Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard

Orlando Magic fans don’t want to hear this right now and I’m sure they don’t want to talk about it, but Dwight Howard probably will not sign a contract extension with Orlando. He’s given the Magic seven seasons to build a contending roster around him and the payoff has been one Finals appearance and one Eastern Conference Finals appearance. After this season’s first round exit, it’s evident that the Magic are getting further away from a championship and with $30 million tied up in the terrible contracts of Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu, they lack the salary cap flexibility to substantially improve their roster.

It’s an unusual situation when you label the General Manager of a team that has won at least 52 games for four straight seasons one of the worst at his job in the business, but that’s how I feel about Magic GM Otis Smith. It’s difficult for me to even determine who should be considered the second-best player on that team. Is it Jameer Nelson? Ryan Anderson finished with the second-highest Player Efficiency Rating (PER) on the team so maybe it’s him. Either way, Dwight’s had to carry that team on his broad shoulders and it’s a safe bet that he’s tired of doing it without a realistic shot at a championship.

Orlando fans like to point out that Dwight Howard has said he loves Orlando, but he’s also repeatedly stated he wants to win a championship and the latter statement is probably more important than the former. Playing with a legitimate superstar wing like Kobe Bryant must seem awfully appealing to Howard right now. Meanwhile, Magic fans justifiably gnash their teeth at the prospect of losing another Hall of Fame center to the Lakers.

Here’s the thing, though — the Lakers might be the best option out of the handful of trading partners where Howard would agree to sign an extension. While you can call Otis Smith’s competence into question (and I do, repeatedly), everyone has to acknowledge that he’s not afraid to make a bold move. If he’s realistic about his team’s chances of competing next season and convincing Howard to re-sign, this is the offer he should make to Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak before the season: Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu for Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

The beauty of this trade from the Magic’s perspective is that they can potentially get two top-five players (when healthy) at their frontcourt positions while also shedding Hedo Turkoglu’s contract and baggage. Why would the Lakers agree to this? They might not, but if there was ever a time that Kupchak might be willing to part with Bynum and Gasol in order to pair Dwight with Kobe Bryant, it has to be now after the Lakers’ embarrassing four-game sweep. Lakers fans are in a blood frenzy to get rid of Gasol after his lackluster 2011 post-season performance, and Bynum has significant recurring health issues and will probably be suspended for at least the first 10 games of the 2011-12 season because of his vicious elbow to J.J. Barea late in Sunday’s season-sender.

I figure if Smith bides his time and waits until the trade deadline, the Lakers will know they have the upper hand and they’ll remember that Gasol and Bynum are both among the best at their positions. That February offer from the Lakers — if it comes at all — probably won’t be much better than Bynum plus a handful of draft picks.

The key figure in this scenario — besides Howard, of course — is Kobe Bryant, who is consumed by a hunger to win two more championships so he can retire with the knowledge that he won one more than Michael Jordan. Whether or not this trade would increase his likelihood of achieving that is open for debate, but I think we can all agree that he doesn’t want to enter next season with the same group of teammates that just rolled over against the Mavericks. Dropping Howard and his post presence, his 20-plus points and 14 or so rebounds into the lineup would have to be very uplifting for Kobe — especially when  he considers what this does for the Lakers’ chances of snagging Chris Paul in the 2012 free agent market.

Hedo Turkoglu obviously doesn’t add sex appeal to this offer from the Lakers’ perspective, but while I’m very much not a fan of his game, I actually believe he might not be half-bad as a Laker reserve who can play a distributor’s role while he’s on the floor. Say what you will about his various flaws, he’s proven he can ensure that Kobe, Dwight and Odom will all get their touches.

From a strict perspective of keeping the Magic competitive while  helping them down the road to escaping from salary cap hell, this is almost certainly the best return package for Howard that Otis Smith could possibly arrange. If you’d rather get less (or possibly nothing) in return just to try to keep Dwight from becoming a Laker, you’re letting your emotions get in the way of common sense.

