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Insider - Should the Lakers trade Howard?

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Insider - Should the Lakers trade Howard?

Someone was definitely going to ask for this so here it is!

NBA Playoffs: Celtics Or Lakers?

Stephen A. Smith discusses which team is more likely to make the playoffs between the Celtics and Lakers.
Tags: NBA Playoffs, SportsCenter, Stephen A. Smith, Doc Rivers, Mike D'Antoni
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Who Handled The Situation Better?

The Los Angeles Lakers are facing a Dwight Howard-sized dilemma. As our Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein reported earlier this week, the Lakers have had to begin considering the possibility of dealing Howard before the Feb. 21 deadline because of the possibility that he might leave this summer as an unrestricted free agent. Simply, the Lakers must weigh how much talent they might lose versus the likelihood of Howard signing elsewhere and leaving them with nothing. That's where my wins above replacement (WARP) projections come in.

As introduced to evaluate potential DeMarcus Cousins offers, these projections use past players identified as similar at the same age by my SCHOENE projection system to estimate player value over the next three seasons. Add in a projection for the rest of this season, and that offers a rough gauge of what the Lakers might be able to get from other teams if they make Howard available.

Of course, the pool of interested suitors is limited by Howard's impending free agency. Only teams that can realistically expect to re-sign Howard will be interested. I came up with seven teams that might be willing to offer the Lakers valuable pieces in return for Howard. They're listed in reverse order of projected WARP from the package.

Miami Heat
Howard for Chris Bosh (16.6 projected WARP)

(View the deal in ESPN.com's Trade Machine.)

Here's the ultimate "which side says no?" challenge trade involving Howard, which would involve shaking up two of the league's marquee teams. What's interesting is that the defending champs would be trading for a younger player, while the Lakers would be more interested in Bosh's ability to help them win now. Such is the reality of L.A.'s accelerated timetable to win with an aging core of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash.

Because Miami would surely offer only Bosh, and because his statistical performance has dropped since he teamed up with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, this offers the Lakers the least projected WARP. The value to them is all about fit, since Bosh could play on the perimeter and allow Gasol to spend more time in the post. This trade would be an enormous risk for the Heat, though with the potential to create one of the most devastating 1-2 punches of all time if Howard returns to full health and can dominate the paint. Nobody would worry about Miami's defensive rebounding anymore. Still, this is surely too crazy for either side to seriously consider.

Atlanta Hawks
Howard and Robert Sacre for Al Horford, Johan Petro and Anthony Tolliver (17.0 projected WARP)

(View the deal in ESPN.com's Trade Machine.)

Like Bosh, Horford is a lesser player who might fit better with the Lakers because of his ability to step to the perimeter at times. Again, this is essentially a one-for-one trade with some spare parts thrown in to make the deal work under the cap. Mike D'Antoni might be able to get some value out of Tolliver's floor spacing, so there's that. The Hawks could maybe sweeten the offer a little with someone like Kyle Korver if they're willing to break up the rotation, but Josh Smith is the lure for Howard and Jeff Teague has less value in L.A. than Atlanta, so there's not much more in the cupboard. Basically this is the kind of deal the Lakers would only make if they think Howard is more likely than not to leave.

Dallas Mavericks
Howard, Chris Duhon and Devin Ebanks for Darren Collison, Chris Kaman, Shawn Marion and O.J. Mayo (24.9 projected WARP)

(View the deal in ESPN.com's Trade Machine.)

In terms of adding depth, the Mavericks can help the Lakers as much as anyone if they're willing to gut their current starting lineup to get the upper hand in re-signing Howard over the summer. Collison, Kaman, Marion and Mayo would all step into the L.A. rotation, displacing the likes of Darius Morris and Jodie Meeks. That upgrade -- along with the possibility of going small with Marion at power forward -- might offset going from Howard to Kaman, who is near replacement level, in the middle.

The problem is this deal does little for the Lakers going forward. Mayo is sure to opt out of his contact, and the most the Lakers could offer him is the taxpayer midlevel exception ($3.1 million). Assuming he walks, the only long-term value the Lakers get out of this deal is Collison as an eventual replacement for Nash. That's not enough to justify dealing Howard.

Boston Celtics
Howard and Nash for Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Jason Terry (30.8 projected WARP)

(View the deal in ESPN.com's Trade Machine.)

Since the Celtics and Lakers are both scuffling, why not shake things up with a blockbuster trade that would feature four of the league's biggest names? From the Lakers' perspective, Garnett would be a much better fit in the frontcourt than Howard. His still-elite defense would solve a lot of L.A.'s problems at that end, and his pick-and-pop game would space the floor for Gasol. Getting Rondo as the centerpiece of the next iteration of the Lakers would help salvage giving up Howard, and Terry could provide scoring punch and outside shooting off the bench.

For Boston, the vision would be longer term, as a re-signed Howard would be an anchor for years to come and an upgrade on Rondo in that role. Adding Nash allows the Celtics to remain competitive, and Doc Rivers has plenty of alternatives to Terry in the backcourt now that Avery Bradley is healthy. If Danny Ainge is going to break up the Boston core, he may as well aim as high as Howard.

