Dwight Howard Trade Speculation: Are the L.A. Lakers or Nets a Better Fit?
Well, get ready for Dwight Howard to become 2012's version, minus "The Decision."
Regardless, he will undoubtedly become the NBA's most courted player over the next 18 months, and it is for good reason: He is the first vintage natural center since Shaquille O'Neal came alive with that same Magic squad.
For a guy that averages 23 points and 14 rebounds and has accumulated three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards, Howard sure doesn't seem eager to leave town.
Does Dwight want to finish his career without a sidekick or titleless?
Orlando aside, the two perhaps likeliest destinations for Superman II are as follows: First, he could be heading to Newark to play for Jay-Z, Mikhail Prokhorov and the Nets; or he could push his talents to the West Coast and play with Kobe and the Lakers.
In order to properly decide which of the two are a slick fit for the 6'11" big, I will look at reasons why the respective teams are good fits and decide which is better for Howard.
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Nets Reason 1: He Would Be the Unquestioned Leader Immediately
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As nice a guy as Dwight Howard is, I know it won't bother him where he plays as long as he emerges victorious more so than not.
If he were to play in Los Angeles, he would simply be in the shadows of already beloved superstars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
With that said, would he be okay with that? I'm sure he would, but he still would prefer the top dog on a winning squad, and the Nets seem ready to offer him that luxury.
Lakers Reason 1: They Have the Players To Deal for Him
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When one looks at the options either of the respective teams have to offer for Howard, you have to think the Lakers have the upper leg on that one.
They could offer Andrew Bynum and a first-rounder and role player to get Howard to come to the City of Angels.
Bynum would be the cornerstone in getting him to come to Southern California, and you have to think there would be no use for 'Drew in the lineup with the best center in the league present.
Nets Reason 2: A Legitimate Point Guard in Deron Williams
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If the New Jersey Nets are able to lock up Deron Williams with a long-term contract, the long-term reward would be a top-three point guard, as well as a better chance at acquiring Howard.
The Lakers, on the other hand, struggle mightily at quarterbacking, and they can't keep relying on Derek Fisher to pull through entire 82-game seasons without injury much longer.
If Williams and Howard joined forces in Newark, it would automatically give the Nets a leg up on a majority of the Eastern Conference, and would give them the second-best duo after the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade pair that inherits Miami.
The signing of Deron Williams will ultimately make the difficult decision a lot easier for Dwight Howard.
Lakers Reason 2: L.A. Is a Better Draw
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There is no player whose name is more synonymous with the Los Angeles Lakers than "Kobe."
When you factor in the effect of the big market, Dwight Howard might find himself better aligned with what Southern California presents.
The Nets are technically part of the New York market, which is bigger than Los Angeles, but would you really say that New Jersey is a more popular destination? The Knicks are clearly top dog in the whole NYC metropolitan area.
It's simple in choosing a destination, really: If you want to win, you go to L.A.
Nets Reason 3: It Works Better Financially
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As of this instant, the Nets have much more cap room than the Lakers do, even after trading for a superstar point guard in Deron Williams.
New Jersey seems poised to make a move for Howard, and the likelihood of the Nets being able to afford the 6'11" big is greater than that of the Lakers, who would pretty much have to give up the young-and-improving Andrew Bynum no matter what. Los Angeles is currently $30 million over its cap and would most likely need to give up extreme amounts of youthful players to snag Howard.
The Nets, on the other hand, will be willing to offer Orlando lots of picks and some of their key players, and most importantly money.
It's sad that this is going to happen to the small market club that Howard said he "is loving," but between all the three teams involved (the Magic being the third), the Nets make the most sense financially.
Lakers Reason 3: More Talent on Roster
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It's obvious at this point that the Los Angeles Lakers are the more talented team between the two.
They have the clear advantage when it comes to the head-to-head roster battle.
If Howard heads to L.A., he will undoubtedly become the next face of the franchise, as Kobe begins to fade.
Kobe and Dwight could perhaps become a bigger force than Shaq and Kobe were because the two of them are so focused on winning that they should avoid conflict.
Nets Reason 4: Perhaps Have a Brighter Future
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The Nets have a solid young core of players even after trading away 19-year-old Derrick Favors for Deron Williams.
