First off, I'd like to explain to everyone who is about to read this article of two things- I will base this on both speculation, fact, and my opinion. I will clearly state which is which before I state them as well.
Facts- Dwight Howard is having a down year after coming off back surgery.He and the Lakers have not lived up to expectations. His primary choice has, and as far as we know, continues to be Brooklyn. His contract expires after this season. Brook Lopez signed a 4 year extension with the Brooklyn Nets, and has had an All-Star like year. The main hole for the Nets would be the lack of an everyday power forward.
Speculation- Rumor has it that Adidas was offering Dwight $200 million in endorsements if he went to Brooklyn. It is also widely speculated that Dwight and Kobe Bryant do not get along off the court.
Opinion- Dwight will end up a Brooklyn Net as early as the trade deadline, and if not, he will start next year with them. Brook Lopez will join him.
Now if you're curious how I formed that opinion, I suppose it's fair that I start writing. Without diving too much into this already widely publicized saga, the cliff notes would say that Dwight wanted out of Orlando to the Nets, but ended up in Los Angeles. Many believed they would be the favorites to win the West, but now they're struggling to even be in the playoff picture. Many sources have come out stating that Dwight is still hoping that he can find a home in Brooklyn. Most Nets fans are done with him, as they've become disenchanted by his diva-like attitude and the fact that Brook Lopez has actually been more productive than him offensively this season. However, my personal belief when it comes to building a team is that if you are able to upgrade your roster, not just for the present, but for the long haul as well, you do it. I think the Nets can do that by somehow acquiring Dwight Howard.
As of the publication of this article, the Lakers have a 17-25 record. This means they have 42 games left on their schedule. In order to get to 48 wins, which is what the average 8 seed is in basketball, they'd need to go 31-11 the rest of the way, and that's assuming no one that's in front of them does better. With that being said, I believe it's fair to say that they probably do not have a large chance of making the playoffs. The Lakers, as currently constructed, have an older core of players. Kobe Bryant is 34, and has already stated that he will only play "2 or 3" more years. Steve Nash is almost 40, with a 3 year deal, which if I was a betting man would be the length of Kobe's remaining career. Pau Gasol has diminished so greatly due in large part to Mike D'Antoni's system that he is now coming off the bench. While the prospect of playing in Los Angeles is appealing, the idea of having to carry his team to a championship after these veterans decide to hang it up is not. He'd be in a very similar situation as he was in Orlando, just in a bigger market.
Brooklyn is a rising team. The Nets have, for the past few years, been atrocious until this season, where they are, as of the writing of the article, a half game behind the Knicks for the division lead. Brook Lopez is a huge part of that, averaging over 2 blocks a game, 7 rebounds and leading the team in scoring with over 18 PPG. Their main issue has been finding production out of the power forward position consistently. Kris Humphries initially came into the season as the starting power forward, after signing a 2 year extension worth $24 millions dollars. He has since lost his starting job to Reggie Evans, rebounding machine. Both players are talented and do have roles, but neither have proven to be starters on this team. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a way we could just plop Lopez at the power forward and move a great defensive player into center? Hmmmmm....
OH YEAH! Dwight Howard! You see, with every game that Los Angeles loses, it becomes less and less likely that he will resign with the team, as he wants to be somewhere that he has a great chance to win. Is he going to bet the best years of his career on an aging roster of players with no chemistry? I doubt it, and I would hope that those being paid to make decisions on these teams feel the same way. So, that leaves the Lakers needing to trade Dwight in order to get a return on their investment.
Before you stop me and say "they could trade Pau and keep Dwight", you have no assurance that Dwight will also come back. Would you rather keep one star or potentially none? I don't think I need an answer to that question.
So, now that we've decided that the Lakers will move Dwight in their own best interest, there are a few more questions to ask, such as where? As we've stated, Dwight's preference is to be in Brooklyn, but Brooklyn wants to keep Lopez, so there goes a huge trade piece. Other rumored options include Dallas, Atlanta, and Houston.
