The NBA trade deadline is less than a month away, and there are plenty of whispers about what moves will be made by the Brooklyn Nets at the midseason mark. It has been widely circulated over the past week that the Nets will make an attempt to trade for Lakers center Dwight Howard.
General manager Billy King spent the 2012 offseason trying to put together a package that would bring Howard to Brooklyn. King offered Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and four first-round picks to Orlando, but was rejected. The Nets gave Lopez an extension, Howard went to the Lakers, and the rest is history.
Now, with Lopez posting career-high numbers, and Howard’s relationship with superstar teammate Kobe Bryant deteriorating, the Nets have the leverage to make another run at the seven-time All-Star center.
According to RealGM, sources close to Howard believe he still has a desire to play in Brooklyn. The website is also reporting that Billy King plans to speak with the Minnesota Timberwolves about a deal that would send Howard to Brooklyn, Lopez to Minnesota, and Kevin Love to Los Angeles.
According to the New York Daily News, Lopez, who is averaging 18.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game this season, hasn’t been fazed by the trade talk. “It is what it is. I’ve said how I’ve dealt with it before,” said Lopez. “Even when this was a non-issue for the months or whatever the season has gone on, I didn’t read any of the media stuff that anyone put out.”
Point guard Deron Williams was quick to come to the defense of his teammate, citing his improved play as a direct result of not having to deal with rumors of being traded:
I just think he’s confident. He’s not looking over his shoulder every five minutes thinking he’s going to get traded, which definitely will help as far as his focus and him mentally being ready to play. I think he’s just being so aggressive on both ends and that’s something that we love to see.
On January 16 ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian O’Connor reported that the Nets aren’t as eager to chase after Howard. The Nets have been somewhat of a surprise this season. Through 42 games they have a record of 26-16, good enough for third place in the Eastern Conference.
The team’s success may have quelled their desire to gut their roster and bring in a new piece.
According to the website HoopsRumors, there have also been reports Utah Jazz power forward Paul Millsap could wind up in Brooklyn before the trade deadline on February 21. Sam Amico of Fox Sports said that at this point such a move shouldn’t be deemed “likely.”
However, it remains a possibility, especially with the lack of production coming from the Nets' current power forward Kris Humphries, who is no longer in the starting lineup. Between Humphries, Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche, Brooklyn has plenty of pieces to make a deal.
With Millsap set to become a free agent this offseason, trading for him could be risky. It could also be the move that elevates the Nets from a playoff contender to an NBA Finals contender.
At this point, trading for a power forward seems like a much better move for the Nets, especially with Lopez playing at such a high level. There is certainly room to improve the frontcourt, but bringing in Dwight Howard isn’t the answer. Lopez is three years younger than Howard, he is far better at the free-throw line, and he doesn’t cause trouble on or off the court.
It will be very interesting to see what the Nets decide to do over the course of the next few weeks. Through 42 games it’s clear the team has something under new head coach PJ Carlesimo. It will be up to owner Mikhail Prokhorov and GM Billy King to keep their cool, make the right moves and continue to point the team in a positive direction.