Hey! By now you probably know that some man who formerly played center for the Orlando Magic is going to play center for the Los Angeles Lakers next season. Obviously this topic has been dissected on various horrible radio and television programs across the country, but that doesn’t mean you should skip this article! Where else will you find blatant homerism for the Denver Nuggets in a Dwight Howard trade column? That’s what I thought.
So, Dwight Howard, LA Laker…but what does it mean?
Los Angeles Lakers:
It’s no secret, so let’s just get this over with first. The Lakers immediately go from a has-been team to the favorites to win the title this season. Their starting lineup ranks among the greatest ever assembled and provides perfect balance to each of their stars’ talents. So many options for them, here are just a few of the possibilities: Nash/Dwight pick-and-rolls, Nash/Gasol pick-and-rolls, Nash being able to dump to Gasol or Dwight after penetrating the lane, Nash throwing alley-oops to Gasol or Dwight, and did I mention they have Kobe Bryant? Yikes.
In addition to this, Dwight provides the perfect balance to Nash and Kobe’s deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball. By being able to protect the rim after they get beat, the back court will be able to conserve all their energy towards offense. It’s also perfect because Dwight never was comfortable being the go-to guy on offense. He’s more than capable on the offensive end, but he just doesn’t possess the offensive skills of a guy like Shaq or Hakeem. So long as he doesn’t pull an Andrew Bynum and demand to take 20-30 shots a game, they could conceivably win three or four more titles before Kobe retires.
The Lakers deserve considerable credit for pulling this off while retaining Gasol. Simply amazing. It’s worth mentioning the unlikely chain of events that led to this happening:
-Lakers trade Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom in three-team deal for Chris Paul
-David Stern pulls a Vince McMahon and vetoes the trade
-Lamar Odom feels the Lakers disrespected him, demands trade
-Lakers trade Lamar Odom to Mavericks for a trade exception
-Lakers refuse to budge on Magic’s demand for both Gasol and Bynum during the season
-Dwight panics at the deadline and refuses to execute his early termination option, sabotaging his free agency chance this summer where he would have signed with Brooklyn
-Ramon Sessions agent convinces him not to execute his player option to stay with the Lakers, ends up getting less money to play for the last-place Bobcats
-Lakers convince division rival Suns to give them Steve Nash using trade exception from Lamar Odom trade and cap space from Sessions’ departure
-Brooklyn panics about opening arena without a superstar, overpays Brook Lopez, sabotages their chances at trading for Dwight
-Magic panic and take what on paper seems like the worst offer that the public is aware of, trading their second consecutive franchise center to the Lakers
This is your sad reminder that this could only happen to the Los Angeles Lakers. I will now slam my head against the monitor for the next two hours.
Philly hit a home run. They dumped their two biggest salaries from last season by amnestying Brand and then trading Iguodala. Iguodala is a great player who fits a very specific need (more on him later), but he doesn’t justify his superstar salary and never wanted to be “the guy” on his team. In addition to that they gain the second best center in the league and a player who is desperate for a shot at being “the guy.” Jason Richardson is also a great fit with franchise centers, as the last couple years in Orlando have proven. While Bynum has a lot of maturity issues, there are several reasons to believe this is going to work out really well for them.
First, Bynum is from New Jersey and thus an east coast guy. The move back east should please him, given that he will be closer to family. Second, Doug Collins is a great, great coach with a ton of experience at getting immature players to buy into his system, most especially on defense. Finally, Philly has one of the best young rosters in the game right now which is perfectly constructed to take advantage of his skill set. They’ll be a salty team for the second consecutive year.
Philly isn’t going to win a title, but there’s no reason to think they can’t assume Atlanta’s old role as the team that you can count on to lose in the second round of the playoffs.
Most writers are (rightfully) bashing the way Orlando handled this Dwight trade. By every account, they accepted the worst possible deal. Houston was willing to give up every asset they had and take on every bad Magic contract simply for the chance to rent Dwight for a season. Sadly, even the Nets paltry offer would have made more sense. The Magic arguably got the three worst players in this deal with Afflalo, Harrington, and Vucevic and their haul of draft picks is in no way impressive.
The recipe on trading away franchise players has always been to dump salary, get young players, and receive a nice collection of draft picks in return. Somehow, in a trade in which they gave up the best player, they made out the worst of the four teams involved. This could only happen in the NBA.
However, I’ll offer one brief defense for their new GM, Rob Hennigan. The only proven way to win a championship in the NBA is to have a top ten talent. There are only two ways to acquire a top ten talent. Either you have to draft one and hold onto him as long as possible or you have to be one of the fortunate teams in a big market city who are able to sway free agents into signing there. Orlando is not a big market city.
As much success as the Nuggets have had since the Carmelo trade, perfecting the blueprint for how to successfully trade away your franchise superstar, they will never win a title. Sure they’ll compete and maybe even make a conference championship, but a title is out of the question. It makes sense that a team would rather risk futility for the chance at being great again rather than remain in the trap of mediocrity for the next ten years.
The only way Orlando can win a title is to go into absolute Charlotte Bobcats tank mode and hope that they’re fortunate enough to draft the next Dwight Howard. It’s a frustrating business model that makes absolutely no sense, but that’s the modern day NBA. A small market team needs to literally and figuratively win the lottery so that they can get the next Kevin Durant or Dwight Howard.
I still have no idea how Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri pulled this off, but it’s worth mentioning that I memorized how to spell his name because of how impressed I am. Every move he’s made since taking over the team has worked out in the Nuggets favor, and it’s no exaggeration to say that he should now be considered one of the five best GMs in the sport. Consider: the Nuggets dumped two large and undesirable contracts and somehow got a superior player in return. That just doesn’t happen in professional basketball, well not since Isiah Thomas retired from the front office.
The best part is that Iguodala perfectly fits into the Nuggets system. As Kelly Dwyer remarked on Ball Don’t Lie this morning, “Andre Iguodala is just about the most Denver Nuggets player in the NBA.” PERFECT. There is no better way of explaining it. Iguodala is an elite transition player, among the five best finishers in basketball according to the advanced stats. It just so happens that the Nuggets love to push the ball in the open court. Get used to seeing Lawson to Iguodala fast break highlights this year. George Karl has to be smirking somewhere right now imagining the possibilities.
In addition to his elite transition game, Iguodala also brings in a much desired defensive presence that the Nuggets lacked last year. He’s one of the five best isolation defenders in the NBA and is the perfect candidate to match up with division foe Kevin Durant. Denver just didn’t have a lock down defender that they could throw on the other team’s “guy” last year and there is perhaps no one better suited for that task than Iguodala. I’m not exaggerating when I say that LeBron James might be the only better defender in the game.
It’s a great fit for team and player and Iguodala was always more content with being the number two or three option. It’s no secret that Ty Lawson wants this to be his team and with Iguodala and Gallinari running the wings, the Nuggets will be a tough out for any team in the playoffs next year, assuming they stay healthy. What’s disappointing though is that they’ll still fail to crack the West’s elite with the static top three of LA, OKC, and San Antonio. None of those teams will want to face Denver though.
Nuggets fans can’t help but hope that this trade for AI from Philly works out better than the last one. There is a lot of optimism to believe it will.