Unless you’ve returned from a scary venture into lands without internet service (in which case, welcome back!), you’ve likely heard that NBA prima donna/superstar Dwight Howard is likely going to be suiting up for a team other than his current Orlando Magic next season.
The $64,000 question is where.
“Superman” is not without his suitors. He made goo-goo eyes at the Brooklyn Nets early in free agency, while the Houston Rockets might have accidentally traded away their mascot considering how fast they dumped assets to make cap room for Howard.
However, it looks like the Los Angeles Lakers have moved to the front of the pack. The Los Angeles Lakers only hesitated on trading their own franchise center in Andrew Bynum for Howard because of Howard’s reluctance to sign a long-term deal once in LA.
Jarrod Rudolph of RealGM reported this morning that that snag is no longer an issue.
Probasketballdraft tweets that the deal is not as imminent as we’d believe. A possible reason behind this is the team receiving Bynum in the proposed trade—whether it be Orlando or the Cleveland Cavaliers—might have trouble signing him to a long-term deal after his expires after next season.
While the kinks are being worked out, there remains a bigger question to ask. Why do the Lakers feel such a need to trade away Bynum for Howard?
Dwight Howard is in the middle of his prime, while Bynum is just entering the best years of his career. Bynum has a greater upside right now, yet the case can be made that he’s already superior to Howard. Not to mention that the Lakers won’t have to give up any assets to re-sign Bynum, while the possibility lingers if they deal with the Magic.
When it comes to post defense, Howard admittedly blows Bynum (and every other center save Tyson Chandler) out of the water. However, Bynum is just as physical below the rim and is a legitimate seven feet while Howard is around 6’9” without shoes. Howard may be visually imposing with a figure that looks like it could be sculpted by Rodin, but Bynum’s strength and footwork make him among the top defensive centers around.
For all the accolades Howard receives for his shot-blocking, Bynum is not a huge downgrade, averaging 1.8 blocks per game over the past three seasons to Howard’s 2.4. Howard is also notorious for simply affecting shots even if he doesn’t block them, but he has been the lone man down low for most of his time in Orlando. Meanwhile, Bynum works in tandem with Pau Gasol, so he is not usually relied on to be the sole defensive anchor (though often is anyways since Gasol is not known for his defense).
Dwight will improve the Lakers’ defense down low, but the center swap will not be the massive upgrade that some might expect.
Alas, what the Lakers will gain in defense they will also lose in Bynum’s blossoming offensive repertoire. Bynum has much better footwork in the post than Howard and actually has a jump shot that extends slightly outside of the paint.
He has scored less over his career than Howard, but has been third on the pecking order on offense behind Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
I think Gasol will bounce back from a subpar 2011-12, but Bynum showed he can be a legitimate scoring option down low last season. Neither Howard nor Bynum has ever teamed with a top-flight point guard.
No, Jameer Nelson does not qualify.
However, Bynum’s offensive abilities would give him more opportunities with new Lakers point guard Steve Nash compared to Howard.
On the other hand, Dwight Howard worked with former Rockets center and legend Hakeem Olajuwon for a week in 2010. No one expected Dwight to come out and Dream Shake his way to offensive dominance, but Howard’s offensive game has barely progressed in the past couple of years.
It might not be as glamorous as Nash flicking effortless lobs for Howard to slam down, but Bynum would be madly efficient in the block with his overpowering size and deft footwork.
Oh, and free-throw shooting.
Howard regressed last season, shooting a putrid 49.1 percent compared to Bynum’s 69.2 mark from the charity stripe. If the Lakers are to be competing down-to-the-wire playoff matchups, then Dwight’s free-throw inabilities become magnified.
Bynum has been beset by injuries throughout his career, but Howard missed the last portion of the season (including the playoffs) in 2012 and his back injury will limit him throughout the offseason. Dwight has been indestructible until 2012, but it no longer looks like Bynum’s biggest weakness is Howard’s biggest strength.
Bynum has had his incidents of immaturity, both on the court and off (via nbclosangeles.com). However, his questionable decisions pale in comparison to Howard’s featured drama titled “The Indecision” playing out on a national stage.
Howard has taken the Orlando Magic for a loop with his on-again, off-again mentality on returning to Orlando. He could sign a long-term deal with the Lakers if the trade occurs, but then renege on his word if the situation in L.A. doesn’t play out the way he likes. He signed a one-year player option with Orlando earlier this year, and now wants out.
There is enough drama surrounding the Lakers every day with the zany antics of Metta World Peace, the love/hate relationship between Kobe and Pau, as well as the seemingly-constant head-hunting of coach Mike Brown.
The Lakers can’t afford to give up depth in order to make a lateral move, nor would Howard be a better fit in the locker room than the reserved Bynum. As his career slowly unwinds, one can bet Kobe and his fellow veterans do not have the patience to deal with any potential Howard drama.
Bynum is a better offensive threat than Howard, is more accepting of playing a deferring role as long as Kobe is in the lineup, will not require the Lakers to remove assets from their squad and is the better candidate to replace Kobe as the Lakers’ No. 1 man once 24 ends a storied career.
The Lakers will be among the West’s best, but because of a huge upgrade with Nash as well as the addition of a much-needed bench scorer in Antawn Jamison. The squad as built is ready for a Finals run in the next two years, so swapping in the volatility of Howard is not necessary for success in Tinseltown.