Meanwhile, if you’re a Lakers fan who doesn’t think your team needs to give up their two top big men and take on Turkoglu’s contract in order to get Howard, my response to you is this: If you have the chance to pair Dwight with Kobe at the beginning of the season and make your team the prohibitive favorite to secure home court advantage in the Western Conference, you’d better do it.

We don’t know when it will take place or the specific players that will be involved, but all signs point to Howard ending up in Lakers gold and purple one way or another. It’s depressing to many and exciting to some, but it’s the reality of our current NBA marketplace. Remember, a lot of people talked themselves into believing that LeBron James and Chris Bosh would re-sign with their original teams and look how that turned out. The Nuggets and Jazz were more realistic about the situation with their disgruntled superstars and they each got a nice package of players in return because they were proactive.

I understand that this kind of talk angers Magic fans who want to believe that their team won’t hand over the league’s best center to the Lakers for a second time. But a couple of expressions come to mind in response to that: Pride goeth before a fall, and fortune favors the bold. This is certainly a bitter pill to swallow, but the medicine will keep the Magic roster from getting sick like the Raptors and Cavaliers currently are. Let’s see if Smith can prove me wrong about his GM abilities, for the resolution to the Dwight Howard dilemma is by far the biggest test of his career.

Comments (41)

  1. I love how you think, sir. I couldn’t see them giving up both Gasol and Bynum, but perhaps (I never thought D-Will would go for what he did). Dwight has been my guy since the high school ranks but the supporting cast in Orlando is horrendous. I wouldn’t mind seeing this deal at all (my deal has Lamar + Artest/Walton instead of Gasol with Turk and Q-Rich coming back. Anyone else have ideas?

  2. I can not make a proposed deal that would be free of bias as a Lakers fan. I only want Hedo on the Lakers if in his contract it stipulates that he has to perform his ShakeWeight dance during every halftime at Staples.

  3. I fail to see how this puts the Magic in any better financial stability. They still have Arenas on the books, an overrated and oft-injured Bynum, and Gasol who as we’ve seen has a shot at declining after this year, not to mention was never a guy to lead a team anywhere by himself.

    Not to mention LA can offer no young prospects unless you want to include Brown, and no high draft picks the Magic would surely want back in this doomsday scenario.

    As a Magic fan I can say the horrible trades people are throwing out there, and the constant LA talk is what is frustrating. I can live with Dwight leaving, this nonsense in between now and then is what is aggravating.

  4. To add, Otis will NOT deal Dwight to LA. That would not only secure his departure, but fans would tear the Amway Center down having another franchise center go to LA. It just won’t happen.

  5. As a Magic fan as well, I can’t bare the thought of going through what the Nuggets did with Carmelo or the Bosh/Lebron (not to that degree) situation(s). You’d rather let Dwight walk then get back an extremely versatile wing (Odom) and a good (when healthy), young center? Add in Brown and a late first rounder or two? I’d rather trade our entire roster, picks and future for Chris Paul and take on Emeka’s contract, but that’s just me.

  6. Now give me a deal something along the lines of LA/Batum/Miller & Camby (expiring and serviceable), Rudy maybe, and a bunch of picks for Dwight and Arenas and/or Hedo and baby, you got a stew going.

  7. The big reason that the Lakers aren’t in a great place to get Dwight is the lack of young prospects. Bynum, their only real young prospect, consistently misses 1/3 of the season. Pau is 30. Pau is the kind of guy you want if you’re a piece away, not if you’re rebuilding. Probably 20 teams could offer a more appealing combination of players.

  8. I’ve got Bynum/Odom going to Orlando for Howard/Reddick. I think that’s as good a deal as Orlando is going to see, and ensure that they stay a solid playoff team at least.

    OR, make it Bynum/Artest/Brown for Howard/Reddick, move Kobe to the 3 and have Lamar Odom play the point. You trot out Odom/Reddick/Kobe/Gasol/Howard. Not bad.

