Posted Mar 7 2012 10:17AM
They built their teams with meticulous care by assembling all the right pieces to create the smooth chemistry that's so evident right now. Plus, these two teams lead the East and West and would surprise absolutely no one if they reached the NBA Finals or won the whole thing.
But really: Is that enough for Oklahoma City and Chicago to turn down the chance to grab the most dominant big man in the game, a defensive ace who comes along once every Knicks championship?
Yes, the Thunder and Bulls would be slapping their knees in laughter and hanging up on Orlando general manager Otis Smith. They'd be saying, "No thanks, we're good, we're good."
They'd be refusing to give up their second and/or third-best player. For Dwight Howard.
Not their best player. Their shotgun-riders. Their Scottie Pippens.
There are two teams in the NBA who can trade for Howard and create a win-win-win for themselves, Howard and the Magic. Would you refuse the chance to put two of the top five players in basketball on your team? That's what the Bulls and Thunder would do if they ignore Orlando in the next several days.
Howard and Kevin Durant. Howard and Derrick Rose. That's two players on the floor who must be doubled, who strike fear into the other bench. That would cause major problems for other teams, especially in the postseason, when the court shrinks. With the possible exception of Miami, would anyone have a more dangerous duo? What makes it even better for the Thunder and Bulls is that they don't need to wreck their teams to get Howard.
As for Orlando, what better deal is out there? Brook Lopez, a big man who's allergic to rebounds, from the Nets? Andrew Bynum and his brittle body from the Lakers? Are any of those deals better than Russell Westbrook from the Thunder, or Luol Deng and Joakim Noah from the Bulls?
Didn't think so.
Obviously, there's a catch. Two, actually. For one, Howard hasn't indicated a desire to sign an extension with either team. But if he's serious about winning a championship, then there's no better option. Playing next to Durant or Rose is an upgrade over playing next to Deron Williams, and that's no knock on Williams. Yes, there's the chance Howard could have Williams and Dirk Nowitzki next season in Dallas, but Dirk's not getting any younger. Besides, with three stars sucking up salary cap space, who are the Mavericks gonna fill out the roster with? WNBA players?
And then there's the issue of chemistry with OKC and the Bulls. Would Howard change the flow drastically? True enough, the Thunder and Bulls can contend for a championship without Howard. But he brings the stuff (defense, intimidation, low-post scoring) that increases your chance of winning.
Thunder GM Sam Presti, while not asked directly about Howard (against NBA rules, anyway), didn't appear too keen on doing any major tinkering at this point.
"We still look at ourselves as a team that's evolving," he said. "A lot of our growth has come internally and in the continued development of our players. We continue to try to study the things that are driving our success while looking at options that could make us better. We know internally that we have a long way to go to get to the place we want to be."
Anyway, Howard to Oklahoma City? Here's how it works ...
For the Thunder: They get a low-post offensive presence which they currently lack, bolster their interior defense (who's gonna attack the rim against Howard and Serge Ibaka?) and become dangerous in the half-court style that's needed to go deep in the postseason.
Really, the margin for error is slim. Yes, Oklahoma City would be removing a top-flight point guard without having a capable backup handy; remember, Eric Maynor is done with a torn ACL. But that can be rectified. Oklahoma can ask Orlando to toss Jameer Nelson in the deal. Nelson would be fine for what OKC needs, a player who can manage the position. With Durant, Howard and Harden on the floor, you don't need an All-Star point guard.
Then this summer, they can chase Steve Nash. At age 39 next season, you think he's turning down the chance to finally get a championship? To play alongside Durant and Howard? You really think Nash would rather play backup to Jeremy Lin in New York or return to Phoenix?
For Howard: Instantly, he would have the teammate he never had in Orlando. Rashard Lewis was supposed to be that guy, but instead became Durant Lite. Durant would be ideal for Howard because Durant lacks the superstar's ego. The two would mesh comfortably because their styles, personalities and positions are total opposites. Besides, they would help each other on the floor, and bring each other that much closer to a ring.
Oklahoma City, the town, isn't exactly New York or Los Angeles or Chicago. But if you're winning, doesn't any city feel like the best you've ever lived in?
For Orlando: Westbrook is the perfect player to build around. He finally gets a team for himself, which should satisfy his ego. He's under contract for the foreseeable future so there's no danger of him bolting. And he's young enough to give Orlando plenty of time to add more pieces.
And then there's Howard to Chicago. Here's how it works ...
For the Bulls: Nobody in basketball would have a better big man-small man combo. And history says that combo is favorable to winning championships. Besides, the Bulls would still have enough talent, after the trade, to keep winning without a hiccup. Kyle Korver's minutes would increase in Deng's absence, and with Dwight on the floor, so would his open looks (ask Ryan Anderson). While defending some small forwards would be an issue, remember that Howard is the perfect antidote for that. He spent the last three years bailing out his Orlando teammates and covering their mistakes and winning defensive player of the year awards. Korver isn't stopping LeBron, but then, neither is Deng. Or anybody.
Rose, Howard, Korver, Carlos Boozer, Rip Hamilton, C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer and Taj Gibson is a team to be respected.
For Howard: Big city with all the trappings and attractions? Check. Amazing teammate, who happens to be a point guard who can provide easy dunks for you? Check. Team that's ready to win right now? Check. Excellent coach who knows how to work with egos and specializes in defense? Check. Tremendous basketball town? Check. Really, what more does Howard want?
For the Magic: Deng and Noah are young enough and good enough to give Orlando a quality foundation. Noah played nearby at the University of Florida, where he won two national championships, so he has some local appeal. There is a conflict between Deng and Hedo Turkoglu, but Hedo, if he isn't thrown in the deal, can play minutes in the backcourt. Orlando wouldn't have a championship team, but the Magic would be a playoff contender and, with the right moves, could rise again.
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