The Lakers need to trade Dwight Howard.
They’ve made some mistakes this season—like not hiring Phil Jackson to run the team when they had the opportunity—that have put them outside of the playoff picture at the midway point of the 82-game season and now it’s time to shake things up.
It’s certainly not conventional to trade away the league’s best young center, but on rare occasions it’s the best way to improve your team. This is a rare occasion.
Here are four reasons why they should go against conventional wisdom and deal the five-time All-NBA first-teamer:
1. As mentioned, the Lakers are playing terribly. As of Jan. 22, the team is 17–24 and four games out of the final playoff spot in the west, despite a top-heavy roster of NBA all-stars. They also have a payroll in the $100 million ballpark.
If this were a baseball team they would be selling all-stars left and right before the trade deadline in order to start over next season. The NBA does have a trade deadline (Feb. 21) though it’s usually less busy due to the complexity of trading with soft salary cap.
The Lakers would be in a difficult position of trading an expensive player whose contract expires at the end of the season, while looking to take on little salary in return and already being over the cap.
2. Howard may not sign with them at the end of the season anyway.
Los Angeles was not Howard’s first rumored choice (Brooklyn then Dallas) for a trade destination last year. Him not signing an extension and then suffering through an unpleasant season does not bode well for their chances of keeping him and they’d rather not let one of the best young players in the league leave while getting nothing in return, a la LeBron James’ Cleveland situation.
3. Howard’s trade value may start depreciating soon.
After back surgery last year, it was assumed that Howard would soon be at full strength and his play would not skip a beat on the court. That hasn’t been the case.
Howard’s numbers (17.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks) are about the lowest since he was a 21-year old back in 2006-07. Though they’re still very good numbers, teams may start backing off a bit if they see a decline in production from a 27-year old off of back surgery.
4. The Lakers only need one post player under Mike D’Antoni’s system.
If the Lakers are going to stick with D’Antoni—and it would appear they won’t fire two coaches in the same season—then clearly they need to have players that fit his system.
And his system as it pertains to their roster, which ironically is one of the reasons they chose him over the 11-time NBA champion Jackson, is not suited to the two talented post players (along with Gasol) they have.
Only Gasol is signed after next season, which is why they should keep him. If LA can get some jump-shooter(s) and draft picks to supplement the loss of picks for Steve Nash, they should jump on it, insert Gasol as the starting center and make a run at the postseason with a roster more suited for D’Antoni.
The ironic part about this whole deal for the Lakers is that Andrew Bynum (who they traded for Howard) has yet to play for Philadelphia with his knee injury. So, as disappointing as this ordeal has been for LA it could be worse.
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