LA Lakers: What Will It Really Take to Bring Dwight Howard to Hollywood?
Most observers seem to think there is little to no chance that the Los Angeles Lakers can sign Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard once he finally becomes a free agent in the summer of 2012, but if Howard really wants to come to Hollywood and the Lakers are serious about acquiring him, a deal is possible.
It would likely be very expensive for the Lakers and they would have to make some very painful roster decisions, but the reward would be a player who could potentially lead the franchise into the next decade.
Any deal for Howard would probably mean that the Lakers would have to part with either Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom or some combination featuring two of those players, plus an abundance of draft picks.
Some observers feel that Orlando would never accept an older Gasol and Odom or an oft-injured Bynum for Howard, but that's assuming the Magic really have a definitive say in the matter.
If Howard does make it clear to Orlando general manager Otis Smith that he has no desire of returning to central Florida once his contract is up, then the Magic may be forced to take the best deal available or risk making the same mistake the Cleveland Cavaliers did.
Cleveland was held hostage by LeBron James during the summer of 2010, and once he did decide to take his talents to South Beach the Cavaliers were left with a few forgettable draft picks, and no time to find a suitable replacement for James.
It's not like Cleveland could have really found a player who could take James' place, but if owner Dan Gilbert felt like James was going to leave (and there were some signs) then he could have crafted a deal that would have left the franchise in a better position for the future.
Instead Cleveland went from one of the NBA's premier franchises to one of the league's worst, and Gilberts' declaration that the Cavaliers would win a championship before LeBron did sounded even more ridiculous after James helped lead the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals in his first season with the team.
James' decision to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami was one of the reasons that the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets chose to take a proactive approach when it came to Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony.
Faced with the possibility of losing their franchise players to free agency for nothing, the Jazz and Nuggets chose to strike preemptively by dealing the stars for a load of young players and draft picks.
Most observers feel the Nuggets and Jazz gained the upper hand since New York and New Jersey basically gutted their rosters to acquire Anthony and Williams respectively. But with Howard the stakes are a little different.
Anthony and Williams are great players but it's much easier to find an elite point guard or small forward than it is to find a truly dominant player in the paint.
If Orlando is forced to deal Howard they would likely want at least one player who has already established a reputation as a decent post player, and the Lakers have three.
What other NBA team could offer the Magic a post player as talented as Gasol, Odom or Bynum, plus a young combination of talent that could include players such as Devin Ebanks, Derrick Caracter or rookies Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock?
The most rumored destinations for Howard have been Boston and Chicago but the Lakers could offer a package that rivals anything that either of those franchises could put together; and they could also use a third team to further their interests.
There has been speculation that the Lakers may be interested in acquiring Minnesota forward Kevin Love, so why not contemplate a deal that involves Bynum for Love, and then ship Gasol and other players and draft picks to Orlando for Howard?
It may sound ridiculous to some, but most of the biggest NBA deals are the ones you never see coming, and the Lakers were a part of that same type of deal when they acquired Gasol in 2008.
In fact, the Lakers have a history of pulling the trigger on monumental deals to improve the fortunes of their franchise, and a deal for Howard could be very similar to the same deal that brought Shaquille O'Neal from Orlando to Los Angeles.
The only difference is Orlando was forced to lose O'Neal for next to nothing, and to avoid that same scenario the Magic may choose to take the same proactive approach that New Jersey and Denver did.
Of course a Lakers deal for Howard is only speculation, despite the fact he has expressed a subtle desire to play in Los Angeles. But for those of you who say it's impossible, the Lakers history with elite big men says otherwise.
If Howard really wants to play in Los Angeles, I have little doubt that the Lakers will find a way to make it happen; and if it does, no one should really be surprised since the Lakers have already established this blueprint for sustained relevance.
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