Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water, along comes the shark fin and ominous music, packaged in the form of a rumor involving Dwight Howard. Here's a excerpt from the ESPN news link:
"The Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers have been pulled into talks between the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers that could ultimately put Dwight Howard in a Laker uniform, Yahoo! Sports is reporting.
Talks have taken place this week and have "grown serious," Yahoo! said, citing league sources, although a trade is not considered imminent. The moving parts of the four-team discussion, according to Yahoo!, would involve both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol being dealt by the Lakers. According to the web site's sources, Howard and Nuggets forward Al Harrington would go to the Lakers, 76ers guard Andre Iguodala would be moved to Denver, Bynum would be dealt to Philadelphia, and Gasol and Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo would go to Orlando.
The proposed scenario also includes the Magic receiving draft picks and salary-cap relief, the sources told Yahoo."
Two noteworthy points right off the bat: The more teams involved, the generally less feasible a trade becomes. It's difficult to concoct a scenario making two franchises happy, so doubling the parties in need of satisfaction only further lowers the odds. It's also important to remember those unnamed folks proposed as cap relief can change the picture, positively and negatively. But looking at the principles mentioned by name, here's my immediate reaction:
This deal makes little sense for the Lakers, and ain't a slam dunk for hardly anybody involved.
For the Lakers, the appeal of replacing Gasol with Harrington escapes me. Yes, Harrington is a better three-pointer shooter than El Spaniard (although he hasn't approached 40 percent for a few seasons). The Lakers need better outside shooting and the low post Pau would like to visit more often is consistently clogged. Harrington doesn't require residence down low, so that's a plus. But in virtually every other aspect, the Lakers come up with the short end of the stick. They'd lose a lot of passing (a skill set at an especially high premium if the Princeton offense becomes part of the new offense). They'd lose a lot of rebounding. They'd lose a lot of versatility. And they'd lose a lot of defense. (For the "Ga-Soft!" crowd who'll doubt this, check out the Synergy and 82games.com numbers for Pau and Al. Trust me. You're wrong.)
Yes, the Lakers would save some dough -- Harrington's lower-priced deal isn't fully guaranteed past this season -- and they're now a more fiscally aware organization. But at the same time, the payroll's high either way, and the offseason moves reflect a clear desire for another title run. So what's the point of acquiring Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison, re-signing Jordan Hill and not Amnestying Metta World Peace or Steve Blake (were money this big a concern) if it means cutting corners with a key player like Gasol? That just feels counterproductive.
Harrington is hardly a bad player, but he's nowhere in Gasol's class, and that would grow obvious pretty quickly.
Frankly, I can't figure out the incentive for Orlando. To me, they need to obtain either a young, potential franchise player or boatloads of cap space and draft picks to rebuild from the ground up. This deal offers neither. Gasol won't make the Magic a playoff force, so there's no reason to clog up their books with his salary. (Yes, he could theoretically be flipped again, but that's a brand new and perhaps unattained task at hand before reaching the endgame.) And Afflalo, while a terrific, improving player entering his prime, also can't be built around, and by the time the Magic created a team where he'd be a true asset, he'll likely be pushing 30. (If anything, Orlando should be pushing for Harrington and the shorter financial commitment.)
Unless they're moving a lotta non-desirables in the process (Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, Chris Duhon, Richardsons Jason and Quentin), this feels like a stop-gap measure for Orlando to delay inevitable and perhaps unpalatable steps. They're better off just ripping away the bandage ASAP.
Iguodala isn't entirely illogical for Denver (depending on who else comes or goes), assuming he's comfortable playing bigger minutes at the two. The Philly swingman is the better overall player. Of course, the Nuggets would be surrendering a younger shooting guard they've always seemed high on and Afflalo is a more consistent outside shooter -- which Denver needs and lacks -- so it's not without any downside. But the clearest winner would be the Sixers by a country mile. They'd move Iggy (who's been on the block since about 1989) for a big man approaching elite status who fills a position of need. He and Spencer Hawes make sense as a frontcourt partnership and Bynum would become a team's featured scorer, which he'd enjoy. (Plus, Drew would be reunited with Kwame Brown, and as 2006-2008 proved, you can't put a price on that kinda magic).
Obviously, much needs to happen before this rumor shifts from "serious talks" to "imminent." (And for what it's worth, a source familiar with the discussions labeled the proposed trade "rehashed rumor" to Dave McMenamin.) But based on what we know now, I'd like to think the Lakers would pass.