Grades sheets: Dwight Howard deal

The Dwight drama, fittingly, will end in Hollywood. After months of trade talk, sources have confirmed the Magic will deal Dwight Howard to the Lakers in a four-team blockbuster that also involves the Nuggets and Sixers. What to make of the deal for each team?

Let's go 5-on-5 ...

1. What grade do you give the Lakers for this deal?

J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: A+. They got the best available player in 2012. They upgraded what was already a strong position for them. They didn't have to give up Pau Gasol. And they don't have to worry about Andrew Bynum's maturity issues anymore.

Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: A. Dwight Howard has his deficiencies -- as a player and as a personality. But he's the closest thing the NBA has to a defensive game-changer, and now he can maximize his offense with the guiding hand of Steve Nash. The Lakers acquired him for an excellent young center, but one who was reluctant to initiate and defend the pick-and-roll.

Israel Gutierrez, ESPN.com: If the Lakers had also had to give up Pau Gasol to get Howard, it still would've been an A. Getting Howard for just Andrew Bynum and a draft pick makes it an A+++. Howard very well could be a pain come free agency, but he's still second on most people's list of players with whom you'd start a franchise.

Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: A. Obviously. They got Dwight Howard. For any franchise, the opportunity to acquire a player of Howard's caliber, who can potentially earn them two or three rings, comes once every 20 years or so -- if at all. They'll roll out one of the most intriguing lineups in years, and Mitch Kupchak will be remembered as the second-greatest Lakers GM ever. Bonus: They keep Pau Gasol. The Lakers have set themselves up brilliantly for the short and long terms.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com: A+. My question for you: How many pluses can I add? My other question for you: How soon do they erect a statue at Staples Center for Mitch Kupchak? Following Jerry West had to be one of the toughest gigs in the history of GMing. One of his first assignments was, at his owner's behest, to trade Shaquille O'Neal. All Kupchak has done since is draft Andrew Bynum with a rare Lakers lottery pick all the way down at No. 10 (with a strong nudge from Jim Buss, to be fair), trade for Pau Gasol ... and then acquire Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the same summer without surrendering Pau. No wonder so many fan bases around the NBA detest the Lakers. Even for them and their rich history of pilfering stars from other teams, this is a ridiculous haul.

2. What grade do you give the Magic for this deal?

Adande: C. It was bad enough they had to give up the best player involved. But they didn't get the second-best player. Or the third-best. Or likely lottery picks. Maybe we'll see the wisdom in retrospect, but it's not apparent now.

Arnovitz: C-. It's impossible to know the exact offers for Howard that landed in the Magic's inbox, but they ended up with an overpaid veteran on a long-term deal (Al Harrington), a guard on a long-term deal in Arron Afflalo who certainly isn't underpaid, a couple of recent mid-first-rounders and three future protected picks. The OKC model requires a Kevin Durant, a Russell Westbrook or, at least, a James Harden. Don't see any of that here.

Gutierrez: C-. Based so far on the quality of player and draft picks the Magic reportedly are getting in return for Howard, it's hard to go higher than that. If reports are true and Magic GM Rob Hennigan didn't drive this deal, it's a bit unfair to ask him to turn the Magic around with what he's been given.

Palmer: C-. Look, it's difficult to put a positive spin on the situation. When you lose a game-changing franchise player like Howard, that should be an automatic F. But they had to do this trade, so that means they had to receive something. I've always liked Afflalo's defensive tenacity, and Moe Harkless could be a solid pro. Harrington can still contribute but is 32. Even with the three protected picks, they got the short end of the deal.

Stein: A very charitable C. Extremely charitable. The Nets' last offer in July included more first-round picks and the combo of Brook Lopez and MarShon Brooks. Houston has been offering roughly $12 million in salary-cap relief to go out and sign someone and a better package of picks. This only works out for Orlando if the likes of Afflalo and Harkless exceed their presumed ceilings.

3. What grade do you give the Nuggets for this deal?

Adande: A-. Andre Iguodala should fit right into their playing style this season, then he becomes a big expiring contract the next year. And they shed long-term salary obligations. They set the standard for moving a superstar with the Carmelo deal and have been on a nice run ever since.

Arnovitz: A-. Iguodala isn't cheap, but he's one of the league's five best defenders, a near-perfect wing complement to Danilo Gallinari who has only two years left on his deal at the maximum. Meanwhile, the Nuggets offload three years and $21 million worth of Harrington. Afflalo is a nice player, but not irreplaceable.