  9. As a Magic fan I can live with trading Dwight Howard.

    The notion that we HAVE to trade him to the Lakers is what bothers the hell out of me.

    If Dwight really hands us a list that says the Lakers are the only team he’s interested in signing with an extension with I would rather have Otis (or wishfully thinking his replacement) tell him to kiss his ass and walk after his contract is up.

    Bynum is a great player when he’s healthy, but he’s never healthy. That contract could look like a Hedo albatross when the next eventual knee injury happens to him. If that’s the centerpiece of a trade then count this Magic fan out.

  10. Jareth: In my final TBJ player rankings before the playoffs, I ranked Pau second in the league among PFs and Bynum as second among Cs. Pau had a rough series against the Mavs but he’s still played in the All-Star Game in each of the last three seasons and was at least as much of the reason the Lakers won it all last year as Kobe. As for Bynum, if you make him a second option like he would be in Orlando, he can give you 15/10/2 per game when he’s healthy. He’s a risk, but he’s also just 23 years old and he has upside.

    I honestly believe that’s the best package the Magic could get from any team where Dwight would be willing to sign an extension. The Knicks, Heat, Thunder, Mavs, Bulls or Celtics won’t be able to make a better offer, and if Dwight wants to win a championship, those are probably the only teams he would be willing to consider staying with long-term.

  11. “We don’t know when it will take place or the specific players that will be involved, but all signs point to Howard ending up in Lakers gold and purple one way or another.”

    These are the kind of one liners that columnists think they can use to prove a point without anyone noticing that it holds no ground whatsoever. All signs, really? Give me ONE sign that has been proven and validated that points to Howard wanting to be in LA. Howard has never said any such thing. All we have is rumors, and they have been started by people like you Scott Carefoot. I myself like facts, of which your article is short on.

  12. You think Dwight’s gonna sign an extension with a Portland team that’s left with just Brandon Roy after you gut it to trade for him? Good luck with that. Scott’s right, Dwight’s only going to go to those few places and unless the Knicks want to wait and try to sign him (they’d still have bad guard play) or the Heat can get him for Bosh and the rest of the roster besides Wade/James, Dwight isn’t going to sign an extension anywhere except LA or stay in Orlando if they can pull off a miracle and get another star (preferably a PG).

  13. Mr. Logical: Put yourself in Dwight’s shoes. If you want to win a championship, wouldn’t you want to join Kobe on the Lakers? It doesn’t matter what Dwight says, all that matters is that he signs on the line which is dotted — something he is refusing to do in Orlando.

    The Lakers are the most logical destination for him because they have the trade pieces to get it done and he’s almost certainly love to play there. Of course it’s a speculative post, but it’s not wishful thinking on my part, it’s just the outcome that seems most likely given the circumstances at hand.

  14. I think you fail to realize the Magic have absolutely no obligation to trade Dwight where he wants to go.

  15. Scott, why would Dwight sign a contract now? Of course from a business standpoint it makes sense to wait and see what else Orlando will do to improve their roster. Just because he hasn’t signed DOESN’T automatically mean he WON’T sign.

  16. Jareth, you’ve got a point in that statement. Otis has absolutely no obligation to trade Dwight, and whatever he does (involving Dwight leaving town) is going to result in the entire fan base being outraged and him being outed. The only chance he really has left is to pull the miracle and bring in some real help. He’s done a terrible job of doing just that so far.

  17. Jareth: I don’t fail to realize that at all. But I do realize that Dwight probably won’t get traded to a team where an extension isn’t agreed upon ahead of time, which really narrows down their options. Also, the Magic don’t realistically have the ability to turn their team into a contender by next season because they simply don’t have the cap flexibility or the trading pieces that other teams want. They’re stuck, and if Dwight’s a smart guy he’ll figure it out for himself.

