L.A. Lakers Need to Start Shopping Dwight Howard, Not Pau Gasol

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L.A. Lakers Need to Start Shopping Dwight Howard, Not Pau Gasol
Harry How/Getty Images

When Dwight Howard came to L.A., the city expected him to have a consistent, positive impact on both ends of the floor and lead the Lakers in another race toward the NBA Finals. 

His curious health record since the start of the 2012-13 campaign and unproven commitment to the Lakers long-term have to be major concerns for management at this point in the season. Enough so that parting with Dwight no longer sounds as far-fetched as it would have during the preseason. 

All the recent Lakers trade buzz, including my own take on the matter, has featured the front office utilizing Pau Gasol as the biggest chip in a midseason trade.

Let's examine why trading Dwight is feasible and may even be a good idea for general manager Mitch Kupchak.

Dwight Howard is the best trade piece that the Lakers have in their arsenal.

At 27, he's young enough that every team in the NBA could feel comfortable viewing him as a centerpiece. He's dominant at his position, among the best three in the league. Howard can be a force on the glass, single-handedly alter the opponent's offensive game plan and get enough looks close to the hoop to easily register 20-plus points per game. 

An encouraging 22-point, 14-rebound performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers has Dwight's stock, both with the Lakers and around the league, rising again. The only major concern is that his multitude of injuries will render him permanently less explosive than the player who led Orlando to the NBA Finals. 

Since many of the rumors flying around about Lakers midseason trades have involved Gasol, let's also understand why trading Dwight makes more sense for the Lakers if they are trying to win it all this year. 

First, Gasol is 32, slowed by sore knees and has yet to play up to his usual standards this season. On top of that, he is inked with the Purple and Gold for two more years (including this season) and is owed a whopping $38 million over that span. 

Pau used to be a focal point.

Gasol's age and salary are each a significant hindrance to any other team that would consider taking the Spaniard off the Lakers' hands. He's a hard sell at this stage in his career. However, Gasol could return to form with a more prominent role in the game plan, which would only occur if the other big man in L.A. vacates. 

Alternatively, Dwight is only signed with L.A. through the end of this season. He has refused to sign an extension during the regular season and has even appeared to be discontent in Los Angeles at times since the season began. 

If he doesn't sign on for a long-term deal, the Lakers will be losing out greatly on the value they could receive in return for the NBA's most prized center. 

And given the current situation—the Lakers are 16-21 and on the outside of the playoff picture—Kupchak might consider a major shake-up to get the most bang for his buck. 

 

Hypothetical Trade

I can't just say that Dwight Howard should be traded and not propose the trade! Here's what L.A. could most reasonably do with Dwight. 

L.A. Lakers Receive: C Brook Lopez, SG MarShon Brooks, PG C.J. Watson and a first-round draft pick

Brooklyn Nets Receive: C Dwight Howard, PF Antawn Jamison

 

Considering that the Nets are still not over the hump in the Eastern Conference and definitively staring up at the Miami Heat, the addition of one more big-impact player is within reason.

Dwight would drastically improve their starting lineup, which, despite sacrificing depth, would make the Nets a better, more consistent team. And Kupchak surely will not give up on Dwight without getting the absolute maximum that he can in return. 

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