Gutierrez: Give them an A for Andre. Supported by his play in the Olympics, Iguodala remains one of the best wing players in the league. He fits right into what George Karl loves to do -- create offense through defense and use athleticism in the open court. Iggy should be a perfect fit and make the Nuggets even more intriguing next season.

Palmer: A-. Iguodala might be the most underappreciated star in the league. He's a poor man's LeBron who can blend with virtually any sort of surrounding lineup. His game is well-suited for the fast, athletic style we've come to know from the Nuggets. Plus, Denver keeps its trade exception and relieves itself of about $43 million in future salary. Way to go, Masai Ujiri.

Stein: B+. Iguodala has had a very nice summer with Team USA. And to get a player of that quality when you're largely acting as a facilitator in a megadeal like this ... pretty good day at the office. You'd have to say so even if you're not a huge Iguodala fan.

4. What grade do you give the Sixers for this deal?

Adande: A. They were the ones who had to take on the Jason Richardson deal, but they also got a potential franchise center and finally ended the awkward relationship they had with Andre Iguodala, which was like a couple you knew would never get married. Being adjacent to Bynum's home state of New Jersey should help their chances to re-sign him, but, even if he leaves, they'll be flush with salary-cap space.

Arnovitz: B+. Spirited as their run was this past spring, the Sixers were destined for a succession of first-round exits. Betting on a young star like Bynum is their best long-term play, even if it costs them their best player in exchange. If Bynum walks next summer, the Sixers likely will be terrible and, consequently, afforded the chance to reload in the lottery. Either way, this gets them off the treadmill.

Gutierrez: B, only because they aren't sure they have a long-term commitment from Andrew Bynum, who becomes the best center in the Eastern Conference. If Jrue Holiday shines in a more conventional, center-driven offense, and Dorell Wright and Nick Young provide floor balance, the Sixers could threaten the Celtics, Pacers and Bulls as potential East finalists.

Palmer: B. For now. If Andrew Bynum doesn't sign an extension next summer, it's an F. A one-year Bynum rental is essentially worthless. If Bynum knows he's not sticking around, how many games do you think he'll play? I bet it won't be more than 40, and you can forget about the playoffs.

Stein: A. I don't know how much people outside of Philly are going to be talking about the Sixers today. But we/they should be. Exchanging Iguodala for Bynum -- someone who didn't grow up far from Philly and will have lots of incentive to re-sign there -- is beyond the Sixers' wildest hopes and dreams. The Sixers are starless no more, America.

5. Who should be favored to win the 2013 NBA title?

Adande: Still the Miami Heat. Didn't we learn from them that you can't assume everything will come together immediately when you add two new major players? The 2007-08 Boston Celtics were the exception, but the NBA rule is that time together is the key component to championship teams.

Arnovitz: Miami. The Lakers' haul this offseason is impressive and should vault them over every other team in the league with a plural nickname. But cohesion takes time and, all of a sudden, the Heat look like the team with the best combination of incumbency and veteran savvy.

Gutierrez: The only reason the Lakers shouldn't be favored is the unknown: chemistry, coaching, health. But they have a balanced big four right off the bat and are strongest where the Heat are weakest: up front. Assuming health and a late addition at center, the Heat should still be the slightest of favorites. But LeBron James' throne is seriously challenged.

Palmer: The Miami Heat. With the addition of Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and a healthy Chris Bosh, the Heat are still in the driver's seat. The Lakers have had a terrific summer, but there are still quite a few unknowns regarding chemistry, old legs and, most importantly, Howard's back. Forget about the Heat: The Lakers still might not have enough to get past the Thunder.

Stein: Stein: Still gotta go with Miami. The Heat had a decent little summer of their own (Ray Allen, anyone?) and have the undeniable continuity edge over the retooled Lakers. Which is important and should count for something. But L.A. shoots right back to the top of the West with its moves -- as long as Howard's back cooperates post-surgery -- and has Nash to help the Lakers figure it all out. What an end to our long national Dwightmare. This league, man. This league.

ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network
J.A. Adande, Kevin Arnovitz, Israel Gutierrez and Marc Stein cover the NBA for ESPN.com. Chris Palmer writes for ESPN The Magazine.

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