Dallas doesn't make much sense to me because of the fact that their biggest piece, Dirk Nowitzki, is entering the final stages of his career. Admittedly, a team with those two players could work pretty well, but I don't see Dwight wanting to go to a smaller market (not by much, however) to play with less aging superstars. Atlanta and Houston are viable options, but if you're one of these teams currently building towards the future, do you move a big piece for Dwight Howard, who has destroyed locker rooms, gotten coaches fired, has injury history, and gives you no assurances that he will be with you past this season? I also doubt it. However, Atlanta would be scary with Teague, Smith, and Howard, assuming they move Horford in that deal. Houston would also be great with Lin, Harden and Howard.
So now that we've exhausted these other options, we're back to Brooklyn, the one place we know he would extend. Since we know he'd extend here, this team would be more likely to talk trade with the Lakers. However, since this is the only other place we can be sure he would extend, Billy King would HAVE to leverage that in order to obtain a better deal that would not include the talented Lopez. I had proposed a while back on the 1st & 10 Radio Show that the Nets could, according the cap, acquire Howard by trading a package of players, including Kris Humphries, Mirza Teletovic, and MarShon Brooks, in addition to first round draft picks. When I first stated this, it was more of a general what if situation, because the season was still young and we didn't think the Lakers would continue to perform this badly. However, the Lakers have, so now we have to start going into damage control territory, especially since their GM has publicly defended Mike D'Antoni, and criticized the team for lack of effort. Dwight's trade value right now is quite low, and does not warrant a big return. Humphries is more than serviceable as a backup 4 who rebounds and can chip in scoring. MarShon Brooks is a young, talented shooting guard who has drawn comparisons to Kobe in his ability to create his own shot. MarShon could have the potential to eventually take over for Kobe in LA. Mirza Teletovic is a 4 who shoots the ball very well from beyond the 3 point line. He fits D'Antoni's run and gun offense well, because he'd be able to run the break and stand on the wing and shoot. Picks are picks, regardless of where they are in the draft, you can always find someone of value. The Nets could also deal the rights to Bojan Bogdanovic, a forward who is currently overseas, but has a lot of potential. He is slated to join the team next year, but no one is certain as to what the timetable for his arrival will be. So, in my opinion, this is a decent haul for a troubled, injury plagued player who clearly has not enjoyed his time in Los Angeles on the court to this point.
If the Lakers decide against this, then comes the issue of him being an unrestricted free agent. The Nets are way above the cap, and would not be able to sign him to a large contract. They are, however able to offer him a Mid Level Exception, also known as the MLE. The MLE is about 5 million dollars and lasts for a year. After that contract is over, you own the player's bird rights and are able to sign them to an extension if you wish. If the rumor regarding Adidas is true, that they would offer him $200 million in endorsements to come and play in Brooklyn, would it be that big an issue to be playing on a small contract for one year? I'd say no, but then again, I'm not an NBA player.
Now, if they do acquire Howard and keep Lopez, Lopez would have to move to power forward. Many people have said he can't do this. I believe he can. First off, he has played there before in college. His twin brother, Robin, played with him at Stanford and while they were on the court at the same time, Brook would play the 4. Brook also possesses a strong mid range shooting game, which bodes well for standing farther from the basket. Dwight Howard also entered the league as a power forward, so if Brook really has that much of an issue going into that role, Dwight could guard the 4's of other teams. The issue would be getting Lopez's quickness up to the point where he'd be able to guard some of the more agile 4's in the league, but I believe that with young players, it's not impossible to teach these things. Lopez does not appear to have an ego as he keeps to himself in the public eye. I feel that if Howard and Lopez were teammates, that he'd be fine with moving to the power forward. However, that is just my opinion.
So there you have it, my opinion on how the Dwight Howard saga will end. Disagree? Let me know in the comments, or you can tweet me @tartmaster. Agree with me? Let me know as well.