Dwight Howard may be headed to the Los Angeles Lakers after all. ESPN's Marc Stein is reporting that the Orlando Magic are once again engaging the Lakers in trade discussions involving the league's top center.
We've been hearing all along that Orlando's top target in any deal for Howard is Lakers center Andrew Bynum. No one knows what to expect out of this epically prolonged drama at this point, but Howard landing in LA certainly wouldn't be shocking.
At this point, I'm sure plenty of Lakers fans would just as soon stick with Bynum and avoid the headache (or larger headache, since Bynum has frustrated the fanbase himself).
Howard would be a slight (I say slight because Bynum is actually much better than Howard offensively) upgrade at center for the Lakers. He would improve the defense by virtue of his being arguably the greatest force in the league on that end of the floor. He's also a slight upgrade in the rebounding department.
Whether or not swapping Bynum for Howard is the right move is a debate for another article. Here, let's just assume they land the Magic big man. And here, let's assume they'd keep dealing even after landing Howard.
The AP reported a couple weeks ago that the Lakers were entertaining the idea of trading Pau Gasol to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a deal centered around young forward Derrick Williams.
There is a way the Lakers could kill two birds with one stone and move both Bynum and Gasol in one big three-team trade. It could look something like this:
Orlando Receives: Andrew Bynum, Martell Webster, Nikola Pekovic and draft picks from LA and Minnesota.
Minnesota Receives: Pau Gasol and Hedo Turkoglu
LA Receives: Dwight Howard, Darko Milicic, Brad Miller, Derrick Williams and Chase Budinger
Why it works for Orlando: It doesn't really. But unfortunately, that's what franchise's face when the star player assumes control. By default, the best deal out there for Orlando is one in which they get the second-best center in the league.
Ditching Hedo Turkoglu's contract is a huge plus in this deal. Without Howard on the roster, Orlando may be headed for a rebuilding and contracts like Turkoglu's make that difficult to accomplish.
Draft picks are always good for a team on the verge of rebuilding as well.
Why it works for Minnesota: Pau Gasol is the perfect fit for Rick Adelman's system. He's a great fit in the frontcourt with Kevin Love. And he's friends with Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio.
A starting five of Rubio, recently signed Brandon Roy, Turkoglu, Love and Gasol would be one of the most skilled in the league. They would basically bring Euroball to the league.
Why it works for LA: The Lakers will be very good with or without a deal like this. However, the possibility of adding Howard, getting younger and shedding some salaries is intriguing to say the least.
They could instantly amnesty Darko Milicic and work youngsters Budinger and Williams into the rotation very early. In fact, they'd probably be their best options to start at the three and four.
With Howard and Williams inside, Williams and Budinger outside, and Kobe Bryant everywhere, Steve Nash would have a very balanced lineup to distribute the ball to.
Such a team would be a serious contender to take the Oklahoma City Thunder's Western Conference Title, and maybe even challenge the defending world champion Miami Heat.