From NBA.com staff reports
As we mentioned here on Independence Day, the Magic aren’t going to let Dwight Howard dictate his trade destination. Like any NBA front office worth its salt in this new era of superstar trades, Orlando’s brass is going to discuss deals and explore the avenues it can to get the most in return for its All-NBA star.
Granted, Howard’s ideal destination is the budding superteam in Brooklyn, where he could team up with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace to form one of the most formidable (on paper) starting lineups in the NBA. But for him to become a Net (or perhaps, a Laker), it’s going to take more than a team-to-team swap to make it happen. This might require a three-team trade if Howard is to end up in a Brooklyn uni or the purple-and-gold ones in Lakerland.
Ken Berger at CBSSports.com has the lowdown on the daily Dwight update, where the Magic and Nets are ‘still plugging away’ at a deal:
The Orlando Magic are continuing to explore trade options for Dwight Howard, though the team is in no rush to move the disgruntled superstar despite multiple options remaining in play, CBSSports.com has learned.
The Nets and Magic are “still plugging away” with possible Howard trade scenarios, according to a person familiar with the process. “Everything is in play,” said another person connected to the talks, including a possible deal with the Lakers, whose stunning acquisition of Steve Nash Wednesday night may have pushed them onto Howard’s radar as a team with whom he’d sign an extension if traded.
Both the Nets and Lakers, however, may need a third team to facilitate the deal to maximize the cap relief Orlando is seeking in any Howard trade. It isn’t simply about the players and draft picks the Magic would acquire, but also the ability to relieve their future payroll of burdensome contracts such as those of Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson, sources said.
The Nets’ ability to satisfy that goal for Orlando was diminished when Brooklyn sent four expiring contracts to the Hawks for All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson. The Nets no longer have the cap space to chase Howard as an unrestricted free agent next summer, reducing the pressure on Magic GM Rob Hennigan to trade Howard to his desired destination now. But the Nets did themselves a favor Thursday when it was revealed that the deal Bosnian forward Mirza Teletovic is getting actually will be the non-taxpayer mid-level for three years, $9.7 million — not the taxpayer mid-level for $15.7 million. Use of the lesser exception avoids the imposition of a hard cap for the Nets at $4 million above the tax line next season, leaving more wiggle room to absorb Howard.
“It’s beyond huge,” a league source said of the maneuver to alleviate the hard-cap threat.
So if this swap to Brooklyn looks dicey, maybe a trip to L.A. is easier? Not so fast. From a potential cap mess to not wanting to disrupt a team that just added Nash, the Lakers have their own share of obstacles in landing another “Superman”:
The Lakers can still offer the most comparable talent in return for Howard, that being 24-year-old All-Star center Andrew Bynum. But the Lakers face an even steeper challenge than the Nets in their inability to absorb Orlando’s bad contracts without a third team. Also, signals out of the Lakers’ front office in the wake of the Nash deal indicate that the team is planning to keep its basic core of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Bynum and Nash together.
That being said, if anything the Lakers will need to shed future salary in order to avoid a potentially mammoth luxury tax bill next season, the first of a drastically more punitive tax system. With the addition of Nash and various cap holds, the Lakers are projected to be in the neighborhood of $20 million over the tax line next season — which under the new rules would cost them a whopping $44 million in tax payments. In addition, for every $1 million in excess of $20 million above the tax threshold, the Lakers would have to pay $3.75 million.
In all, any Howard trade — at least one that involves the Lakers or Nets — is one that is going to take some more thinking and, perhaps, another team in the fray.