NBA Trade Rumors: Lakers Favorites to Land Dwight Howard After Lopez Injury?

John Friel@@JohnFtheheatgodAnalyst IDecember 22, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 18:  (L-R) Dwight Howard #12 and Matt Barnes #22 of the Orlando Magic talk to referee Marc Davis during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on January 18, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 98-92. 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 Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

What a wild turn of events the NBA world is. One minute, you're down and out without a future, and the next, you're riding high with improved expectations.

This explains the Los Angeles Lakers situation after word came in that New Jersey Nets center Brook Lopez will be going under surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot. The injury is set to keep him out as much as six weeks, and he won't return until most likely sometime in February.

How does this affect the Lakers? Well, Lopez was meant to be the main piece of a trade between the New Jersey Nets and Orlando Magic that would have sent Dwight Howard to play alongside Deron Williams. With Lopez now out, the Magic will be skeptical as to trading away their franchise player for a center that just went under foot surgery only a few weeks prior.

Foot injuries for centers are no joke, even one like Brook Lopez, who has been consistently healthy in the first three seasons of his NBA career. Any injury below the belt for a player that stands at 7'0" could be devastating, and the Magic aren't the type of team to take a risk on that while also giving up the league's most dominant center in the process.

Orlando will still be looking to move Dwight Howard. Even though GM Otis Smith likes to hear himself say that Howard will be staying with the Magic, he does recognize that trading him would be the right thing to do when considering the situation. Howard becomes a free agent next season, and with the talk that he's adamant about leaving, getting something for him via trade might be the best bet.

The Nets may have just bowed out of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes for good. The Magic are asking a lot in order to trade Howard since they think they can convince him to stay, so only the best pieces would make them think about moving their All-Star center.

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Orlando recognizes that they have one of the league's most dominant pieces on their team, and they're willing to wait if teams are going to give up significant players.

The Los Angeles Lakers might be the team to give up those significant players. Even though they lost Lamar Odom, they still possess valuable assets in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Both players, possibly combined with a young player or two, would make for a fair deal to obtain Howard, as the Lakers would receive a young center to build around, while the Magic receive two solid members of the front court to make up for the loss of Howard.

The Lakers have expressed a great deal of interest in Howard over the offseason and will be more interested than ever before now that the Nets may be out of the running. With the Chris Paul deal not working out how they thought it would, the Lakers now need to be on the lookout for other young superstars they can build a team around.

They could really use the help. Lamar Odom departed via a trade demand to Dallas after feeling unwanted by the Lakers organization, and the team is now left with a limited bench that will have either Matt Barnes or Metta World Peace and Steve Blake as their top contributors. While players like Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy and Jason Kapono were also signed, they don't come close to filling the void left behind by Odom.

The starting lineup isn't looking as formidable as it used to either. With Kobe Bryant suffering a torn ligament in his wrist earlier in the week and Pau Gasol coming off an embarrassingly bad postseason where he averaged 11 points and seven boards per, the Lakers dynamic duo certainly isn't as scary as it was when they led the team to three consecutive title appearances.

The rest of the starting lineup is a wild card. The Lakers continue to start the ineffective Derek Fisher at point, will either have Barnes or World Peace at small forward and will also have Andrew "I'll average 20 and 10 next year" Bynum at center once again. Unless Bynum becomes this All-Star overnight, then I find it hard to believe that the Lakers currently have the pieces to make it to a championship.

With Howard on the team, the Lakers still might not have a championship this season, but they at least have a future to look forward to. A starting lineup with four players at 31 years or older and a bench that has a bunch of unproven rookies and second-year players just isn't going to cut it this year or in the seasons after.

Trading for Howard may be the smartest thing both sides can do. The Magic have a large chance on losing Dwight in the offseason, and the Lakers are facing the huge possibility that they begin their decline.

With the L.A. Clippers creeping up on them and ready to usurp the throne of No. 1 team in Los Angeles, the Lakers are going to need to act quickly in order to keep thriving as the top team in their city and in the Pacific. They've been patient in waiting, and they must now strike while the iron is hot by unloading the kitchen sink for the services of the NBA's top center.

We've seen how Kobe Bryant plays with dominant centers. It usually works out.