There are plenty of reasons why this wouldn't work. A Rondo-Bryant backcourt is a tough fit because Rondo needs the ball in his hands. Unlike Nash, he's not dangerous as a spot-up shooter. Pairing two defenders in Bryant and Rondo who like to freelance and take risks could prove disastrous in terms of contesting outside shots. Ultimately, the Celtics probably say no because they take on the same risk as the Lakers of Howard leaving.

Note that the projected WARP for this deal takes into account the cost of dealing Nash in addition to Howard.

Brooklyn Nets
Howard and Chris Duhon for Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez (33.2 projected WARP)

(View the deal in ESPN.com's Trade Machine.)

As well as the Orlando Magic's Howard trade has worked out, fans in the Magic Kingdom have to be wondering what might have been given how well Lopez has played this season. Though he was passed over for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, Lopez has the NBA's fourth-best PER. Picking up where he left off his second year, Lopez is suddenly rebounding and blocking shots as part of a quality defense and has been an efficient volume scorer in the post. Now the question is whether the Nets would want to move two starters during the midst of a strong run under P.J. Carlesimo. Deron Williams says no. I still think they would because the team's upside is so much higher with a healthy Howard in the middle, making this the most realistic package.

Los Angeles Clippers
Howard and Chris Duhon for Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler and DeAndre Jordan (33.8 projected WARP)

(View the deal in ESPN.com's Trade Machine.)

While trading Howard to the other locker room at the Staples Center is almost unthinkable, the Clippers could build a solid package around Bledsoe and Jordan. That's two future starters for the Lakers. Alas, this deal wouldn't do much to help Gasol, and Jordan would be a major downgrade in the middle from Howard. So consider this unlikely from either side.

Houston Rockets
Howard, Devin Ebanks and Antawn Jamison for Omer Asik, Carlos Delfino, Toney Douglas and Marcus Morris (35.1 projected WARP)

(View the deal in ESPN.com's Trade Machine.)

The assets Houston was offering Orlando for Howard, including cap relief and young prospects, don't help the Lakers nearly as much. Nonetheless, the Rockets could certainly offer quantity in return for Howard with potentially four rotation players in a deal that would remake the Lakers' second unit. Asik has shown his ability to anchor a defense and play in the kind of spread pick-and-roll offense D'Antoni likes, while Morris could pair with Gasol in a smaller frontcourt. Delfino and Douglas would both add shooting off the bench.

The problem is the Lakers would give up a star without getting anyone likely to be better than an average starter. That's not the way to win championships in the NBA, so the short-term boost wouldn't merit the long-term cost of dealing Howard. That's assuming Houston would even offer this much given the chance of Howard signing elsewhere.

Keep Howard
The last scenario is, of course, no trade at all. There are two possible paths here. If the Lakers re-sign Howard, his projection (factoring in his relatively poor play this year) calls for 44.5 WARP over the next three-plus seasons -- better than any of the packages the Lakers could get. The alternative is the Lakers get nothing. Because they're over the tax, the Lakers can't sign-and-trade Howard, and they wouldn't get any cap benefit until the summer of 2014.

In general, the best Howard offers replace about three-quarters of his value, so the Lakers should not make a trade if they think their chances of re-signing Howard are better than 75 percent. Add in the value of cap space in 2014, when Bryant and Gasol both will come off the books, and realistically the Lakers would have to feel there's at least a one in three shot of Howard changing teams to justify a trade. If the Lakers do start shopping Howard, you'll know they believe he's serious about leaving L.A. to sign with a team under the cap like Atlanta or Dallas.


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The answer is no they

The answer is no they shouldn't trade him. He is a 27 year old 4 time defensive player of the year who is leading the league in rebounding. He is averaging 17 points 12 boards and 2.5 blocks is not "relatively poor". If you watch them play Dwight is the only consistent defender not named Metta Worldpeace. Kobe has shown he can defend at a high level but just not all game everygame (not aknock considering his age, respect the dog in him) Bottom line is the Lakers are old and Dwight is their best chance at avoiding mediocracy for years.

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Yet Dwight doesn't look like

Yet Dwight doesn't look like he wants to stay, LA is a sinking ship as Kobe and Pau may be gone next year(Pau sooner maybe) and that will only leave an old Steve Nash and not much else. I still believe Dwight's heart is in Brooklyn, I mean Adidas offered him a 300 million dollar contract to play in big market Brooklyn.

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I totally agree which is

I totally agree which is exactly why they need to pursue Dwight as hard as they can and build around him. What are there plans after they trade him for a few good players? They will have a bunch of old guys and OK players.. that just won't get it done, not in LA. They should try to build a team that fits around howard, show that you are commited to him and bringing in some young good talent able to grow with him will be their best chance atbringing him back.

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BenchWarmer

As much as I am frustrated by Dwight Howard, the current status of his game, commitment to winning basketball games and overall demeanor, I have to agree with you BW.

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I don't think any of these

I don't think any of these will happen. However, if we assume the Lakers were desperately trying to move Dwight and all of these teams agree with the trades, I'd pull the trigger with either Mavs or Celtics. I think only those two would be benefitial for the offense D'Antoni is proposing.

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The Lakers will find a way to

The Lakers will find a way to remain relative long aftet Kobe retires but I do believe Bryant has to make a big time decision to make very soon and so does Nash. Retire while still playing at an elite level or fadeaway as a role player like Kidd, Allen, Garnett and other future hall of famers.

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Kobe already said he wants to

Kobe already said he wants to retire while still playing at a high level and not just "stick" around the league

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