    If Dwight does re-sign with the Magic, I’ll write a follow-up post pointing out how wrong I was, that Dwight’s a great guy, etc. I’ll also point out that if he thinks that Magic team is anywhere close to contending in the East, he’s delusional.

  18. Eh, I agree that it looks grim right now, but I’ve seen crazier things happen in the NBA. Nelson is a decent chip, we can S&T J-Rich, we have Redick, Ryan, and Bass as trade chips. Orton has potential as a throw in as a promising young big. Hell, you might even be able to flip Turk for another bad contract that fits a need.

    It’s possible.

    And the biggest thing we’re all forgetting is the inclusion of a franchise tag in the new CBA. All this talks goes away if that happens. It’s a big if, but still could happen.

    Or the chance you can get rid of 1 bad contract in the new CBA. You get rid of Arenas, and that also opens up a whole new ball game.

  19. Scott I just think there are too many unknowns right now to say it’s inevitable he ends up on LA.

    Lets say Prokhorov manages to get another great perimeter player alongside D-Will, is Dwight really going to turn that down? You wouldn’t think about a team like the Nets, or another team that is just a good player away from being attractive at this stage of the game.

    Theres so much LA is a lock chatter that it gets annoying quick to Magic fans.

    Did anybody think the Heat would the way they do right now a year ago? Was it some kind of foregone conclusion that Wade – Lebron – Bosh would take their talents to south beach? It wasn’t. The point is nobody really knows what moves will happen or won’t happen especially with the labor situation as it is.

    And really if I was Dwight why would I want to play for the Lakers? You honestly have no idea how many years left Kobe has, I know I wouldn’t sign for 5 years because I don’t think there’s a chance Kobe is either around that long or still playing at a Kobe level. The other team in LA might be more attractive long term, except for the fact their owner is still Sterling.

  20. Scott–

    Again, the Magic don’t have to do anything. Can we all agree that Dwight isn’t leaving the Magic for Charlotte or Minnesota etc.. (no offense to those fans)? Where can Dwight on his own without having the Magic AGREE to trading him? He can’t go to the Lakers, Bulls, Heat or Knicks. Basically, this leaves him with Boston and NJ/Brooklyn.

    I have a hard time believing he goes to Boston, considering the things that fanbase has said to him over the years. Brooklyn concerns me. Regardless- there’s no reason for the Magic to trade Dwight to the Lakers.

    I do agree with you that Bynum and Gasol for Turk and Howard is the best trade on paper in terms of talent, but it’d be worse long-term. I’d rather have Noah and Deng’s soon to be expiring contract and begin to rebuild that way.

    Better yet, I’ll lock Gilbert and Turkoglu in a cage this summer that is a treadmill, forcing them to get in shape.

  21. Three year contract tops if he goes to LA, anything else is stupid of him. If I’m Dwight Howard I do everything in my power to play with Chris Paul. Find a rich guy, start a new NBA team when your contracts are both up. Find a bunch of white guys to fill out the roster and go to town.

  22. I hope dwight goes to miami in exchange for bosh.

    That would be retardedly awesome.

  23. And completely retarded for the Magic.

    No better way to obliterate your entire franchise than to hand off Howard to the other team in Florida for Chris Bosh.

    Howard for Lebron would be more retardedly awesome.

  24. Lose after 3 years of Finals appearances = time to blow up the team

  25. I’m sure Dwight would love to play with superstar Kobe. Too bad there is no way for the Lakers to include a time machine in a trade because by Kobe is on the wrong side of awesome and that slope just gets slipperier and slipperier.

    Say, who is going to be coaching those mythical lakers? Maybe someone in the first year as head coach?

    Yup. Total NBA championship lock you got out there.

  26. Fuck that. The last thing in the world I want as a Magic fan is a shitty roster filled with thugs and the injured.

    If the Magic are going to lose Dwight, blow the whole thing up. Don’t fuck around with deadbeats like Gasol and assholes like Bynum. Trade anyone with value for expiring contracts, gut the roster, absolutely suck balls for two seasons, get top draft picks, and build it all again. This time without overpaying mediocre veterans and signing crap, lazy players to long term deals.

