NBA Trade Rumors: Could Dwight Howard Be the Next Carmelo Anthony?

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NBA Trade Rumors: Could Dwight Howard Be the Next Carmelo Anthony?
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In a monumental offseason that saw NBA mammoths LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Amar'e Stoudemire all change uniforms, no team can be confident that their superstar will stay with them long-term.

And with Carmelo Anthony all but guaranteed a divorce with the Denver Nuggets, there aren't many superstars outside of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Tim Duncan that have stayed with their teams for the entirety of their careers.

With that being said, Orlando Magic superstar center Dwight Howard can opt out of his contract after next season and be a part of the summer 2012 free-agent class. And after the Miami Heat's league-shifting moves, Orlando's goal of winning a championship is quickly evaporating as the league is becoming more and more competitive.

The Magic have made it to the Eastern Conference Finals two consecutive years, however, their road to return will be much tougher than previous years. The Heat's additions of James and Bosh have almost guaranteed they will be in title contention for the next six years. The Chicago Bulls greatly improved over the offseason and have a large window with the core of their lineup being young, and the Atlanta Hawks are always a threat with their solid core.

And those are all teams that can be very competitive for years to come. That's not even mentioning the veteran Boston Celtics, who currently hold the East's best record and have been to the NBA Finals two times in the last three years. They will certainly be able to hold their own at least another year.

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So that means, there are four teams who can all potentially be in the way of Orlando's road to win the franchise's first NBA championship.

And Dwight Howard knows this. So that begs the question, could Superman be the Carmelo Anthony saga all over again?

After the Magic were defeated by the Lakers two years ago in the NBA Finals, they made a major move in acquiring Vince Carter, hoping he would be the piece that took them to the next level. However, the Magic were stopped short by the Celtics in last year's East Finals. And only 27 games into this season, Magic GM Otis Smith realized VC would not be enough either and saw it fit to shake up his team's core.

Orlando got rid of Carter and brought in Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and former Magic Hedo Turkoglu in order to better their title shot.

However, the Magic currently sit in the fifth spot in the East and in third place in the Southeast Division, four-and-a-half games behind the Heat. They seem far off from the 2009 Magic team that went to the NBA Finals. That team was confident, effective and threatening. They had so many weapons to attack opposing teams with and looked to be the East's team of the future.

Now, their window to win a trophy is quickly closing with the Eastern Conference vastly improving and the impending Dwight Howard free-agency situation.

The Magic's blockbuster deal earlier this season makes them a much stronger team and adds more weapons, but do they really have what it takes to beat Miami or Boston in a seven-game series?

Will Dwight Howard remain in a Magic uniform past 2012?

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While that's for up for debate, Howard has to be thinking of the state of the Magic franchise and be wondering if they're going to have enough firepower to compete with the likes of Miami and Chicago in the East and Oklahoma City and LA in the West for the next three to five years.

If the Magic don't win a title this year or next year, Howard will be entering his 10th season without a championship ring on his finger. And considering he is a seven-footer, his knees will naturally start to deteriorate, which means his window for a ring is also shrinking.

Being that Dwight is a huge competitor and hungry for a title, it's easy to see that he might be following the same path of LBJ, Bosh and potentially Carmelo.

The 2012 season could easily turn into an exact replica of this season's drama but replace Carmelo Anthony with Dwight Howard. If the Magic don't have a title, Howard trade rumors will consume the headlines.

The fact is it's only a matter of time before Howard starts makes some serious statements about how the Magic will need to improve, how "all he cares about is winning " and little hints that he's not content with the direction of Orlando.

Are Arenas, Richardson and Turkoglu really the answer? Can they really propel the Magic to championship heights and give them the talent to take down Boston, Miami and Chicago?

In Arenas's 23 games since being dealt to Orlando, he is averaging 8.7 points on 37 percent shooting, four assists and 0.9 steals in a reserve role. With his $17 million contract, those numbers don't quite match the production, and Arenas is only getting older. It appears he is not ever going to return to the All-Star he once was.

Jason Richardson is arguably the Magic's biggest acquisition. He can create his own offense, hit clutch shots and has shown just how effective he can be in the postseason (remember with Phoenix last year). His numbers have stayed relatively the same since the trade.

The return of Turkoglu has also been a significant addition for the Magic. He really helps spread the floor for Orlando and makes them a much better passing team. He can hit the three-ball and the forward just works so much more effectively in the Magic's system compared to his previous teams, Toronto and Phoenix.

Still, with the addition of these three players, the Magic don't even have a top four spot in the East. While they are only a half of a game behind Atlanta for the four spot, they are going to have trouble catching Miami for the top spot in the Southeast. The Heat have seemed to figure out how to play regular season basketball and have the ability to go on long winning streaks, which will create separation from the rest of the division.

This all means that Orlando has very little room for error from now until Dwight's contract expires. The Magic are burying themselves deep into luxury tax and taking risky deals in hopes they can keep Howard.

The fact is the thought of Shaquille O'Neal leaving for the shiny lights of LA over a decade ago will forever be in the Orlando front office's memory, and they simply can't afford for something of that nature to happen again. It's an all too scary thought.

Howard is so beloved in Orlando, and he literally erases the memory that the team made such a monumental mistake in loosing one of the most dominant centers of all time in Shaq. Losing Howard would be a loss of epic proportions- similar to Cleveland losing LeBron this past summer.

The Magic have already used their Plan B by making the trade for Arenas. So, if this doesn't work out, they really don't have much of a bail out.

So, the Magic are depending on this current roster to win a title within the next two years and make it impossible for Superman 2.0 to leave Orlando in the chase for a ring somewhere else.

While everyone is focused on the whereabouts of Carmelo this year, it could be only a matter of time before the same conversation is surrounded by Howard and the Magic. The possibility of losing their fun-loving, charitable, fan-favorite and utterly dominant superstar center is becoming more than just a worry. It's becoming a reality.

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