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LeBron James vs. Dwight Howard: Who Would Make a Bigger Impact on Miami Heat?

ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 03:  Forward LeBron James #6 (R) of the Miami Heat drives against center Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic at Amway Arena on February 3, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
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Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2011

Would the Miami Heat be a better team if they swapped Dwight Howard for LeBron James? This seemingly crazy idea for a trade has been tossed around a bit this offseason. It's highly unlikely that such a deal would go down, but it actually makes sense for both sides. 

As soon as this horrendous NBA lockout ends (let's stay optimistic here), several teams will be looking to wheel and deal. Following a pretty good beating at the hands of Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks, Miami may be among the squads looking to shake things up a bit. Chris Bosh could be put on the block. They may look to give Eddy Curry another shot in the league. But what they should really entertain is the possibility of moving LeBron.

There's no doubt that the Heat small forward is the most naturally gifted player in the NBA, but chemistry is more important than individual talent. That principle has never been more clearly on display than it was during the 2011 NBA Finals. While most of the media shamelessly flocked to Miami and Heatlemania throughout the year, the Mavericks quietly went about their business and were only challenged by one team in the playoffs (the Portland Trail Blazers).

Star power, athleticism and a lineup with two players who need to command the ball at pretty much all times helped Miami win plenty of regular season games, but the formula failed when it really mattered.

LeBron and Dwyane Wade are the two most talented players in the world, but their individual skill sets are too similar (yes, I know you've heard this a thousand times already). A good basketball lineup features balance. When five guys all know and, more importantly, accept not only their roles but their teammates', good things happen. LeBron and Wade were trying to play the same role, and the team's chemistry never fully materialized.

James would be more effective in Miami if Erik Spoelstra was willing to restructure the team's lineup and play his best player at his natural position. LeBron is a point guard. If the media hadn't pegged him as the next Jordan when he was in high school, he may have fully embraced the Magic Johnson-esque skill set he's been blessed with. Starting him at point guard would open up a spot at small forward for another shooter (James Jones or Mike Miller). Such a move would bring some of the balance Miami lacks with their current lineup.

That would be one way to address the problem in Miami. Another would be through a trade. A straight swap of LeBron and Orlando's Dwight Howard works under current salary cap rules and could be beneficial to both sides.

Dwight Howard wants out of Orlando, and the Magic can either let him walk for nothing (as Cleveland did with LeBron) or they can trade him to get something in return (as Utah did with Deron Williams and Denver did with Carmelo Anthony). If that "something in return" was the best all-around player in the league, Orlando would have to consider a deal.

But why would Miami give up that player? Well, we've already addressed that.

Individually, Dwyane Wade can provide almost everything LeBron can and has proven that he can do so in crunch time. Pairing him with Dwight Howard would make Miami nearly unstoppable. Imagine a pick-and-roll featuring Wade and Howard with Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers and Chris Bosh spotting up along the perimeter. Imagine a defense led by Dwyane Wade on the outside and the three-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year on the inside.

LeBron and Wade are a great combo with an immense amount of potential. But making it work will take just that: a lot of work. The pairing of Wade and Howard is much more natural. For that reason, Dwight Howard would have a bigger impact for the Miami Heat than LeBron James currently does.

Forget the optimism I talked about earlier. Right now, it doesn't look like the NBA is coming back anytime soon. I've been thinking for a few weeks that this entire season is going to be lost. Unfortunately, it's looking more like that will be the case every day. But like I said, if the lockout does end, we're almost sure to see a lot of deals happen.

LeBron James for Dwight Howard probably won't happen, but it should (especially from Miami's perspective).

 

Andy Bailey is on Twitter. 

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