You were right, dad… Dwight Howard was bound to become a Laker. Not even basketball reasons could prevent the inevitable. Courtesy of Yahoo…
The Lakers will send All-Star center Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers, who also will receive shooting guard Jason Richardson from the Magic. The Sixers will send guard Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets. The Magic will receive Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, rookie swingman Moe Harkless, forward Josh McRoberts, forward Christian Eyenga, a first-round pick from either the Nuggets or the New York Knicks in 2014, a protected first-round pick from the Sixers, a protected first-round pick from the Lakers in 2017, a second-round pick from the Nuggets in 2013 and a conditional second-rounder from the Lakers in 2015. In addition to Howard, the Lakers will also receive Earl Clark and Chris Duhon from the Magic.
The BIG Winners: LA
There were 12 players involved in this deal, but only one Chris Duhon Dwight Howard. The Lakers got him, and at the mere cost of one inferior player who occupied his same position. Often—and pretty unfairly, I might add—criticized for his inability to produce offense (like he hasn’t given his teams 20 PPG on 50+ percent from the floor), Dwight should fit in well with Kobe Bryant and the rest of LA’s offensive weapons, which now include pick-and-roll master Steve Nash as well as the versatile Antawn Jamison. Defensively, Howard is the best player in the league, and his athleticism will compliment the length of his new postmate, Pau Gasol. The starting three is still the Lakers’ glaring weakness, but with an improved bench and the addition of two future Hall Of Famers… as long as Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash can work together and stay healthy then this team has to be the Finals favorite out of the West. While I think it would be ridiculous to consider health and chemistry a given, talent and size alone should take this team beyond a second-round sweep.
The Winners: Denver, Philadelphia
Let’s touch on Philly’s situation first. In 2011/12, Andre Iguodala had his finest season to date. He made the All-Star team and helped the Sixers advance to within 10 points of the Eastern Conference Finals. That’s all well and good, but let’s be real here: Andre Iguodala isn’t an All-Star—he’s a good player that made an All-Star team—and the Sixers weren’t looking at another extended playoff run as they were presently constructed. Are they looking at one now, having brought in Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson? I wouldn’t suggest that the City of Brotherly Love hold its collective breath, but I will admit that they’re in a better position than they were prior to making this deal. Richardson’s contract is terrible, but that’s the type of lemon a team has to swallow in order to swap a 28-year-old swingman for a 24-year-old seven footer. Philadelphia essentially stopped treading water in order to acquire the second-best piece in this deal. Good move.
As for Denver… as much as I’ve applauded Al Harrington for the fantastic bounce-back season he had in 2011/12 (he was a legitimate sixth-man candidate), it’s not making him any younger/less expensive. At 32 years of age, a deal that is now something like three years, $21.5 million isn’t anything for anyone but Al Harrington to write home about. The way he played through multiple injuries to help the Nuggets make a run last spring was very admirable, but again, he’s getting old and he’s getting paid.
Iguodala, on the other hand, has just two years left on his deal (double the annual income, but still). He’s got four years on Harrington, and he’s a similar player to Arron Afflalo, the other highly-paid player Denver gave up. He figures to step right into Afflalo’s defensive role and provide a more dynamic variety of offense.
I will say this: Denver will miss Harrington’s size, skill, and willingness to thrash in the paint against bigger opponents. They’ll also miss the relative simplicity that Afflalo brought to the offense when Iguodala has one of those nights where he over-dribbles his way into five turnovers and a couple of air balls (gonna be weird watching a Sixers game without the patented Iggy air ball).
Still, I think it’s a good move for Denver. It makes sense financially, and it’s not like Iguodala can’t be of use.
The Losers: Orlando
Upon learning that this deal had been finalized, my initial reaction was as follows: How the hell do you trade Dwight Howard and the best piece you yield is Arron Afflalo?
Notice that I said piece, not player. I’ve worded it like this because the Magic got no draft picks to speak of, nor did they receive a massive expiring contract. Nope… they settled for Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, four assorted forwards, and a bunch of crappy, restricted picks from playoff teams.
To trade a player of Dwight Howard’s caliber is to accept getting worse. Sometimes you’ve got to take a step backwards in order to move forward. That’s how the business of NBA basketball (and life in general) works. How, though, does this trade put Orlando in position to take the step forward? This simply makes them a bad team with little hope in anything but a swing of luck in the lottery… and the lottery isn’t a basket where you want to put every single one of your eggs (having selected Shaq and Howard, the Magic are due for a Kwame or Oden).
From a fan’s standpoint: This only makes the class of the NBA even stronger, which is pretty crazy when you already had guys like LeBron & Wade, Pierce & KG, and Durant & Westbrook paired up. I kinda liked it when it was LeBron & Mo Williams, Dwight & Rashard, Dwyane Wade &… Dwyane Wade, but the level of competition that these so-called “super teams” have led to is undeniably interesting.
When it’s all said and done and folks are comparing LeBron James to the next big thing, it’ll be awfully tough for people to argue that this was a “weak era,” that’s for damn sure.