Tonight is the night that the Dwight Howard fiasco/quagmire/Dwightmare/Dwigh-ietnam has officially ended. In a four team trade, the Los Angeles Lakers got their man in Howard, the Denver Nuggets got Andre Iguodala, the Philadelphia 76ers got Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson, and the Magic got Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, and three protected 1st round picks.
The Magic had the biggest asset of the trade and most to gain, and made out the worst of all three of the teams. How does that happen? To understand how bad this deal is, it’s important to remember the trades that the Magic passed up last month.
SCENARIO #1: The Brooklyn Nets
The Nets were Howard’s preferred destination all along. Although he changed his mind about a trillion-billion-million-billion times, it was well-known that Howard wanted to join Deron Williams and Joe Johnson in Brooklyn. The Nets offered an underwhelming package, feeling that they had enough leverage through Howard’s desire to join them to force the Magic’s hand and pull off the deal. There were multiple, very complex variations of a potential Nets deal, but here’s the final one the Magic passed up:
Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, $3 million cash, and 4 future 1st round picks, plus another potential 1st rounder if the Nets could find a 3rd team to trade Anthony Morrow to. The Magic would send Howard, the contracts of (notice how the contracts are more valuable than the players themselves) Jason Richardson (3 years/$18.6 million), Chris Duhon (3 years/$11.25 million), and Earl Clark (1 year/$1 million). The Magic would be shedding over $47 million in salary, while only taking on Humphries (2 years/$24 million) and Lopez (something substantially less than the $61 million max contract the Nets ended up giving him). With some future maneuvering, the Magic could’ve traded Humphries and Lopez if they wanted. Best case, the Magic get substantial cap relief and a new long-term direction to work to.
SCENARIO #2: The Houston Rockets
The Rockets amnestied Luis Scola to make a Howard deal more likely. Straight-up, they’d be able to offer cap relief and 1st round picks, but no starting quality players. The Rockets could’ve taken on that $47 million of Howard, Duhon, and Richardson plus the remainder of Glen Davis’s 3 year/$19.6 million contract. Additionally, the Magic would’ve had their choice of the Rockets three 1st round picks this year (Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones and Royce White), plus future picks. It’s a bigger cap relief for the Magic than the Nets deal, but it returns no players to help win a few games now.
SCENARIO #3: Rockets+Lakers
All along, this was the deal that made the most sense for all teams involved. Howard would go to the Lakers, Bynum would go to the Rockets, and the Magic would be able to send the Richardon, Duhon, Davis cap flotilla while also possibly forcing the Lakers to take Hedo Turkoglu and the remaining 2 years/$23.8 million left on his deal. The Rockets would presumably give up one of their 2012 1st rounders too. This deal would provide the ultimate cap relief for the Magic, allowing them to completely hit “restart” with their franchise. They’d rip their team up and compete with interns and play for a high pick in a 2013 draft without a clear-cut franchise player, but this deal leaves the most options open for their future. They could now explore trades to take on contracts of franchise players or decide to build through the draft.
The Magic rejected all three of these trade scenarios, and for what? Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, a guy name Moe Harkless, some European no-name, and three protected 1st rounders, meaning three non-lottery picks. The only cap relief they got was shedding Jason Richardson’s contract. They were better standing pat until the trade deadline and getting a few months out of Howard than taking this deal. They’re taking on a combined $52 million in contracts in Affalo and Harrington for the next four years (Harrington’s $7 million per season contract comes off the books in three years). Where’s the cap restart that the Magic pursued for months there? Even worse, Pau Gasol was originally included in the deal, but the Magic didn’t want to take on his 2 year/$38 million contract. They were already shooting themselves in the foot with Afflalo and Harrington, so why not get Gasol too? To hell with it! The Magic had the best player in the deal and the most contracts to be wiped off the books, and they fucked up. None of the three other deals presented were particularly attractive, but this one was the ugly sister of the four.
In a league where you want to either be maxing out and “going for it” or shedding contracts and tanking games for a shot at landing a superstar or a high draft pick, this trade does not allow the Magic to pursue the desirable 2nd option. Acquiring Afflalo and Harrington still makes them bad, but not bad enough to top the Bobcats in the lottery next year. Taking on those contracts gives them less cap flexibility than they need. Being an average team with no lottery prospects and no cap flexibility (the Knicks the past decade), is not attractive, but that’s what the Magic are tonight.
On the other side of the trade, the Lakers got the dominant, athletic big-man they needed to clean up Steve Nash’s defensive mistakes and receive his alley-oops, the Nuggets got cap relief and a faux franchise player in Iguodala, and the 76ers got the inside presence and size they needed in Bynum, who might just sign an extension. After all, he’s now the best center in a wide-open East (wide-open 2 seed, that is), and his hometown is an hour outside of Philadelphia. Everyone won except for the Magic.
(I’m also disgusted with the Lakers ability to reload decade after decade despite all salary cap and financial restrictions imposed upon NBA teams today. Last decade they lured Shaq out of Orlando and fleeced the Bobcats into gifting them Kobe, and now this. At least we’ll get that LeBron-Kobe NBA Finals
Stern we all wanted years ago.)
Somewhere in the NBA’s NYC offices, David Stern is removing a loaded colt .45 revolver from Magic GM Rob Hennigan’s temple and whispering “Good boy, good boy” while Hennigan whimpers and hangs up with the Lakers. Somewhere in London, Kobe is thanking Iguodala for being “a good sport” while also shitting on Durant, Harden and Westbrook. Literally climbing into their beds at 5 AM and pooping on each of them. Sorry for putting that image in your mind.
This leaked text message from Stern to Lakers owner Jerry Buss has also landed on the Internet:
This league will drive men crazy.
Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49