Cohen: Popular Questions Analyzed

By Josh Cohen
July 2, 2012

What are your thoughts of the latest reports on Dwight Howard and his trade request to the Nets?

Here is my chief inquiry:

If the Brooklyn Nets are not an option for Dwight Howard, which other team or teams would the franchise center want to play long term for?

Let me elaborate further why I ponder this question.

There are reports that the Nets are in negotiations with the Atlanta Hawks to acquire Joe Johnson and the nearly $90 million remaining on his contract.

Brooklyn, obviously, hopes to re-sign Deron Williams to a maximum deal; it just agreed to a four-year contract with Gerald Wallace worth $40 million and it would seem plausible to presume the Nets will try and retain Brook Lopez, who is a restricted free agent.

If all those transactions emerged, Brooklyn would undoubtedly exceed salary cap restrictions and would have no leverage to sign Howard next summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

In fact, the most the Nets would be able to spend on free agents in 2013 would be a mid-level exception worth about $5 million.

As a result, again if the Nets were not an alternative, which team would D12 desire to play with?

Any interest in the Lakers has seemingly dissipated over the last several months and the other team on his list of preferred destinations from last December when he made his original trade request, the Mavericks, appear ready to offer big contracts to current free agents.

It’s convoluted, for sure.

Is it possible that if he can’t join Brooklyn, Dwight’s next favored location is Orlando?

Loyalty has always seemed at least somewhat important to Howard, who decided to stay with the Magic at the trade deadline last season rather than accepting any trade the team would have made.

Unless there is a trade offer that the Magic can’t pass up on, it may be worthwhile for Rob Hennigan and the only franchise Howard has ever played for to keep him until there is more clarity.

Remember, Howard has changed his mind before about his future and rather than make any assumptions based on what the media has revealed over the last few days, it still seems reasonable to believe he will have second thoughts again down the road.

What teams do you think will try and acquire Dwight Howard?

Well, obviously, we know about the Brooklyn Nets since that is the team Howard has requested a trade to. The only assets they possess are Brook Lopez, who is a restricted free agent, MarShon Brooks and a few expiring contracts including Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow and Johan Petro.

Future draft picks would be meaningless and inconsequential considering if Brooklyn attained Howard, it would be a perennial playoff team with no chance of being in the draft lottery.

And if they do acquire Joe Johnson and re-sign Deron Williams, the Nets would have absolutely no salary cap space for the next few years.

The Lakers have long coveted Howard, but Dwight’s resistance to sign long term in Hollywood has shrunk L.A.’s bargaining power. Andrew Bynum, who most consider to be the NBA’s second best center, and Pau Gasol, in spite of still having $40 million left on his contract, are two attractive pieces the Lakers have to offer.

It’s ambiguous, however, if L.A. would be willing to deal both Bynum and Gasol especially if Howard doesn’t commit long term to playing with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.

The Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors are two clubs that seem more than willing to acquire Howard with no assurance he would stay past next season.

Neither the Rockets nor Warriors have a proven and distinguished “star” to offer the Magic in any deal.

Houston has the three draft picks, Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrence Jones, a budding point guard in Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin’s expiring contract and a respectable, but perhaps overpaid, Luis Scola to proffer.

Golden State, on the other hand, has its draft lottery selection, Harrison Barnes, along with fan favorite Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut, who the Warriors acquired at the trade deadline last season from the Bucks, and another highly regarded, but pricey, power forward in David Lee.

There are three sleeper teams that nobody has really discussed lately that may have interest in trading for Howard: New York, Oklahoma City and Chicago.

If the Knicks, for one, were to sign Steve Nash to a deal, they would have no need for Jeremy Lin. Would NY be willing to offer Lin, who is a restricted free agent and could be available via sign-and-trade, along with Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler? And if so, would Orlando be interested in some sort of blockbuster package that included Dwight and others on its roster to fulfill the financial requirements?

OKC, meanwhile, seems flexible in trading James Harden if the right deal came along. It could also present Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins if the Thunder were open to the idea of acquiring Howard with no assurance he would stay past next season. A trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Howard would be difficult to contend with even if it's just for one season.

And finally, Chicago seems desperate to find a suitable second superstar to partner up with Derrick Rose. Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson are the Bulls’ best assets, but are all getting rich contracts.

Listen, Howard is one of the best players in the league and is already one of the premier centers of all time. It’s the exact reason why, ultimately, Orlando may continue to wait until it is comfortable making a decision on whether to trade him or not.

Do you think the Magic should re-sign Ryan Anderson and Jameer Nelson?

It’s all about finance.

Ryan Anderson and Jameer Nelson have proven to be extremely valuable to the Magic organization.

They both deserve to be chased on the open market.

But the Magic need to measure their respective value.

How much is too much?

One of the primary goals of the Magic, especially if they decide to rebuild for the future, would be to become a salary-cap-friendly team.

There will be a plethora of first-class free agents available in the summers of 2013 and 2014. It may be in Orlando’s best interest to be in a position to financially make a pitch for any of those impending free agents.

As a result, the Magic need be very careful in how much they are willing to spend on both Anderson and Nelson.

While they are both good talents with distinct qualities, neither Anderson nor Nelson are “stars” and need to be evaluated as complimentary pierces and effective role players.

As proven in Miami, sometimes the best way to evolve into a championship team is to have an excess of salary cap space and invest when it’s most appropriate to do so.

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