It was just a question of time, I guess. Dwight Howard showing up in LA started all the rumors, but eventually, the became true. A four team trade also involving the Denver Nuggets and the Philadelphia 76ers finally moved the best center in the NBA from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Good deal? For three of the four teams, yes. For the Magic? Not so much, but it was pretty much the only offer on the table. They decided they’d rather take somewhat of a poison pill and get rid of a player that caused destruction during the final months of his tenure, leading to the sacking of the head coach and the general manager, even if it’s not at face value.
The Lakers got Dwight Howard and his one year contract worth just under $20 million, feeling fully confident that one year with them will convince the 6-time NBA all-star to re-sign with them, something he wasn’t willing to give a guarantee about to anyone.
The Philadelphia 76ers got Andrew Bynum from the Lakers and the unwanted Jason Richardson from the Orlando Magic.
The Denver Nuggets got Andre Iguodala from the 76ers, while the Orlando Magic got Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic and a first round draft pick from each of the teams. Where does that put them? Without too much cap space, and without a great draft pick in the future except for their own. Orlando won’t be seeing too many wins next season.
The big juggernauts coming out of this one are obviously the Lakers. While Kobe Bryant is playing in London, he had his wishes come true. First Steve Nash as the kind of point guard Bryant has been waiting to have alongside him for a long time, and Dwight Howard, the best Center in the league most of the time, while managing to hang on to Pau Gasol while giving up on Andrew Bynum. They may have lost a bit of offensive versatility with Bynum, but Howard is going to put up the same kind of numbers without the silky post moves, and is obviously a much better defender.
Bigger question – Are the Lakers THE team to beat in the West right now? Might be. The Oklahoma City Thunder were supposed to be the face and team under that title, but the Lakers now have a starting 5 that includes Nash, Bryant, Gasol and Howard. Metta World Peace might even get a motivation bolt right into his fractured soul and forget about last season. There’s no real bench to be impressed about, but the super-team trend, which is always what the Lakers aspire towards, might be good enough.
It’ll take some adjustment, because Howard is a pass in – pass outside kind of guy, and the Lakers work differently. Nash loves to slice and pick n’ roll, while Bryant is Bryant. Gasol is going to have to start playing further from the basket on offense and be more of a pivot and passer, even more than before. He can play the part, but sometimes pieces just don’t fit in together.
The Lakers, once again, made a successful move towards the present by getting more than they gave away. Building through the draft was never a plan for a team that has missed the playoffs only twice in the last 35 years. By giving away the second best center in the NBA and getting the best one, who might also be the best and greatest defensive presence in the league, Kobe Bryant got the championship contender he wanted so badly. That sixth ring doesn’t look like such a delusional thought all of a sudden.