Dwight Howard or Chris Paul: New York Knicks' Biggest Target?
New York Knicks fans are infamous for looking toward the future for reassurance.
But can you blame them?
For the first time in over a decade the Knicks are one of the best teams in the NBA's Eastern Conference, and if they make the right moves they can be at the very top.
Of course, it is unlikely that under the new collective bargaining agreement that the Knicks will be able to sign either player—but it is possible.
The NBA has quickly evolved into a league where there are several super powers and many teams who don't contend at all, and the Knicks are trying to stay ahead of the curve.
With two superstars already in Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, it would be ideal to add a third.
The Miami Heat made history, along with plenty of enemies, last offseason when they combined three of the league's best players.
In their opening season as the most detested franchise in the history of sports, the Heat reached the 2011 NBA Finals and were stunned by the underdog Dallas Mavericks.
Hopefully the Knicks can continue in their effort to keep up with the hated Heat by inserting another outstanding player into the mix.
Howard's future could end up much like another former Magic center, as an incredible talent just waiting to be paired with other star power.
Likewise, Chris Paul is another prominent player that seems to be stuck in NBA limbo.
But who's the better option, Howard or Paul?
Blocking Jason Collins looks harder than it actually is
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Dwight Howard has become a one-of-a-kind player in the league by being a great center.
The NBA with intimidating centers like Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson doesn't exist anymore.
It seems as though every dominant big man is a power forward who takes advantage of smaller competition.
It's a completely different game than it used to be when the second-leading scorer among centers is Brook Lopez.
Howard averaged 14.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, second and fourth in the league, respectively.
While his team was ousted by the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the 2011 playoffs before May even began, Howard's game was vastly elevated.
He averaged over four points and almost two rebounds a game more than he did in the regular season.
In the first postseason game against the Hawks, Dwight dropped 46 points and 19 boards with minimal help in a 10-point loss.
It seems that no matter how much he contributes on the Orlando Magic, he'll never be able to compete with the power teams of the NBA, let alone the Atlanta Hawks.
Dwight would bring some much-needed defense to a Knicks team that doesn't play any.
Unlike adding a defensive specialist like Ron Artest, a defensive star could have large impact on the rest of the team.
The Magic are considered to one of the better defensive teams in the league, but don't possess any great defenders, aside from Howard.
With Anthony and Stoudemire running the floor on offense and with Howard as a defensive general, the Knicks may not be the best defensive team in the league, but they'll surely be passable enough to compete at the highest level.
He's really good
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Ever since his renowned toast at Carmelo's wedding, Chris Paul seems destined to play at Madison Square Garden.
Paul is arguably the best point guard in the NBA, and is definitely the best in the West.
Every good team needs a functional floor general, and there's nobody more qualified than Paul.
He's turned decent players, like Tyson Chandler, into extremely capable role players. He's turned capable role players, like Trevor Ariza, into some of the best players on the court.
While the Knicks would have to give up plenty of great role players (which they don't have many of) to acquire Paul, he would make whatever assets they have left look better than they truly are.
The Knicks have Chauncey Billups bringing up the ball right now, and though he is still one of the better point guards in the league, his career is coming to a close.
The position will soon be vacant and I don't expect Toney Douglas to be next in line.
Paul is a perfect pick-and-roll point guard, which is crucial for the Knicks offense.
He dishes the ball better than anybody in the league, and he would finally have two big targets to pass to.
Playing PG in NY would be a walk in the park for CP3.
He's been in the top five in assists for the past five seasons and led the league twice.
Like Howard, Paul is also a spectacular defender, leading the league in steals in three of the past four seasons, and only didn't make the cut in 2009-2010 due to injury.
So, to summarize what Paul could add to the Knicks: sufficient shooting, world-class passing, persistent defense and the ability to make his teammates play at a higher level.
Sounds like a superstar to me.
Pachulia putting in work
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It's incredibly hard to make a case as to why the Knicks shouldn't pursue Dwight Howard, but here it goes.
