That’s if general manager Mitch Kupchak can swing a deal for Dwight Howard, marking the second major deal of the offseason for the Lakers, who also acquired Steve Nash in a sign-and-trade with the Suns.
Any deal for Howard would most certainly involve Andrew Bynum, and in reality, a Howard-for-Bynum swap makes too much sense. It not only serves as an Advil for the Lakers’ and Magic’s respective headaches, but it instantly sends each team sailing down the right path.
Howard has been a problem in Orlando for some time now. It only takes flipping through the channels on any given morning to realize that. (Or perhaps a conversation with the recently fired Stan Van Gundy.) So while Howard’s future couldn’t be any more up in the air right now, it’d be shocking if he’s back in Orlando for another game, never mind another entire season.
The Magic could realistically grin and bear it until mid season to see if they’re able to obtain more in exchange for the six-time All-Star, or they could even try again to convince him to stay long term. But that would require even more patience than they’ve already exhibited, so at this point, it looks like the relationship has soured to the point of no return.
Bynum, meanwhile, has been somewhat of an issue in Los Angeles. He’s shown steady improvement, and was even the best center in the NBA after Howard went down with his back injury last season, but he isn’t without some childish tendencies of his own. A change of scenery could benefit Bynum just as much as it would Howard, making a swap even easier to fathom.
Of course, a giant deal involving the two bona fide big men carries plenty of risk, but what deal of such magnitude doesn’t? The fact of the matter is that as long as the Howard Sweepstakes continues, we’re left circling around the ideal deal, which involves these two teams.
One of the hardest aspects of a general manager’s job is deciding when to steer the ship down a different path and look toward the future. In the NBA, more than any other league, that decision is paramount, because remaining in limbo is essentially the worst thing you can do. You’re either a contender in The Association or you’re not, and kicking around on the outskirts while failing to identify with either group can lead to plenty of angst and a lack of forward progress.
The Lakers sort of faced that predicament heading into this offseason, though they’ve alleviated the pressure in their deal for Nash, who gives Los Angeles the point guard it has so desperately sought. Bringing Howard onboard, however, would not only bring their contender status to another level, it would ensure that they don’t linger in mediocrity much once Nash and Kobe Bryant walk off the court for the final time.
Howard is instantly a piece the Lakers can build around going forward if they’re able to lock him up to a long-term deal, which he’s now reportedly willing to do. Even if he hadn’t been willing, though, there’s plenty of reason to believe Los Angeles is an enticing enough destination that sticking around for the foreseeable future wouldn’t be out of the question after this season.
Down in the Sunshine State, there’s some questions as to whether Bynum would be willing to stay a member of the Magic long-term, but a deal would be worth the gamble. Besides Howard, he’s the closest thing the NBA has to a dominant center, so he would give Orlando an excellent frontcourt piece to build around.
As mentioned, there’s certainly risk for each side. There’s Howard’s back, the possibility that he still tests the open market next season and departs, and the potential for an ego clash on a star-studded squad. For the Magic, there’s the overwhelming sense that they can always get more in exchange for Howard, a once-in-a-generation type of physical specimen, or the possibility that Bynum skips town after Year 1.
But after sifting through the concerns, each team should come to the realization that a Howard-for-Bynum swap is the most sensible deal to come along in a while.
It’d be big. Really, really big. But rolling the dice could set both teams up for a potential NBA Finals clash a few years down the road.
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