The Orlando Magic fulfilled Howard's reported trade request, although the perennial All-Star and near-perennial Defensive Player of the Year was not granted a trade to his desired destination, the Brooklyn Nets. The Magic instead shipped Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, who may have been second on Howard's list but were tops on every other team's list of places they hoped he would not end up.
Already, the Lakers have been declared the team to beat. With a projected starting lineup of Howard, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, the Lakers have supplanted the defending champion Miami Heat for that designation.
The four-team deal was not an obvious win-win (or in this case, a win-win-win-win) for all involved, though. Here is how the trade looks for every participant, in descending order from the biggest winner to the biggest loser.
Los Angeles Lakers get Dwight Howard, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark
Everything about this trade is a coup for the Lakers. Coming less than a month after the Lakers finagled Nash from the Suns for three draft picks, this deal should make everyone wonder what was the use of the NBA rejecting the Chris Paul deal last year.
Andrew Bynum and a protected first-round pick is a shockingly small price to pay for Howard. Almost nobody expected the Lakers to be able to acquire Howard and keep Gasol in the process, but general manager Mitch Kupchak orchestrated another transaction in which it appears the other side was either drugged or drunk. Howard is less than two years older than Bynum, far more durable even though he is coming off back surgery, and so much more dominant defensively that a comparison really is not appropriate.
Denver Nuggets get Andre Iguodala
When Iguodala is the third-best player to change hands in a deal, you know you have a blockbuster. Iguodala is an elite defender and unselfish teammate who was underappreciated in Philadelphia, where he never lived up to hopes that he would replace Allen Iverson as the franchise's superstar. His versatility and athleticism will make him even more valuable in Denver than the player he is nominally replacing, Arron Afflalo, and George Karl's up-tempo style could result in Iguodala having one of the best statistical seasons of his career.
Philadelphia 76ers get Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson
At first glance, the Sixers were winners here. Bynum for Iguodala straight-up would have been a steal, and Richardson is just a bonus. The Sixers indeed upgraded their frontcourt and now will not have to worry about an ill-conceived starting front line of Spencer Hawes and Kwame Brown. But this deal has the potential to turn out horribly for the Sixers.
Bynum's injury history is one thing, as the 24-year-old center has played more than 60 games in a season only three times in his seven-year career. He also is eligible for free agency at the end of this season, so while his $16 million contract might be attractive now (considering Iguodala was due $14.7 million), that number could escalate exponentially in future years, provided the Sixers re-sign him. Philadelphia just used the amnesty provision to get out from under Elton Brand's dead money contract, only to turn around and get another expensive player with legitimate health concerns. Oh yeah, and Bynum likes to shoot 3-pointers.
Some optimists have pointed out that Bynum is from Plainsboro Township, N.J., about an hour north of Philly, suggesting he might take a hometown discount with the Sixers. That is unlikely. At best, Plainsboro is to New York and Philadelphia as Hartford is to New York and Boston, with the sports allegiances mixed.
Oh yeah, and do not forget about Richardson, who is 31 years old with a contract of more than $6 million annually that takes him to age 33, including a player option in 2014-15. Good luck getting him to turn down that option.
Orlando Magic get Maurice Harkless, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, three first-round picks (all lottery protected) and two second-round picks
The Magic stonewalled a proposal by the Nets that would have given them Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and four unprotected first-round picks, while the Nets would have absorbed the contracts of Richardson, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark. It is hard to see how the haul they actually scored was any better than that one.
Harkless is an intriguing rookie, Afflalo is an excellent defender and team player, Harrington is a prototypical "stretch four," Vucevic had his moments as a rookie even though he was in and out of Doug Collins' doghouse, and three first-round picks are nice, even if none of them will be in the lottery. Had Orlando truly wanted to bring back something close to commensurate talent for Howard, general manager Rob Hennigan would have demanded Bynum or Gasol. This was clearly all about starting over for the Magic. They now have a middling core that may contend for a playoff spot, but it looks like the front office would be just as happy taking a few shots in the draft lottery in the next few years.