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Dwight Howard is expected to be traded to the perfect spot. It'll be a team he wants to play for, since that team is the only kind he'll re-sign with this summer in free agency. It has to be a contender, or potential contender (as in the case of the Nets with Deron Williams), and a major market so he can get all the media and commercial love he desires. That's pretty clear. But the Orlando Sentinel reports that the Magic are pursuing another option. The rental game.
The Magic are talking to more teams than the ones on Dwight Howard's wish list.
They will listen to anybody who is willing to take a risk and give up a few good men for Howard if he can lead them to the NBA Finals as a temp.
It's another reason why they will wait until the March 15 deadline to make a deal for Howard, after he's played 44 games in Orlando. His new team would land him for 22 games, plus the postseason.
Absolutely. Sounds more like a means to put pressure on the teams that Howard has approved (Nets, Mavericks, Lakers).
But the Magic think some teams might take a flyer, hoping they can convince Howard to re-sign with them.
via Orlando Magic: Magic to explore renting out Dwight Howard - OrlandoSentinel.com.
No one would be crazy enough to do this, right? To actually give up assets in order to nab Howard for 22 games and the playoffs, before he likely leaves? Well, there should be. That's right. I'm advocating insanity. That's how I roll.
Two factors to consider if you're in the hunt for a Dwight rental.
1. You have to move contracts that have considerable money behind them. The reason being, if Dwight doesn't re-sign, you don't want to be left without the pieces you traded, without Dwight, and a large salary situation. You're basically angling for a rebuilding. Part of the complication here is the Magic will want to dump Hedo Turkoglu or other components with salary burden. But the Magic have to know that to get back more talent like they reportedly want, they can't dump salary too in a rental situation. So why would the trading team risk rebuilding?
2. Because the odds of a title is worth it. Consider the Pacers. If you're Larry Bird, what are you really trying to accomplish, honestly? You want to make a good strong showing in the playoffs, maybe get hot and uspet some folks on the way to the eastern Conference Finals, to try and be in position to make one big move to get you over the hump and win the title in a wacky year. You know you're not going to be able to compete with Miami, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, Chicago etc. every year. You're hoping to pull off a Pistons-esque title. The same goes for any team considering a rental. So if you're angling for one title, anyway, why not take your shot with the best defensive player in the league, an MVP candidate for 22 games and the playoffs.
That's the reasoning. You also have to establish how long it will take you to get back to being decent, since you have to factor how much winning a title will bring you financially versus two-to-three years of rebuilding will hurt you. And then you have to measure that against your actual odds of winning the title this season.
All of this leads to the reality that the chances are not good. You're asking GM's and owners to take a phenomenal risk with a devastating loss if they miss, and the payoff might not even be that good. Are several years of second round appearances better financially than a title and two years of lottery dwelling?
There's no list available of teams that might be interested, but here are five teams who should consider making the jump.
Indiana Pacers: As I mentioned earlier, the Pacers should be a team willing to make the move. Larry Bird doesn't want to do this forever. Getting Dwight gives them a chance to win the title this season, instead of waiting for years and years and years potentially without any payoff. The Pacers are deep enough to offer the Magic an option plan. Darren Collison or George Hill, Danny Granger or Paul George, and Roy Hibbert (youth, talent) vs. Jeff Foster (expiring contract, veteran experience). That's a great package and still leaves the Pacers with whoever the Magic don't take, along with David West for scoring.
Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks have been involved in talks this week with the Magic anyway, according to ESPN. Offering to move Josh Smith or Al Horford along with Joe Johnson puts the Magic in a great position to keep making the playoffs. The Hawks would have Jeff Teague, Kirk Hinrich, and either Smith or Horford to pair with Howard to try and make a run. With Howard having been born in Atlanta, it's got some pull and a good run might talk him into it. Not really, but sure. The biggest objection from Magic fans is that the Magic would never take on Joe Johnson's contract. But this is Otis Smith who took on Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu in one year to try and win. Meanwhile, Johnson is an All-Star, and still is an above-average-to-pretty-good player at both ends without injury issues.
Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies may wind up moving Rudy Gay anyway if this season keeps up and they have to make a move. The Grizzlies need frontcourt depth. So get Dwight Howard! Genius! OK,it's a long shot, but if moving Gay, Sam Young or O.J. Mayo, and either Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph brings in Howard, that could make the Grizzlies the best team in the West. They'd have defense and the best low-post-scoring combo in the league. Memphis is unlikely to be able to stay in contention for several years. Why not take the shot now?
Philadelphia 76ers: The Sixers have youth, Andre Igoudala as a centerpiece, and a full compliment of picks to add in. The team would be mortgaging the long-term value they've been angling for, but coach Doug Collins has also said that eventually they want to aim to bring in a star. Make a run with Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, Elton Brand, and Howard, and if it doesn't work out, move towards the future.
Portland Trail Blazers: Paul Allen wants to avoid the luxury tax. What better way to do that than by trading for Howard's expiring contract? OK, kidding aside, the Blazers are so loaded, they can move Wesley Matthews and either LaMarcus Aldridge or Gerald Wallace. The remaining lineup would be good enough to challenge for the West.
Are any of these teams going to take the risk? No. Because this is not a league of gambling like this. The repercussions for failure would be catastrophic. But if a team really was all about winning a title, renting Howard for 22 games and the playoffs would be the boldest move possible.