To no one's surprise, one of the first trade rumours to emerge since the end of the lockout involve Dwight Howard, one of the biggest, both literally and figuratively, free agents of 2012. Now, it is clear that should Howard leave Orlando, his heart would be set on Los Angeles and at the moment, both the Clippers and the Lakers seem interested in the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, with the latter reportedly offering a package including Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. While that package may interest the Magic, it is of my opinion that Orlando should accept the offer from neither Los Angeles teams and accept a deal from New Jersey instead.
According to ESPN, the Nets are not only willing to offer the Magic a promising center in Brook Lopez and two future first-round picks, but they are also offering a chance for the Magic to shed Hedo Turkoglu's contract. Losing Turkoglu's three-year, $35m contract, along with the expected use of amnesty on Gilbert Arenas, would allow the Magic to fall under the cap and accelerate their rebuilding process.
While the Lakers deal is indeed a better one in the short run, the replacement of a dominant center like Howard with a good frontcourt duo in Bynum, Gasol and Odum is reminiscent of the signing of Rony Seikaly by the Magic to fill the void left by the departure of Shaquille O’Neal. While the signing of Seikaly kept the Magic in the playoffs, they soon faded into mediocrity and only began the process of rebuilding themselves as Championship contenders when they drafted Howard after a surprisingly poor 2003-04 season.
With the Lakers deal, Orlando would be competitive in the short run, but they would never be regarded as Championship contenders and would only delay their rebuilding process. Orlando general manager Otis Smith should also consider the inevitable backlash from fans as a result of sending another dominant center to the Lakers before making his decision.
Alternatively, by moving forward with the Nets deal, the Magic may be poor in the short term, but could then end up with a well-developed center in Lopez and a few high draft picks that could result in players with great potential, not to mention the cap space to sign a big name free agent. These are large "what ifs?", but in the long run the Magic would benefit more than they would from the Lakers deal, with Gasol and Odom aged 31 and 32 respectively and being far more useful in a Championship-contending team.
Naturally, the best scenario for Magic fans is for Howard to remain in Orlando. However, with the trade value of the five-time NBA All-Star is at its highest and a star-studded 2012 draft class looming, now is the time to make a deal if Superman does indeed want to leave Orlando.