Are there any holes in this guy's game? I don't see any.
As I stated earlier, he can score at will, he's perennially one of the best rebounders in the game, he's a top-notch defender and plays a position that very few are successful at anymore.
The only knock on his game would have to be his foul shooting.
Shooting 59.6 percent from the charity stripe puts him at third worst among centers last season.
While it's not nearly enough to deter any team who's chasing the big man, it is aggravating to have a player on the roster who can't make a clutch free throw.
Probably the only thing that may keep the Knicks from trading for Howard is the speculation that he would want yet another superstar in New York to get a deal done.
This seems extremely counterproductive.
A combination of Carmelo and Dwight would be one of the best the league has ever seen, but would it be worth giving up Amar'e? I think not.
The Knicks spent the last full season building around Stoudemire, and turned him into the face of the franchise.
What would this trade do to the morale of the rest of the team?
The Carmelo deal surely made every New York role player aware that they are expendable, so an Amar'e-Dwight swap would possibly disconnect every player on the team from the city, not allowing any to feel as if New York could be a permanent home.
Also, this would leave the Knicks in a very similar position as they are now: with two superstars, searching for a third.
If the Knicks can somehow swing a deal where Amar'e remains a Knick, that's a different story.
CP3's got the right attitude
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Like Howard, it is nearly impossible to argue against Paul.
If you try to make the argument that Paul isn't the best point guard in the league, it's nearly impossible to knock him out of the top three...not much of a deterrent.
In fact, in searching through plenty of scouting reports to try to put up this fight, finding a flaw was simply not happening.
If I have to say anything negative about the Knicks acquiring Paul, it would be on his position.
Point guards are incredibly important, but is it the best place to spend a max contract?
Point guards, even more than the other four players on the court, rely on their speed and quickness.
Paul's knee injury had critics seriously concerned about him ever fully recovering, but his 2010- 2011 stat line put that argument to bed.
Still, a player never fully recuperates from a knee injury, no matter who he is.
When you look at the recent teams to win a championship, the best player on the team is never the point guard. Not since Isiah Thomas was a Detroit Piston, at least.
It is arguable that Chauncey Billups was the best player on the 2004 title-winning Detroit Pistons, but that is just one time in the past 20 years (not to mention that he's the Knicks' current starter).
Distributors like Derek Fisher, Tony Parker, a young Rajon Rondo and an old Jason Kidd have sufficed as options to get the team's best players the ball.
It would be incredible to have a well-rounded point guard like Paul (he might actually be the best at his position since Magic Johnson), but it might be a luxury that the Knicks can't afford.
Conclusion: Bring Me Dwight Howard
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If given the choice, Dwight Howard would be the must-get player of the year for the Knicks.
He's the dunking-est, shot-blocking-est, dancing-est center in the league.
Isiah Thomas explained his strategy for the Knicks to Bill Simmons in his publication The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy, which made a surprising amount of sense: "'Everyone's trying to get smaller and faster. I want to go the other way. I want to get bigger. I want to pound people down low.'"
Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph were obviously the wrong big men to try to build around, but wouldn't Howard and Stoudemire be perfect?
Stoudemire made it clear to the Knicks when they signed him that he would much rather play his natural position of power forward rather than center, but the Knicks haven't been able to find a good enough player to pair with Amar'e in the frontcourt.
As I mentioned earlier, there are fewer true centers in the league than ever.
Along with Paul at point guard, there's also Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook as a top five.
Which true centers outside of Howard would round out the top five? You could argue that Nene Hilario and Emeka Okafor make that list, but when a guy is so far beyond his competition like Howard, it seems like a no-brainer to want him on your team.
But for now, in this depressing lockout, all a fan can do is play "pretend GM" while owners and players continue their stubborn quest to ruin my winter.
Once this thing gets figured out, optimistically, the Knicks will continue their quest to put the right team together.