|Howard and Bynum now look to new futures. (Getty Images)|
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers traded Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard. Yeah, there were two other teams involved, but when this thing really breaks down, it was a straight up swap for the Lakers.
And a pretty good upgrade. Check that. A pretty great upgrade.
Yes, Bynum is a very good player. One of the most physically dominant players in the league. A 24-year-old that is coming off his best season in the league yet.
But let's not pretend he's better than Dwight Howard.
Not only did Mitch Kupchak land the best big man in basketball -- who is only 26, mind you -- but he also didn't have to give up Pau Gasol. Consider that for a second. Pau Gasol might be the fourth best player in the Laker starting five. You're looking at Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Gasol and Howard. Bring back Adam Morrison at small forward. It might not even matter at this point.
The Lakers were absolutely still relevant. Despite their five-game elimination at the hands of the rising Thunder last season, by signing Steve Nash, the Lakers had clearly improved. But now it's another notch, another rung on the ladder. Assuming Nash isn't too old and that Kobe isn't washing up, is there really a better starting five in basketball than this?
Forget Kobe. Forget Gasol. Just think about Steve Nash throwing lobs and running pick-and-rolls with Dwight Howard. That's a contending team in of itself. The Lakers just got real scary. Whether or not Howard re-signs in the future will be a bridge to cross at a later time, and one they aren't worried about. The Lakers live in a world that operates season to season, championship to championship. And right now the focus is on 2012-13 and they should have a team every bit equipped to go for No. 17.
-- Royce Young
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It's probably not a good thing when you trade Dwight Howard and the consensus reaction to your return is, "That's it?"
Here's what the Orlando Magic got in return for all of that headache, all of that back-and-forth, all of that crap that Howard put them through: Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic, Al Harrington, Moe Harkless, three protected first round picks and $20 million in cap space in 2014.
Now I don't deny that Orlando's circumstances should be considered. They were essentially being held hostage by Howard. They were handcuffed by his desire to sign an extension only in specific cities. So they were forced to negotiate with only a half full cupboard. Either it was an unappealing package from the Nets that was going to force you to pay Brook Lopez a max deal for the next four years, a rental package to somewhere like Houston or Golden State that wouldn't include much, or a deal like the one they got that gave them a good player (Afflalo), a young prospect (Harkless), some assets (the three picks) and future flexibility (the $20 million in cap space in 2014). In terms of a checklist, really the Magic hit most of their marks.
Still, you're talking the best big man in basketball. One of the five best players. A true franchise cornerstone, a guy that swings the balance of power in the league no matter where he goes. And while Arron Afflalo is a terrific player and Harkless could be good and having assets stocked up is great, this just isn't anywhere close to enough for Dwight Howard. Think back to the package Masai Ujiri was able to wrestle from the Knicks when put in an exact same situation with Carmelo Anthony. It had everything Orlando got -- picks, flexibility and players -- but was a much better deal and for a lesser player to boot.
Rob Hennigan was put in a corner from day one on the job in Orlando. He had to find a deal for Howard and he had to maximize the return. His hands were tied and he knew it. Pushing the button to deal early was going to likely warrant a better deal. The longer this went, the less Orlando could demand.
(An aside: Why again did the Magic fire Stan Van Gundy? Count that as a loss in this trade as well. They can SVG, one of the best coaches in the game, and don't keep the guy that wanted him out. I don't get it.)
Time will tell for the Magic. They are going to completely tank their way into a high lottery pick next season and look to strike gold in the draft with the next franchise cornerstone. They're going to try and pick up the pieces from the Dwightmare and move on with a young roster and hope to use their assets to draft top tier talent that can be developed. In three years, we might hail this as a massive win for Hennigan and the Magic. Because that's how long it'll be until the Magic will know how they did. They wanted to rebuild, and by not landing Bynum or Gasol, they're going to have their opportunity to.
-- Royce Young
This is getting a little bit nuts. Less than five months after trading Nene to Washington after giving him a $13 million-per-year extension in the offseason, the Nuggets have traded Aaron Afflalo, the other player they granted a sizeable extension to in the offseason.
Essentially, the Nuggets are loading up players with poison contracts in the new CBA, then trading them off and getting quality return on them. This time they land a legitimately great player in Andre Iguodala.
Iguodala isn't a superstar, but he's as close as you can come without getting it outright. He defends at an elite level, passes at an elite level, manages the floor at an elite level, and from time to time, can hit big shots at an elite level. If he were less versatile and more of a scorer, he'd be a star. But he's not, so he stands as the best complimentary player in the league, hands down.
The Nuggets now feature a lineup with more versatility between the 2 and 4 spot than maybe any team in the league. Iguodala joins Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, sophomore Jordan Hamilton, and rookie Evan Fournier on the wings. The Nuggets lose Afflalo and Harrington's versatility and scoring, which is going to be an issue, but points weren't the problem for Denver last year.
Maybe most importantly, they clear a huge amount of cap space off their roster, with the need to re-sign Ty Lawson to an extension coming in the near future. This gives them the ability to comfortably do that.
The only question is, are they going to trade him after that, since that seems to be the pattern?
Either way, this was another smart move for the Nuggets, who take a step forward even if they remain outside of title contention.
-- Matt Moore
Well, so much for that "Spencer Hawes and Kwame Brown will start" idea.
The Sixers have talked so long about trading Iguodala and they finally pulled the trigger, landing a franchise center in the process. There's a lot to be concerned about for Philly. He's an expiring contract. He can be problematic on and off-court. He's got a significant injury risk.
But he's also the second-best center in the league. The Sixers have an offensive force to turn to, their biggest problem last season. Evan Turner gave them the ability to move Iguodala without positional loss. Losing Iguodala is a phenomenal talent out the door, but they get one back in Bynum. They needed to try and take a step forward. They did. Iguodala's skills were covered by Turner and Thaddeus Young.
They saw a chance to take a big shot at a superstar center, which Bynum evolved into last year. It was time to pull the trigger.
We'll see if they can hit their target.
-- Matt Moore