Dwight Howard Trade: What Blockbuster Means for Golden State Warriors
The NBA's longest-running soap opera, the Dwight Howard trade saga, has mercifully come to a close. Multiple sources are reporting that the Los Angeles Lakers have acquired Howard in a four-team blockbuster deal. With one of the NBA's most dominant centers not only crashing the Golden State Warriors' conference, but also their division, there is some fallout from the deal that affects the Warriors. Here's how:
Andrew Bogut Matters Even More
First of all, Andrew Bogut was critical to the Warriors' success the moment Golden State acquired him last March. He represented a culture change, an increased emphasis on defense and a clear message that the front office knew what the team needed to win. The fact that he would give the Warriors the ability to match up with the league's legitimate centers was just a byproduct of the deal.
Now, though, Andrew Bogut is more important than ever. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol have given the Warriors' weak interior defense fits for years. They've out-muscled, out-quicked and outplayed the Warriors' woeful parade of "centers" as long as they've been in LA. If Bynum—who's very good, but not great—took a bite out of the Warriors' bigs, Howard would have had them for lunch.
In Bogut, the Warriors have the Western Conference's best option to throw at Howard. Bogut is big enough, skilled enough and tough enough to give Howard a hard time on the boards and generally make things difficult for him. Make no mistake, Howard is a superior player. But Bogut at least gives Golden State a fighting chance in the middle.
The Denver Nuggets Also Improved
As part of the deal, the Denver Nuggets acquired Andre Iguodala from the Philadelphia 76ers. To get him, they surrendered the overpaid and overrated Arron Afflalo, along with Al Harrington. Iguodala, who's currently occupying a bench role for Team USA in London, is a major improvement for the Nuggets. He's a terrific all-around player with a track record of excellent defense and a Swiss-army knife set of offensive skills.
George Karl's Nuggets love to create turnovers and get out in transition, and few wings provide a better combination of stingy defense and the ability to finish on the break than Iguodala.
Denver has been a playoff team for the past few seasons, despite a fairly fluid roster situation. They figured to be in the playoff hunt again in 2012-13. Their acquisition of Iguodala means they've solidified their hold on one of the bottom four playoff seeds in the west—which is precisely where the Warriors hope to finish the season.
In order to realize their playoff dreams, the Warriors were already going to have to leapfrog a few teams that finished ahead of them last year. By getting Iguodala, the Nuggets just decreased the chances that they'll be one of the teams Golden State hops over to reach the postseason.
The Warriors Need to Fast-Track that New Arena
The Warriors aren't the Oklahoma City Thunder, so they can't build a winner like the small-market Western Conference champs. It takes too much patience and luck to do things the OKC way. You've got to stockpile draft picks and hit home runs on just about all of them—which is what the Thunder did.
On the other hand, the Warriors also aren't the Los Angeles Lakers. They don't have the draw of Hollywood and its marketing opportunities. They lack the marquee star power of Kobe Bryant to attract other big fish. But that's the model the Warriors need to follow.
So, they're going to need that San Francisco arena to elevate the franchise to a level that will attract players like Howard. If you want big-time players, you've got to look and act like a big-time franchise.
Of course, Howard didn't sign with LA as a free agent, but anyone who thinks Howard didn't specifically dictate his landing spot in all this hasn't been keeping up with the news. Howard absolutely orchestrated the deal or at least complained and made enough threats to force it through. He wanted to go to LA so he could market himself and, secondarily, win.
The Warriors need the shine and polish of a state-of-the-art facility (which the proposed SF arena would clearly be) to become an attractive, big-market destination. They're on the right track, but 2017 seems a very long way off.
Overall, the Dwight Howard trade affects the Warriors in a fairly minimal way on the court. After all, the Lakers were already a playoff team, and Denver's improvement doesn't necessarily make it impossible for Golden State to make a run at the postseason.
What the deal really illustrates is the chasm between the league's elite big-market franchises—like LA, New York and Miami—and everyone else. In today's NBA, the big names are increasingly concerned with the opportunities afforded by playing on the biggest stages. The Warriors are in a huge market with plenty of opportunity for players to gain national notoriety.
The Dwight Howard trade simply provides another reminder of what the Warriors should be aspiring to accomplish. If they can utilize the resources at hand, maybe the next blockbuster deal will involve a marquee acquisition of their own.
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