? Rebounding wise, Lopez is terrible. He has never averaged more than nine rebounds per game in a season. Two seasons ago, Lopez averaged only 5.9 rebounds per game. Those rebounding numbers don't scream franchise center.
It seems hard to believe that the Magic are willing to take back Lopez as their new franchise center. We always hear the "popular" trade rumors but most the time they never come true. Most trades come from left field, like the Nash sign-and-trade.
The Lakers aren't out of the Howard sweepstakes, despite what you hear. It's the move the franchise needs to make and management won't give up until he's traded elsewhere. Nash was the first move. Howard is the final product.