But seriously, folks: Howard has been on his way out of the Magic Kingdom for months now and it seems he’s finally going to get his wish. The deal is a steal for the Lakers, whose part of the trade included sending Andrew Bynum to the 76ers and a protected first-round pick in 2017 to the Magic.
That’s right: The Lakers landed the most dominant center in a center-starved league for Bynum and a five-years-down-the-road No. 1.
More to the point, Orlando traded perhaps the only franchise center in the NBA and didn’t get Bynum in return. If this fact makes you wonder what Magic general manager Rob Hennigan was thinking, trust me, you’re not alone.
Denver, meanwhile, is sending Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington and a protected first-rounder to Orlando and gets back Olympian Andre Iguodala from Philadelphia.
The 76ers are shipping Iguodala to the Nuggets and sending Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless and a protected first-round pick no earlier than 2015 to the Magic. They get Bynum from the Lakers and Jason Richardson from the Magic in return.
Orlando’s part of the deal is to send Howard to Los Angeles and Richardson to Philadelphia while receiving Afflalo and Harrington from Denver, Vucevic and Harkless from Philadelphia and getting a protected first-round pick from each other team involved in the trade.
The Nuggets are a big winner in the trade, landing one of the league’s premier wing defenders in Iguodala. His ability to finish in transition will fit right in with the Nuggets’ speed while Denver has the added benefit of moving Afflalo and Harrington at the peak of their value—both are coming off career years.
Afflalo, at 27, has a better chance of repeating his 15-points-per-game season (more than six points better than his career average) than does the 32-year-old Harrington, who scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds a game for the Nuggets last season.
For Philadelphia, it is a tremendous deal. Bynum is a young center who gives the 76ers a player to build around. The trade also means Philadelphia now has Bynum’s Bird rights, and given that Bynum is a product of central New Jersey, it’s safe to assume he might want to stick around Philly for awhile.
Richardson has an awful contract but he can provide valuable minutes as a three-point shooter, particularly if teams have to double Bynum down low.
For the Lakers, it’s obvious what they wanted—and got—out of the trade and they were able to land Howard without having to part with Pau Gasol or having to take on any dead weight in bad contracts.
How good does this trade make the Lakers? When Gasol is now your third or fourth option on the offensive end, you’re pretty darn good. Don’t forget that the Lakers already added Steve Nash, the former two-time MVP, to play point guard and still have Kobe Bryant.
On paper, it appears it will take a major upset in the playoffs to prevent a Lakers-Miami Heat showdown in next year’s NBA Finals.
But it’s hard to see what Orlando got out of the deal except for perhaps guaranteeing a lot of ping-pong balls in future draft lotteries.
Afflalo is a decent scorer who fell in love with his jumper in Denver and, as players under George Karl tend to do, forgot how to play defense with the Nuggets. He’s also due another $31 million over the next four seasons—a lot of cash for a player best suited to be, at best, a second- or third-option.
Harrington, as I mentioned earlier, is 32 years old and has a balky knee, so I would be hesitant to just pencil in those 14 points and six boards as production new coach Jacque Vaughn can count on.
Vucevic is a decent backup center who will be pressed into starter’s minutes in Orlando. Harkless was just taken 15th overall in June’s draft and left St. John’s after a solid, but unspectacular freshman season.
As a general rule, I give most general managers—particularly new ones such as Hennigan—the benefit of the doubt. But I have no idea what Hennigan expects to get out of the trade for Dwight Howard other than a guaranteed place in the lottery for the foreseeable future.