A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Thoughts on the Dwight-pocalypse Part 2: How Dwight Howard playing the “Lakers or bust” card may not prevent a New Jersey trade

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Many people have been looking at the impending Dwight Howard Orlando exodus as a situation that IF (and it’s still an if) Dwight Howard wants to play for the LA Lakers, he can tell the Magic that he won’t agree to an extension with any team except the Lakers – so they better make that Andrew Bynum trade or else nobody will give up value for half a season of his play.

But I believe the deal the Magic are aiming for is the New Jersey (soon to be Brooklyn) Nets offer of Brook Lopez, a few 1sts (Nets 2012 and 2014 1sts, Houston 1st top 14 protected through 2016), and one of Farmer, Petro or Morrow, for Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu. This clears about 30 million total for the team, between the over 20 million in salary cut, approximate 8 million saved between eliminating the luxury tax bill and giving the team the dividend for going under, and 3 mil cash will be sent in the trade – It also clears Hedo Turkoglu’s long term deal and allows them to wait on amnestying Gilbert Arenas and booking themselves for 3 years 64 million guaranteed, until a year from now at which point he may have improved his play and become tradeable

This is an ideal move for the Magic. It gives them a young center and it saves them a ton of money. The Lakers offer of Andrew Bynum gives them a young center, but who is seriously injury prone and an unrestricted free agent in a year and a half – and it saves them virtually nothing financially which is the biggest difference.

Now what people have been saying is that the Nets won’t make this deal if Dwight doesn’t agree to extend there. It’s too much value to give up if he leaves after a year.

But wait a second. Here’s the difference between this and last year’s Carmelo Anthony situation. Anthony wanted to play for the Knicks, and if not traded there, had the option to sign with the Knicks in the following summer. If we assume Dwight Howard’s desired spot is the LA Lakers – the problem is he doesn’t have the leverage to sign there next summer. If they trade him somewhere without an extension, barring the Lakers making move to somehow completley clear out everyone on their payroll except for Bryant next summer (which would involve something like amnestying Pau Gasol, renouncing Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, and somehow finding teams to take Metta World Peace, Luke Walton and Steve Blake off their cap – unlikely to say the least) – he’s not going to the Lakers.

So let’s say Dwight Howard is saying Lakers, Lakers, Lakers and Mikhael Prokerhov and the Nets still make that Brook Lopez and cap savings trade for him. They can do this – Dwight doesn’t have a no trade clause (only Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki do in the league). On the surface it looks like the the Nets would be rolling this dice putting up with the chance of Dwight bolting next summer, but wait… to where?

The Lakers aren’t on the table. Neither are the Chicago Bulls or Oklahoma City Thunder, two plum spots with stars. The Celtics presently have enough 2012 capspace but will likely spend money this summer resigning Jeff Green and picking up an MLE player to help them win now, thus all but taking them out of it. Thus Dwight’s options are basically the LA Clippers and the New York Knicks among high profile, plum spots.

Except the “bolting the Nets for the Clippers” situation is incredibly unlikely because of this. Even ignoring the fact that it’s the Clippers we’re talking about and Mikhael Prokerhov (aka a complete boss) would be going head to head with Donald Sterling (aka a possible racist who heckles his own players and his cheap) – If Dwight prefers the Clippers over the Nets, the Magic would know and would be happy to trade him there instead – because the Clippers could make an even better offer than the Nets. They have Minnesota’s 2012 unprotected first, Eric Bledsoe, Al-Farouq Aminu, Deandre Jordan’s free agent rights as expendable assets while keeping Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon on the team, and the capspace to get Orlando under the tax. If Dwight wants to play for the Clippers as his first option after the Lakers, the Magic would be happy to turn things in that direction.

So that leaves the Knicks. The problem with this is for one, he’d had to take a hefty paycut, somewhere in the vicinity of 25-30 million – and if the team either trades for Chris Paul or simply opts to sign him instead, the Knicks off the table. Then there’s the fact playing with Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and minimum contracts simply isn’t a better enough situation than having Deron Williams and the Nets to make me think that’d he’d pull a move as bizarre as playing for the Nets for a season, likely having a top 4 seed and possible Eastern Conference Finals run – and then bolting his team for a 2nd time. I suppose it’s not impossible, but I just don’t see it. Dwight would be treated well by Prokerhov and co., he’s friends enough with Deron to not just ditch like that after a year, he probably doesn’t want to destroy a 2nd franchise in a year and remake his life again that quickly, etc. Again, the Knicks situation just isn’t enough of a reward compared to the Brooklyn Nets one.

What I expect for Howard is that if the Lakers situation was there straight up next summer, there’s be a massive risk of him wanting to fill that “next Lakers center” role so badly to just take that gig. But since that option isn’t there, the only teams the Nets would really have to worry about snatching him are the Knicks and Clippers and I just don’t see those franchises pulling it off.

Therefore I could see the Nets offering the Brook Lopez, capspace and draft picks offer to the Magic even if Howard is claiming he’s all about the Lakers. The Nets have proven they’re willing to take a risk with an unsigned free agent with Deron Williams, surely they can do it again and bank on the lack of alternatives in 2012 combined with playing a full year with the team, and the ability to offer Howard the most money – will cause him to stay. To me it’s worth it because the other teams available to sign Howard next summer just aren’t scary enough.

And this is all under the assumption that Dwight doesn’t just want to play for the Brooklyn Nets long term as his first choice, which I’m not convinced of at all. Playing with a fellow all-star fits exactly the model of the Miami and New York team-ups. These guys are friends who want to play with each other and feel teaming up in groups of 2 or 3 is the easiest way to win. For me I feel like Dwight Howard isn’t leaving Orlando for the reasons Shaq did, or why Carmelo wanted to play in New York so much (fame and glory). He just feels Orlando doesn’t have the assets for him to seriously contend in the upcoming years, especially if Miami and New York becomes star trio behemoths in the East. This is closer to Kevin Garnett leaving the Wolves than Shaq leaving Orlando to me. The clock is ticking on these guys and they know it. The Brooklyn Nets and a perfect PG fit in Deron is a nice situation for Howard to win a title in the next 5-7 years head to head against the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls. If I had to guess, I’d say Dwight wants to play for the Lakers first and foremost – But if he were traded to the Nets without an extension agreed upon, he’d stay long term and would be happy about it.

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Written by jr.

December 3, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Basketball

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