To hear it from Lakers fans in October, LeBron James and the Miami Heat should have taken the season off.
“Hey bro! We got Kobe. We got Dwight. We got Nash. We got Gasol. No one can beat us now. Let’s see LeBron try.“
Funny story: James and the Heat ran through the Lakers
like I ran through my friend Brian’s two sisters at his wedding last spring this season. The first game resulted in the Heat winning by nine in Los Angeles. The second game was more like an HBO prison drama: “You gon’ take this score, pretty L.A. boys.”–to the tune of ten points. That’s “10”, as in a pretty big one, and an extremely tight and unwilling number zero. The soap was extra slippery.
Yet Dwight Howard is going to leave Los Angeles after this season. Why? Let’s ask Amar’e Stoudemire’s knees why Howard might want to leave a “7-seconds-or-less” offense…
[alert_green] Bro Jackson: Hey Amar’e Stoudemire’s Knees, how are you doing right now?[/alert_green]
[alert_yellow] A.S. Knees: Fuck you.[/alert_yellow]
[alert_green] Bro Jackson: C’mon Knees. It can’t be that bad.[/alert_green]
[alert_yellow] A.S. Knees: Fuck you, and Mike D’Antoni too.[/alert_yellow]
Well, I guess it’s settled then. Mike D’Antoni’s offense is poorly suited for big men, because running up and down the floor is absolute hell on knees, ankles, and every other part of a 300-pound body. The moment D’Antoni was hired, Howard and his agent knew it was time to leave. Nothing can shorten a big man’s career seven years like D’Antoni’s offense.
So, that leaves just one question: Where is Dwight Howard going?
If Ken Berger’s most recent column has any validity, Howard may soon be playing alongside Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Using the NBA’s trade machine, this trade is doable, but it means the Celtics would be parting with either Brandon Bass or Jeff Green.
In this situation, the Lakers realize this season is over (because it is), and attempt to get some value back for Howard. In return, the Celtics give the Lakers a future outside of Kobe Bryant. Rondo is under contract for another three years, and Green has another four.
Green and Rondo are both 26 years-old, and would give the Lakers an injection of youth that they sorely need. Rondo won’t be returning for a while, but this trade has nothing to do with the 2012-13 season for the Lakers. By pulling the trigger on this trade, they admit defeat. (Then, Kobe Bryant does something interesting on Twitter!)
If Howard lands in Boston, Garnett moves to power forward. With Howard and Garnett acting as the primary threats down low, Pierce becomes a facilitator, and a combination of Terry/Bradley/Barbosa in and out at guard for corner threes. With this massive lineup, Boston could slow down Miami’s offense, and present too much length to guard.
[alert_red] Odds this trade happens: 10:1 – I mean, it’s the Lakers and Celtics. C’mon.[/alert_red]
Howard is from Atlanta, and he speaks fondly of the city he’s from. While we’re on the subject of trading damaged goods, two trades can happen here, and both involve Josh Smith. Howard has a $19-million cap number to beat, and that means a package of Smith + Lou Williams, or Smith + Kyle Korver. If the Lakers are willing to take on an injured Rondo, then they should be willing to take on an injured Williams Korver is a better player than his numbers reflect, but not much better.
With the Howard for Williams + Smith trade, the Hawks land an expiring contract, and get a short experiment that pairs Horford and Howard. Secondly, the Hawks are playoff bound, and with Jeff Teague feeding the combination of Horford and Howard, they might actually be able to compete against Miami. Howard and Horford can stop LeBron and Bosh on the inside, forcing them to take lower percentage shots from outside.
The Lakers would get a chance to show Smith the upsides of playing in Los Angeles, and when Gasol returns next year, the pairing of Gasol with Smith down low could be strong with Kobe and Nash facilitating. The only real question is how realistic Smith will be when it comes to talking about money.
[alert_red] Odds this trade happens: 2:1 – This is actually possible, and if Lou Williams is in the deal, it’s actually highly probable.[/alert_red]
The possibility of Howard landing in Brooklyn is interesting, mostly because Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Howard sounds deadly. To make this happen, the Nets would need to give up Brook Lopez, except that he’s the best player on their team. Lopez has a 24.9 PER, and is only 24 years-old. He is owed almost $6 million less per season than Howard, and is statistically better within his offensive system. In order to make this trade work, Los Angeles and Brooklyn would need to swap Gerald “Crash” Wallace for Metta World Peace.
In just a few moments, the Nets could go from young and promising, to old and not-at-all promising. And if Howard later bolts in free agency, the Nets would be left with their pants down, and only Metta World Peace to show for it. The Lakers would be in great position for the future, with Lopez still under contract at 27 for Kobe’s retirement.
[alert_red] Odds this trade happens: THERE IS NO FUCKING WAY THIS HAPPENS.[/alert_red]
This is what I like to call a “middle finger” trade. The Lakers could actually help themselves by moving Howard to the Bobcats, and grab four expiring contracts, plus Ramon Sessions on a rental for 2013-2014. Next year, when Gasol is healthy, that would give the Lakers a Nash, Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, and Gasol lineup. In theory, they could run D’Antoni’s offense.
What does Charlotte get from this? No one really fucking knows. In theory, this lineup wouldn’t totally suck. Ben Gordon is efficient, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is getting better. Kemba Walker is a botched abortion at point guard, and Bismack Biyombo is an interesting long-term project. Pairing them with Howard would yield an interesting lineup, especially since all the players involved are still young. If Michael Jordan can sell Howard on the idea of an extension, this could be the trade that rescues Charlotte from futility.
[alert_red] Odds this trade happens: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! OMFG! HAHAHAHA![/alert_red]
I never thought I’d say this after Stephon Marbury and Garnett left Minnesota, but the Wolves could be contenders. Kevin Love is stuck in futility, and he knows it. Despite having talented players around him, Minnesota needs to be a Ricky Rubio distribution system. Love plays an exterior game, with some light interior work. The offense isn’t designed for Rubio and Love to occupy the same perimeter space.
Follow me for a moment into fantasy land…
[alert_blue] Rubio brings the ball down the court, and shoots a quick pass to Chase Budinger on the wing. Budinger pump fakes, drives in, but is met by a defender. He passes the ball to Andrei Kirilenko, who quickly swings a pass to Howard charging towards the basket. SLAM! The crowd goes wild.[/alert_blue]
Meanwhile, by trading for Howard for Love and Nikola Pekovic the Lakers would be slower, and better designed for their aging roster. Pekovic would occupy the middle, allowing Love and Gasol to be the long, perimeter players they were designed to be. Kobe picks up shot-making, and Nash distributes to three players who can spread out any defense.
The worst case scenario for the Wolves is shedding salary, and pairing Rubio with Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith in free agency. (This also assumes the Brandon Roy contract is granted amnesty.)
[alert_red] Odds this trade happens: 4:1 – The Lakers need to get wise, and quickly. Howard isn’t staying, and they might be able to work a desperate team like Minnesota.[/alert_red]
Dwight Howard and Josh Smith swap expiring contracts to test warmer waters. Smith realizes Los Angeles is a dumpster fire, and bails before landing somewhere cold and miserable during free agency. Smith never contends for a title in his career, but that doesn’t matter to him, because he’s God’s gift to the 19-foot jump shot.
Howard re-signs in Atlanta during free agency and spends the next four years with Al Horford. LeBron James sits out a season with an ACL injury at some point, and Howard earns his only ring during what will later be referred to as “The Season That Didn’t Count,” during LeBron’s eighth title run.