NBA Trade Talk: The Dwight Howard/Lakers Rumors That Won't Go Away

Jonathan OwensCorrespondent IMay 9, 2011

A dejected Dwight Howard leaves the court following the Magic's elimination in six games by the Hawks.
A dejected Dwight Howard leaves the court following the Magic's elimination in six games by the Hawks.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It took less than five minutes after the Lakers had lost to the Mavericks to go down 3-0 for Jon Barry to recommend that Lakers GM, Mitch Kupchak, "Call up Otis Smith down in Orlando and tell him you'll send Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard."

After getting swept yesterday, they began again and this seems to be the kind of story that won't end so I thought a slightly more realistic look at them was needed.

First of all, it's easy to look at the Lakers issues and say, they need Dwight Howard on that team, but not having Dwight Howard isn't the reason they lost. Their inability to defend the three point line, close down the lanes, get back in transition defense and develop a consistency on offense is the reason they got swept.

Dwight Howard is a tremendous talent, but he's just one man. At some point, the Lakers stopped listening to Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant and went their own way.

Ron Artest taking horrible shots and looking to cheap shot every member of the Mavericks roster he got near is the reason the Lakers lost.

Lamar Odom looking lost on offense and playing matador defense on Shawn Marion is the reason the Lakers lost.

Pau Gasol suddenly aging 10 years in the playoffs is the reason the Lakers lost.

Derrick Fisher and Steve Blake shooting a combined 5 for 16 from the 3-point line is the reason the Lakers lost.

Kobe Bryant not attempting a single shot within five feet of the basket through the first two games is why the Lakers lost.

Andrew Bynum not asserting himself on offense for three of the four games is why the Lakers lost.

Dwight Howard doesn't fix all of those problems.

Second I know, for a fact, that if Kupchak called up Otis Smith and offered Gasol and Bynum all he would hear in return is raucous laughter and the phone being hung up. Orlando will NOT accept Gasol and Bynum for Dwight Howard.

The Nuggets showed the rest of the league how it's done, they developed the model that the rest of the NBA will follow.

For the Lakers to acquire Howard via trade they are going to have to follow the baseball method. Think about prospects. Bynum will be a must in any trade for Howard, so the Lakers have one of the big pieces, but Gasol will not be a guy that interests the Magic.

Let's look at this from the Magic angle real quick. What will they want for Dwight Howard?

The Magic will only do it for a top five center, for one. So, who are the Top 5 centers in the NBA not named Dwight Howard?

Brook Lopez, Joakim Noah, Andrew Bynum, Andrew Bogut and Kendrick Perkins come to mind first with Demarcus Cousins, Roy Hibbert, Greg Monroe, and Tyson Chandler seeming to be acceptable if offered as well as Enes Kanter (on draft night before he plays a game while the hype on him is SKY HIGH). Now take all of the guys in the East off the list because the Magic will not trade Howard to an East team under any circumstances.

That leaves the Kings, Lakers, Thunder and possibly Minnesota depending on the draft lottery. The Kings are in transition because of their expected move to Anaheim, and I doubt the NBA would allow an acquisition like Howard for a team that is, allegedly, broke.

That leaves the T-Wolves, Thunder and Lakers.

Now, of those teams, both Minnesota and Oklahoma City have better packages to offer right now. The Thunder could offer Perkins, Westbrook, Harden, Cole Aldrich and a collection of draft picks to the Magic for Howard and that package is better than anything the Lakers have.

You figure if the Thunder get eliminated because Westbrook refuses to share the ball, especially with a guy like Kevin Durant, they might look to move him.

Minnesota could offer Kevin Love, the draft rights to Ricky Rubio, Wesley Johnson and Martel Webster, plus the draft rights to Enes Kanter for Dwight Howard, plus they could take one of the HORRIBLE contracts the Magic have on their roster, like Gilbert Arenas which would be incredibly appealing to Orlando.

So the Lakers need to "flip" Pau for good young players, which is not going to be easy. There are very few teams that, I think, would be interested in what Gasol offers a team and doesn't mind that he is a little soft.

The Pacers would probably be interested and might be willing to trade Paul George, Tyler Hansbrough, and Brandon Rush for Gasol.

Detroit, Milwaukee, Phoenix and Washington are teams that may have interest as well, but unless the Bucks make Andrew Bogut available (which they won't for just Gasol), you figure the best you're gonna get is from the Pacers.

So now you have Brandon Rush, Paul George, Tyler Hansbrough and Andrew Bynum to offer for Dwight Howard. Does that realistically, and that's they key here, seem like a deal that the Magic go for?

No, probably not.

Well maybe they could acquire him in free agency.

The Lakers have 92 million dollars in salary committed for next season, 67 million for the next year (though they can take an additional 24 off the books if they decline their options on Bynum and Odom) which would give them the money to sign Howard under the current CBA.

Except that the current CBA expires July 1st of this year and, thanks to Lebron, Wade, and Chris Bosh, the owners are insisting on the ability to franchise tag a player be included in the new CBA. It's actually one of two points they refuse to budge on or give any concessions for.

The other is the removal of the Mid-Level Exception. They'll almost certainly get it, which would seem to take Howard off the table via free agency leaving the Lakers right back where they began.

Having to trade for Dwight Howard and not having the pieces to offer for him.

This is where Dwight Howard can help the Lakers. If he were to refuse to play or threaten to retire if the Magic didn't trade him to the Lakers then they may be willing to trade him, but that is not guaranteed as most of the GMs and owners around the league would pressure them not to cave to the demands of a player and set that precedant.

Is it possible that he wants to go to the Lakers? Sure, I've heard the rumors and talked to a few people who have said he does. I've also talked to people and heard the rumors that he doesn't.

He doesn't seem to be telling all of the people in his inner circle (or they aren't telling everybody in the media) that he wants to go to L.A. like Carmelo was about the Knicks, so it's difficult to say.

Two things are for sure, though. One, Dwight Howard won't fix what's wrong with the Lakers. Two, as their roster stands now they have NO WAY of getting him.


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