2012 NBA Off-Season: Where Should Dwight Howard Go?


I know. I’m sick of it too. It’s the most played out story in NBA history by far. Yes, The Decision was short-sighted and self-serving and made an entire nation turn on LeBron James. But for the most part, James did what any free agent does that summer. He met with teams, he spoke with the coaches, talked to players in place and then picked his team. Yeah, the TV special is cringe-worthy even two years later, but it wasn’t James’ fault that it’s all we heard about for weeks. I blame ESPN more than anyone, in fact.

Dwight Howard’s own decision has played out over many more months and wasted more of my life than LeBron’s decision and the funny thing is that it could have all been avoided had he not waived his right to opt-out of his player option with Orlando for the 2012-2013 season. If he had held the course, he would have likely been traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, but if he hadn’t liked it, he could have left them and signed elsewhere. He likely would already be on his new team at this very moment.

But he didn’t do that. Now he’s a sideshow facing a lame duck season with the lame duck team that he’s been trying to leave for the past two seasons. This is going to end badly for at least one side and maybe both.

But does it have to? Where could Howard go that would be a good spot for him and what kind of haul could the Magic get back that could keep them afloat and turn a long rebuilding project into a shorter one that could at least help them remain a playoff team?

I’ve made one change for the purpose of this column. I know that markets and cities play more of a role in today’s NBA, but for the next one thousand words or so, let’s pretend like every team appears on national television roughly the same amount of times and the best players are marketed more than the others, like an NFL-type model. I know it’s an imperfect solution, but a lot of teams don’t want to trade anyone of any sort of value for one season (or less) of Dwight Howard. The Magic want a superstar-type package, extension or not.

You’re starting to see why it’s so hard to get a palatable deal for both sides.

Without further ado, the best trade ideas for the Magic and whoever they decide to deal with.

1.) Orlando trades Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu to Lakers for Andrew Bynum, Metta World Peace and Steve Blake:

This is the one that’s always made the most sense. Howard goes to the most famous basketball franchise ever and the Magic get a guy who’s just about as good as the guy they’re sending out and they get a cheaper option at the small forward position than they previously had (and maybe a more effective one as well.)

The Lakers would also probably send a first-round pick back to the Magic. This one makes so much sense, it should have already been done. If it’s true that Howard doesn’t want to play for the Lakers, I’d be pretty confused. The Lakers have had more great big men than any other team. Look it up. The all-time roster reads like a who’s who of greats: Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, George Mikan, Shaquille O’ Neal. Howard could be the next guy. Maybe he just doesn’t want to play for Kobe. I can’t kill him on that either. Kobe’s pretty demanding and has no qualms with throwing his teammates under the bus, no matter who they are.

Maybe Howard just likes being the big fish in a small pond. He’s been in Orlando his whole career, he has kids there and has just gotten tired of not winning. Some of that could reflect on him, by the way as his offensive game hasn’t really gotten considerably better in his entire career. He has a little more range on his jump shot now and he has a few low-post moves, but he’s not Hakeem Olajuwon or anything. If he played with an elite point guard, it would be a non-issue.

Also, the Lakers need Howard and not just for next year. Sure, they’d like to win Kobe at least one more ring and let him tie Michael Jordan in championships won, but after Kobe retires, they’ll need a guy to build around and sell to their fan base. Rebuilding is a lot easier with an elite talent like Howard on deck and while Bynum has become a great player in his own right, his immaturity and motor have become actual concerns for the Lakers.

You may even be asking yourself if Howard’s “name” is worth giving up all of that talent when they already have a great center on their team. I don’t think so. Why should the Lakers take Orlando’s garbage when they already have an All-Star center on their team? In that sense, the Lakers have the most leverage because they don’t need Howard. They’d like him, and would trade Bynum for him, but outside of that, why let Orlando bully them? They’ve already won championships with Bynum as their starting center and he’s only gotten better.

2.) Bam.

All of the reasons are the same today, but without the Mayo component. This is the rule change for the column is important because Howard would never sign an extension with the Grizzlies, but would make Memphis a championship contender and keep the Magic relevant with a good, young center and a swingman with some upside in Rudy Gay. Gay’s a little overpaid, but he’s better than Turkolgu and the Grizzlies could sweeten the pot with a first-round pick.

3.) The Chicago Bulls trade Joakim Noah, Rip Hamilton and Luol Deng to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu.

The Bulls get their second star to go with Derrick Rose when he returns and while Turkoglu’s contract is terrible, he actually plays pretty well off of Dwight. If Turkoglu got sent anywhere else, he’d be a sunk cost, but would give the Bulls another ball-handler and shot creator, while adding in some much-needing shooting.

Chicago could tread water until Rose comes back in March or April before becoming a legitimately terrifying bottom-three seed in time for the playoffs. Seriously, do you think the Heat or Celtics (two undersized teams to say the least) want to run up against a Howard/Rose partnership? Even if Rose isn’t all the way back from injury, couldn’t Howard, Rose, Boozer and Taj Gibson put a scare into an Eastern contender? What if the Bulls can finish 5th or 6th and draw the Nets, Knicks or Pacers? That has to be a scary proposition for any favorite in the East.

Orlando finally moves on from the Dwightmare by getting two borderline All-Stars in the east. Noah isn’t the force that Howard is on defense, but can hold his own and Deng is a significant upgrade from Turkoglu. Hamilton can be bought out after the year, so he works like an expiring contract.

Noah is no Howard, but with the way centers have been getting paid, he’s an excellent value on his contract and is widely considered the second-best center in the East. This deal would allow the Magic to stay competitive in the short-term and aim for a rebuild after the 2014 season. With Orlando being in Florida and having no state taxes, that makes the Magic an attractive franchise for potential free agents.

Right on cue, it looks like the Magic aim to keep Howard on into the start of the regular season, so get ready for trade rumors on trade rumors until it’s resolved. Of course, if I had my way, Howard would already be a Laker and we’d be talking about the upcoming schedule release special tonight on NBATV.