    There is no Magic future after Dwight. He *is* the Orlando Magic. If he goes, rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic is futile and will just lead to five years of zombie Bobcats – mediocre teams getting into the playoffs, or just missing, and getting no help in the draft and having to overpay mediocre guys just to keep challenging for the 8th spot in the East.

    Howard goes, bite the bullet. Be awful. Build a new team.

    And Otis Smith isn’t the right guy to do that, which is why he needs to be fired. Now.

  27. I think Bynum/Odom for Dwight/Orton is more realistic. I doubt ORL wants to commit to much money w/ a Bynum/Pau combo
    @kingkong: you idiot we got smashed by DAL, we need a major shakeup. if/when we face them again, we may get smashed even more w/ a healthy Caron/Beaubois, Mavs depth chart is fucking endless
    @drewski: Pau multiple all-star, Bynum closest Dwight replacement -_-

  28. Question: If Gasol and Bynum each received approximately one pass a month fom K. Bryant, why would Howard be so happy about playing with him in LA?

    Isn’t it common knowledge that all his teammates hate playing with Bryant? The guy’s a trigger happy tyrant who never runs the offense, who continually throws his teammates under the bus, who ran a still-in-his-prime Shaquille O’Neal out of town… yet Bryant can do no wrong in the eyes of the LA fans and the LA media.

    If Howard is smart, he’ll figure out a way to play with a younger guard, and not the rapidly declining K. Bryant.

  29. Drewski, as another Magic fan, what you say makes more sense than anything anybody else here has to say. I was nodding my head vigorously while reading your post.

  30. Lakers should offer PAU and RON for DWIGHT and HEDO, solves Hedo’s contract for Otis, and Magic get a solid second player…. 5 Bynum, 4 Howard, 3Hedo, 2 Kobe, 1 Fish… and still have LAMAR as 6th man … Kareem can teach DH some offensive moves… LAKERS would like to have 3 BIGS, I have lunch with Dr. Buss on the REG……..

  31. Hedo and Howard to Lakers for Bynum, Ron and one or two more players. It would also be great if Lakers have a younger guard instead of old Fisher. My Lakers line up:
    1-younger pg instead of Fisher ( It would be nice if they got D-Will)
    2-Kobe
    3-Hedo
    4-Pau
    5-Howard

  32. @ Crash – Pau Gasol turns 31 before the start of the next NBA season. He is not a player a rebuilding team should go anywhere near. Bynum’s an immature git, a thug and incredibly injury prone. He is not a player I want a team built around. And the Lakers don’t have any other decent assets (Odom is about to turn 32 and everyone else they have is rubbish).

    Trading Dwight to the Lakers would be an incredibly stupid move for Orlando. They have no good draft picks, no good young talent, no cheap contracts and their best assets are talented but morons (Bynum) or old and overpaid (Gasol and Odom).

    If Howard wants to play with Kobe, maybe he should talk the Lakers into trading Bryant to the Nets. Because that’s the only way it should ever happen.

  33. Scott, did you know that the Magic have been to the ECF not once, but twice? First in 2009 against the Cavs, and then second in 2010 against the Celtics.

  34. Bynum may be the second best center in the league when he’s the #3 option, but it’s an ENORMOUS drop off from D12. Plus, Bynum won’t be anywhere near as effective as a #1 or 2 option, and if you add in his health and attitude issues he becomes even more of a losing proposition. Lakers fans need to stop assuming that everyone wants to make lopsided trades – there’s no way Bynum *should* be the centerpiece of a Howard deal. There’s no getting fair value back for Dwight in almost any trade situation, but to pretend the Magic are getting a good deal with a Bynum trade is laughable.

