If you were Sam Presti, would you trade Kendrick Perkins, James Harden, Eric Maynor and your best available first-round pick for Dwight Howard?
Don’t worry, Thunder fans. It’s a trick question. Dwight Howard’s not going to Oklahoma City.
He’s not going to Memphis for Marc Gasol and O.J. Mayo. Or to Indiana for Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert. Or to the Los Angeles Clippers for Chris Kaman and Eric Gordon.
But Howard is going somewhere, that’s for sure.
In the summer, Howard – who can opt out of his contract and become a free agent after this season, whenever it starts – told NBA.com he had met with Magic owner Rich DeVos and said
there was no way in hell he was staying he wanted to win a championship and “things have to change” if that didn’t happen this year.
Given that the Magic have gone from Finals participants to first-round flameouts in two years, that’s highly unlikely. But just in case all the lockout talk this summer had numbed everyone’s minds, he laid out a few more tea leaves in an interview with Esquire magazine.
“There’s more you can do in a bigger place,” Howard said. “I’m stuck in a tough position because I feel like right now, where I’m at, I’ve done so much. And I just don’t know what else I can do.”
Howard also threw Stan Van Gundy under the bus, saying the coach “yelled a lot” and “sometimes when you have so much negativity, it’s really hard to be positive.”
So to summarize, Howard has done more for Orlando than Mickey Mouse, having oversaturated the godforsaken swamp with his boundless goodwill and positive energy. And he has done this without much help from his teammates and his coach, who should remember that if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. For all those concerned, it might be best if he just moved on to a bigger city where he would be
more wealthy and popular appreciated. Despite all those hardships, he would consider staying – but only if that elephant can fit through the eye of this needle.
Howard also said in the Esquire interview that he wants “to be an icon.” That’s not going to happen in Oklahoma City, or Memphis, or Indiana. For an NBA player, it can only happen in a handful of places, and Orlando isn’t one of them. Just ask Shaq.
Magic GM Otis Smith is over a barrel. He has to blow up his team and trade Howard, or risk losing him in free agency. He also has to keep his fingers tightly crossed that the “Carmelo Rule” that has been discussed in labor negotiations does not become part of the next CBA, or he is resigned to getting zilch for his franchise player.
We’ve come up with a few suggestions for Smith on where he might want to send Howard and get something more than a bag of hammers in return. And yes, we considered Miami, where Chris Bosh would be the centerpiece of the return package. But the Heat don’t have draft picks to trade, and who else would the Magic really want off that roster?
The bottom line is there’s not many options. If you think you have a better one, well, that’s what the comment box is for.
5. Howard to New York for Amar’e Stoudemire, Landry Fields and a first-round pick. Replacing Stoudemire’s face-up game with Howard’s omnipresence on the block would be the ideal way for the Knicks to show the door to Mike D’Antoni and his intransigent approach to defense, wouldn’t it? Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Toney Douglas can drain 3-pointers off the post double-team just as easily as off the pick-and-roll. And Howard’s presence doesn’t make the Garden any less enticing to Chris Paul.
Fields will turn Hedo Turkoglu into the most expensive backup small forward in the league. The Magic would still have a presence in the middle in Stoudemire, who would be super pissed after a season on the high hog in the Big Apple. He is from Orlando, but this homecoming would rival Alex getting out of prison in A Clockwork Orange.
ODDS: 100-1. This is the same deal the Magic have made since reaching the 2009 Finals – acquiring high-priced, big-name talent that doesn’t fit. The Knicks would be better served sitting tight and popping for Paul in free agency.
4. Howard to New Jersey for Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, Anthony Morrow and two first-round picks: This is the sort of package the Magic will receive if they wait too long to deal Howard – one good player, a couple of rotation players and a bunch of unknown future players. Lopez somewhat replaces Howard’s scoring and Humphries – who would have to be a sign-and-trade – somewhat replaces his rebounding. Morrow allows the Magic to let Jason Richardson walk, beginning a necessary salary purge.
Acquiring Howard will help the Nets lock up Deron Williams and move to Brooklyn with two legitimate stars good enough to vault them into the postseason on a regular basis. But they won’t make any more noise than that unless they start filling in around them, and fast.
ODDS: 50-1. The Nets would want to do this much more than the Magic, who would be left with a rotation full of players who don’t command a double-team.
3. Howard to Atlanta for Al Horford, Marvin Williams, Jeff Teague and a first-round pick: This would be a homecoming for Howard, which might be the only reason he would consider spending his prime with the Hawks. He would also be lined up alongside Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford and AAU buddy Josh Smith, who figures to benefit the most from his presence.
The Magic get back a borderline All-Star center in Horford and a potential starting point guard in Teague. Williams would have to sign his qualifying offer to make this deal happen, and Orlando would have a tough decision to make on him next summer. But it’s not a bad return for giving up your cornerstone.
ODDS: 40-1. Horford is a base-year compensation player, and the Hawks might be reluctant to include Teague.
2. Howard and Quentin Richardson to Chicago for Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and a first-round pick: Yes, the Bulls would be giving up a lot, but there’s a price to pay for pairing Howard with MVP Derrick Rose. Just imagine the lob passes. Keep in mind that this doesn’t solve Chicago’s issues at shooting guard unless the deal is expanded to include J.J. Redick, whom the Bulls were chasing as a restricted free agent a year ago.
Noah is a future All-Star and Deng will always be able to score. However, the deal would leave the Magic a bit small across the frontcourt if Hedo Turkoglu is used as a stretch-4.
ODDS: 25-1. This is a solid package for Orlando because there’s no trash with the treasure. But Noah also is a base-year guy, and his rising cap number is a concern for a team with multiple bad contracts.
1. Howard to the Lakers for Andrew Bynum and two first-round picks: This has been the most rumored deal in various incarnations, and it hasn’t happened because Jim Buss doesn’t want to trade Bynum anywhere, for anyone. But with new coach Mike Brown on the sidelines and Kobe Bryant finally starting to show some wear and tear, now is the time.
The Magic can’t do any better than this. They get back the only center who can stay in a discussion with Howard, allowing them the flexibility to continue to play inside-out or entirely rebuild their roster around Bynum, whose health issues are definitely a concern. It also allows them to keep a good coach on the sidelines instead of placating a prima donna.
ODDS: 10-1. Can’t see this deal expanded to include Lamar Odom or Ron Artest, although Matt Barnes could be a throw-in. Mikan, Wilt, Kareem, Shaq, Superman – the tradition continues. Just do it already.
Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. His column appears every Thursday. You can follow him on Twitter.