ESPN then later reported that a framework to the deal had been agreed upon, with a trade call scheduled with the league on Friday morning. To put it simply, the deal as currently structured would be a complete and utter heist for the Sixers.
Philly wouldn't quite be getting Howard under the proposed framework, unfortunately, as he'd be heading to the Lakers. They would, however, be getting the NBA's next best thing at the center position in the Lakers' Andrew Bynum.
In return, Woj originally reported that the Sixers would only have to send Team USA member Andre Iguodala to Denver.
ESPN later reported that the 76ers would be also sending Nikola Vucevic (the No. 16 pick from 2011), Maurice Harkless (No. 15 pick from 2012) and a future first-round pick to Orlando in the deal in exchange for shooting guard Jason Richardson.
Even with the loss of Iguodala, Vucevic and Harkless, the Sixers still end up as major benefactors from this deal.
There's no question that he's one of the better players in the league—his spot on Team USA this summer wasn't a complete fluke.
On defense, I don't know that there's a wing player in the NBA that's his equal, though the Memphis Grizzlies' Tony Allen would certainly beg to differ. Iguodala plays "bath-salt defense," as ESPN's Zach Harper would say (i.e. defense like a madman). Unfortunately, defense alone doesn't justify a $15 million a year contract.
For far too long the Sixers relied on Iguodala to be a No. 1 option on offense, a role he's ill-suited to play. He's a fine spot-up shooter, having knocked down a career-high 39 percent of his threes this past season, but he's unlikely to ever average 20 to 25 points per game.
The 76ers desperately need to figure out what they have in their young starting backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner next season, with both of their contracts coming up for renewal in the next two years.
The Sixers are long overdue in trading Iguodala in order to hand over more of the offensive responsibilities to those two younger players. They even appeared to finally be preparing for such a deal this summer, drafting Harkless with the No. 15 pick, then later trading for Dorell Wright once free agency opened.
Let's face it: If the Sixers were already resigned to trading Iggy before the start of the season, getting Bynum in return is essentially the best-case scenario (unless the Miami Heat suddenly decide to trade LeBron James, of course).
Hypothetically, wouldn't you trade the trio of Iguodala, Harkless and Vucevic for Richardson and Bynum (the second-best center in the league behind Howard) straight up? Previous trade rumors linking the 76ers and Lakers often revolved around the Iguodala-for-Pau Gasol principal, a much less appealing option comparatively.
So, what's the risk in this new deal for the Sixers? Bynum's contract only lasts through next season. Next summer, there would be nothing stopping Bynum from signing with another team and leaving Philly's' cupboards bare.
One might assume the Sixers would be looking for some sort of guarantee from Bynum that he'd re-sign with Philly if they are to trade their most talented player away in this deal. However, per ESPN's report, "one source" claims the Sixers "are willing to take a shot (without Bynum's commitment)."
Even if Bynum decided to leave in free agency, the deal would still be worth the risk, as the front office appears to recognize. For proof, look at Houston general manager Daryl Morey, who recently detonated his entire roster in a fire sale based on the simple hope of landing Howard.
Landing a star in the NBA, either through the draft or by trade, is the primary building block for a championship-contending team.
The Sixers, as currently constructed, have a hodge-podge of talent with no true standout player. There's no reason to expect the team to exceed last season's output and somehow make it to the Eastern Conference finals without a player like Bynum.
Adding Bynum, however, changes everything.
A team like the Sixers needs to take a shot at landing a superstar to escape the cycle of mediocrity that the franchise has endured for the past decade. When it doesn't require a total slash-and-burn to the roster, it's only that much more appealing.
Sixers fans? Say your Bynum-related prayers for this trade to go through. He could give the franchise its first true superstar since Allen Iverson.