Kris Humphries (26), Brook Lopez (23) and Williams (26) are all primed for success within the next five years or so, and if the 25-year-old Howard joins them, it could be a successful upcoming decade.
The Lakers core players, although more talented than New Jersey's (soon to be Brooklyn's) finest, are much older. Ron Artest and Lamar Odom are both 31; Kobe is 32 and Pau Gasol entered his thirties last July.
The opportunity for Howard to take his talents to New Jersey might be more appealing for that reason.
Lakers Reason 4: Could Be the Face of the NBA
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Think of all the players who have donned the famous Laker jersey.
When you talk about the likes of George Mikan, Elgin Baylor, Vern Mikkelsen, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kobe Bryant, you are talking about legends who won a grand total of 17 titles.
The Nets, on the other hand, have an empty NBA trophy case (they won two titles in the ABA).
One of the faces of the NBA over the last decade and a half has undoubtedly been Kobe Bryant, and his rise to superstardom in Los Angeles has made NBA fans everywhere envious.
Dwight Howard, a guy with charisma and heart, could be that next guy who everyone is jealous of if he collects a ring or two.
Lakers players are routinely the biggest jersey sellers and the most popular players in the game, so why not add the best center in the game?
Nets Reason 5: Have the Bigger Market
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While I have mentioned previously that the Lakers are certainly a better draw in terms of culture, you can't ignore the facts: The Nets are part of the United States' biggest market, and despite the fact that they are overshadowed by the Knicks, they still have a solid following.
It may not be as flashy or flamboyant as Los Angeles, but Newark certainly can hold its own when it comes to superstars.
After all, Vince Carter and Jason Kidd teamed up for four seasons and found some success, so why not Dwight Howard and Deron Williams?
It's not like the city isn't big enough for two of the league's 10 best. John Stockton and Karl Malone played 18 seasons together in one of the NBA's smallest markets in Salt Lake City, and more recently Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have found success in Oklahoma City.
Now, it would contradictory of me to say that considering Howard already plays in a small market, but this is all assuming he leaves in the summer of 2012.
Lakers Reason 5: Best Chance to Win
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Make no mistake about it, NBA fans: Dwight Howard wants to win, and he wants to win now.
After all, if he stays with the Magic he is in greater danger of giving up that hope, and things won't be much different if he takes his talents to the Garden State if the Nets fail to add another solid player or two.
The fact is that, at the moment, the Lakers are far better suited to win in the next two or three years, and Howard might risk money just to have a shot at an NBA Finals ring by 2014.
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While it's obvious that Dwight Howard wants to win sometime in the near future, his most obvious choice might not be the one you expect.
Let's weigh out the positives for each team, shall we?
The Lakers have better players to trade for him as Andrew Bynum comes to mind. The city itself is a far bigger attraction than playing the ugly stepsister to the Knicks. As of right now, the Lake Show has far more talent on the roster and the best realistic chance to win now.
Conversely, the New Jersey Nets would place Howard as the unquestioned leader upon his arrival. One thing the franchise has that L.A. doesn't is a franchise point guard, Deron Williams. They are much better off financially than the Lakers and can offer the Magic more in the deal. Additionally they have a brighter future in the core of players they already possess.
So what does it come down to?
The main point is that the Nets are better off economically than the Lakers are. This is perhaps the biggest difference in deciphering which city is better for the Atlanta native. It is very apparent that the Nets have something rolled up their sleeve, especially after they were jipped out of the Carmelo sweepstakes at the last minute.
The fact of the matter is that while the Lakers are the better short term solution, Howard will have to settle with New Jersey (if he so decides that is where he will go) and wait it out a year or two before the team climbs back to relevance.
If they are able to keep all their key players of that young nucleus, then there is absolutely zero chance that Dwight Howard will say no to New Jersey.
Better fit: New Jersey Nets
Joseph Fafinski is currently a freshman at the University of Missouri. Originally from Chaska, Minnesota, Joseph is an NBA and Minnesota Timberwolves Featured Columnist and a frequent writer of the NBA, NFL and MLB. You can e-mail Joseph at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @JosephFafinski.