Dwight Howard: Does Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol Trump Any Other Team's Offer?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IDecember 12, 2011

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 09:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic goes up for a shot between Andrew Bynum #17 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers in the second quarter of Game Three of the 2009 NBA Finals on June 9, 2009 at Amway Arena 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 Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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After David Stern's latest dismissal of the Los Angeles Clippers' offer for New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul, there are rumors swirling that the other team in Los Angeles may be back in the hunt for Paul's services.

It's not really a rumor since Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told a group of reporters, according to The Orange County Register, that the Lakers were still pursuing Paul and other big deals.

Kupchak also said his search was not limited to just two players, referring to Orlando center Dwight Howard, but in the Lakers' best interest maybe it should be limited to Howard alone.

The circumstances have changed a little since the first deal among the Lakers, Hornets and Houston Rockets was blown up by Stern and his competitive balance police, and the fact that Lamar Odom is now a Dallas Maverick makes attaining both Howard and Paul a little tricky.

But if Kupchak intends to make a large free-agency splash like he suggests, then he should give up on any thoughts of Paul right now and concentrate his full attention on acquiring Howard.

Compared to the other teams apparently in the running, the Lakers might have the upper hand.

ESPN and other media outlets recently reported that the Orlando Magic granted permission for Howard's agent to engage the New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks and Lakers in possible trade scenarios for Howard after he asked to be traded.

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 12:  Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers grimaces after an injury against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on April 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by d
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Since then Howard has softened his stance a little, while imploring the team to add the necessary help for a championship run, but it would be ridiculous to think that both parties are not keeping their options open.

The Magic had a front-row seat for the LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony sagas, so it's doubtful that Orlando would allow Howard to hold them hostage and risk losing him for nothing in 2012.

So once you breach the surface of Howard and the Magic's renewed affection for each other, the possibility that Howard may be wearing a different uniform in the near future is still very strong.

If Howard is available, the Lakers have to be considered heavy favorites to win the battle for his services if they are not afraid to show their hand.

The Nets have offered the Magic center Brook Lopez and two first-round draft picks but would likely increase that offer to include any player on their roster not named Deron Williams.

The Mavericks have yet to state who they would offer as trade bait for Howard, but I'm guessing the only safe player on Mark Cuban's roster would be Dirk Nowitzki.

There are other teams rumored to be in the running for Howard, such as the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics, and you could combine all their offers together and it still wouldn't match what the Lakers could send to Orlando in return for Howard.

The Lakers and their fans are hesitant to trade both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol for Howard, but I can't understand why.

Granted, losing Bynum and Odom would definitely hurt the Lakers in the short term, but I'm not convinced that the Lakers can challenge for an NBA title anytime soon with Bynum and Gasol.

Gasol's collapse in the 2011 NBA playoffs may not have been a harbinger of his eventual decline, but it was a painful reminder of his tendency to disappear during critical moments.

I appreciate what Gasol has done for the Lakers franchise, but in the same breath I couldn't imagine Howard reacting in the same manner under duress.

It doesn't hurt that Howard is about five years younger than Gasol and has yet to reach his full potential, while Gasol's game has pretty much reached its ceiling.

Bynum can match Howard's youth, and there are some people who would argue he can match Howard's skill level as well. While I agree to some extent, there are other images of Bynum that stand out to me more than his potential.

The most striking may be Bynum sitting on the floor grasping his knee, his face a picture of pure agony laced with a touch of "oh no, not again" during a late regular-season game against the Mavericks.

Lakers nation held its collective breath, as a season that was destined to end in failure anyway seemed to have reached that stage prematurely.

In the end Bynum was okay and went on to have the best postseason of his young career, but during that one lonely moment, as Bynum intently grasped his knee on the floor, my patience finally ran out.

Bynum may indeed fulfill his promise and become a great NBA center, but the threat of another knee injury prevents me from looking that far down the road.

In my eyes Bynum is damaged goods, but he is still more talented than any of the other players that have been floated around for Howard, and once you throw in Gasol and maybe a couple of draft picks, the Lakers offer becomes pretty hard to beat—if Kupchak has the heart to pull the trigger.

Odom's departure ended the dynamic that made the Lakers frontcourt special, and while Bynum and Gasol are still a formidable tandem, how long will that be true?

A deal for Howard that involves both Bynum and Gasol would leave the Lakers worse off now, but paired with Bryant the Lakers would still be in the postseason mix.

More importantly, a deal for Howard would mean an investment in the future of the franchise, and what the Lakers do five years from now may be more crucial than anything they do next season.