Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
It’s time for the Stupidly Early Speculation Game: Where does Dwight Howard end up, and when? And what about Chris Paul?
Steve Aschburner: First, a question back at ya: Can the critics who agonized over what they claimed was a terrible deal for NBA players, and accused the owners of wanting to run up the score, explain the media feeding frenzy over Howard and Paul trade rumors? We’re right back where we were with Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James in terms of needier markets’ limited ability to hang onto marquee players. So I’m feeling cynical at the moment and figure Howard continues to re-live Shaq’s life by joining the Lakers, while Paul does the New York buddy-ball thing. New Orleans? Orlando? Bah! They’re part of the league’s Triple-A feeder system.
Fran Blinebury: Isn’t it written somewhere in the rule book that the Lakers must always have the next great center? Howard winds up in L.A. mid-season because it’s where he wants to be and with assets such as Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, to name a few, the Lakers are able and willing to provide the best return. I’m going way, way out on a limb here and say Houston will gamble on trading for Paul without the guarantee of a contract extension. But then watch him run off to the Knicks next summer.
Scott Howard-Cooper: I feel much more confident in the “when” than the “where.” Chris Paul gets traded first, likely before the start of the season and possibly before the first exhibition game, while the Magic are going to wait for absolute word from Dwight Howard that he doesn’t see a future in Orlando. In the meantime, the front office will work to acquire another star to convince Howard there is a future.
Shaun Powell: Dwight will end up with the team he wants to sign with. Same with Chris Paul. That’s because very few teams, if any, are willing to rent either player for 66 games AND surrender assets. So these two players essentially control their destiny. Which is how it should be in free agency. They’ve earned that right. Anyway, the teams Dwight might favor AND who also have the best assets to offer are the Clippers (Minny’s unprotected No. 1 in the 2012 Draft and young players) and the Hawks (any two or three players). Otherwise, he’ll stay in Orlando and decide next summer; there’s no reason to gut the team you want to join (we’re talking about you, Carmelo). Paul will sign with the Knicks next summer, so other teams shouldn’t waste their time.
John Schuhmann: Carmelo Anthony seemingly taught us that the star player gets what he wants in these situations, but the Knicks just don’t have anything to give the Hornets for Paul. The Clippers have the assets (that unprotected ’12 Minnesota pick is a gem) and Blake Griffin to catch lobs, so I say CP goes to the Clips in the next week or so. All seems pretty quiet on the Orlando front, so I’ll guess that Howard goes to the Lakers closer to the trade deadline. But I’ll hedge my bet and say that it was pretty quiet before GM Otis Smith pulled off that double-trade on a Saturday morning last December. So it really wouldn’t shock me if Smith takes the Nets’ offer (allowing him to strip $21 million off his payroll) this week.
Sekou Smith: Stupid Early Speculation is right. But that’s the business we’re in these days. I’m going with Dwight heading to the Lakers in a blockbuster deal the Magic will struggle to recover from for years. And Chris Paul joins him in L.A. at the Staples Center, but down the hall in that Clippers locker room where he and Blake Griffin turn the city and the league upside down as one of the most electrifying tandems we’ve seen in years.