    However, if there’s no franchise tag, the Magic may not have a choice. A good option would be to get three or four teams involved, so that they can blow it up and get draft picks from two or three teams, not just crappy Laker picks. Here’s my scenario:

    Howard to Thunder
    Ibaka, Aldrich to Magic (and whatever picks you can get)
    Perk and Harden to Timberwolves
    Beasley and all picks to Magic

    IMO all teams win here, but I think the Thunder say no to this first (trading away 3 starters after a deep run and could you imagine Russ having to share it with two superstars?). But I’m just throwing it out there as an example of the many, many options that are out there. It’s far from inevitable , Lakers fans!

  35. Sorry for the long/double post, but I need to correct myself – Jonny Flynn or some other Twolves contract needs to be thrown to the Magic to get that to work… Work out will if they get Irving in the draft.

  36. [...] this season with questions of his departure lingering over the Magic until he’s either traded or he opts out of his contract next July. Maybe he re-signs with the Magic — he does [...]

  37. I believe its many factors leading up to Dwights departure. Dwight has stayed the course while the Magic did their best to put pieces around Dwight to win a championship and they came as close as they ever will with Dwight. So unlike Lebron, the Magic and Dwight have a chance to part ways in a very professional manner. The Magic have no room for upgrades and the Heat, Bulls, Hawks will be rock solid for years. The Knicks will be a power house for years to come. So from a competition stand point staying in Orlando will lower your percentage of winning a championship for the next 3-5 years. The money is not an issue he will get paid anywhere he goes. The Lakers are a perfect fit for Dwight and upon his arrival Kobe will be waiting with open arms. Kobe will add that championship mindset and Dwight will add years to Kobe’s career by taking the load off him along with some good role players. The west is also declining and now its younger teams that are becoming better, but none as good as what he will see in the East if he stays in Orlando.

  38. jesusface: I wrote “one Finals appearance and one Eastern Conference Finals appearance.” Obviously, they didn’t get to the Finals in ’09 without winning the Conference Finals. I probably should have phrased that sentence better but I’m sick and I’ve been swigging cough syrup w/codeine so my brain’s a little fuzzy.

  39. 1. Reached peak in Orlando with loss to Lakers in Championship 2. Orlando’s been on the decline since 3. Orlando’s cap not allowing any upgrades for at least 2years 4. Rising talent in the East(Heat,Bulls,Hawks, Knicks) 5.Championship admiration 6. West is declining and becoming younger and more up for grabs 7. Lakers have the talent to make this deal go smooth to where both sides will be happy(look at Denver and the Knicks)

    8. I believe the big Deal will be Dwight+Arenas+Bass for Bynum+Gasol+Blake… This gives the Lakers a much needed upgrade at the pg position and bass to back up Odom which is a great asset at PF especially since they are trying to more athletic. Dwight, Odom, Kobe, Shannon Brown and Gilbert Arenas at pg position. Artest as the sixth man with Fisher, Barnes, Bass coming off the bench and the lakers would need another big for rotation purposes. Bynum,Gasol,Hedo,????, and Jameer Nelson at the pg position. Chris duhon or steve blake, jj redick, qrich and anderson off the bench. Anderson could spell bynum or gasol all year at the pf and the magic would not lose a step.

  40. Scott, I’m a little late to the party (and honestly haven’t read through all the comments) but I’d like for you to answer this question: If the Magic straight out refuse to trade Dwight (we all know they can get “good” packages in return for him – but they will never get equal value) which team do you think he would realistically consider signing with as a free agent?

    As you said in your post, Dwight wants to win. But unfortunately, there aren’t many “contenders” out there that would have the money to sing him out right… Do you think the Lakers would still have the upper hand in that scenario?

  41. The Brooklyn Nets and the Clippers are just about Howard’s only realistic FA destinations unless he wants to play for a small market club (in which case why leave Orlando?) or with the Celtics (whom he seems to genuinely dislike).

    I can’t see him playing for Don S. so that really just leaves the Nets. But there’s a whole season of horse trading the CBA junk to get through, who knows who’ll have cap space in a year’s time.

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