Posts Tagged ‘dwight howard trade’

My name is Kris Humphries.  Everything’s been coming up Millhouse for me lately.  I revitalized my brand through excellent play on the court of the basketball.  I married the most famous woman in the world if you don’t count women who are famous for a reason.  Then I realized that my marriage was a sham, which was a huge coup for me personally.  My wife, Kimberly Kardashian, married me, Kris Humphries, as a publicity stunt.  I am trying to say this plainly but I will try harder: I am so awesome that a celebrity used me as a stepping stone for her already wildly successful career.

As a member of the New Jersey Nets, I turned my middling career around.  I gave the great state of New Jersey two “contract years” in terms of production, even though you only need to do it once.  Now the team is moving to Brooklyn, and I’m moving somewhere too.  I don’t know where it will be just yet, but it doesn’t matter. This is my moment, you guys.  I have over 919,000 Twitter followers.  Some men leave their mark on the world through great societal deeds, or a severely offensive carbon footprint.  I’m somewhere in the middle: Kris Humphries exposed the Kardashian family. And now, Kris Humphries will break the Dwight Howard trade.

As cool as it is for my old team to throw me away like a piece of unwanted garbage while they give Gerald Wallace a huge contract, trade for one of the most overpaid players in the entire universe, and lust over Dwight Howard like tweens asking their older brother for the link to my ex-wife’s sex tape, I was a little annoyed when they asked me to do them a solid.  They said, “Hey, Kris, it’s been great, but we need you to agree to move to Cleveland so we can sign Dwight Howard.”  My first thought was: “LOL SORRY BRO.”  But then they told me they would get me a fat four-year deal and I was all: “OK I’m listening…” Apparently they didn’t bother to ask Cleveland about that four-year deal.  So they came back and said “Hey, Kris, we couldn’t get that four-year deal for you, so we got you a one-year deal instead.”

I don’t think you need me to tell you how that went.  This is my moment, you guys.  Dudes who have moments don’t just sign one-year deals to play for the Cavs after not one, but two contract years.  No, I will not go quietly into the good night.  I was listening to the Rebecca Black album the other day and I knew that I deserved better.  My girl was not hitting any of the notes but the lyrics resonated in the deepest parts of my soul.

Haters, said I’ll see you later
Can’t talk to you right now
I’m getting my paper
Said I’m doing big things
Things you never dreamed of
I hope you are happy cause I’m ’bout to blow up

This is my moment, my moment
It’s my time, flying high, lime, mine
Feels like my moment, my moment
I’ve waited for so long
But now everybody knows this is my moment, my moment

I’m so appreciative of everything everyone has done for me.  The women in my life have been amazing.  Kim, Kris, Dwight.  A special shout out to Dwight for putting me in the spotlight again.  My jawline and rugged good looks should get me far more airtime than I currently receive.  I just feel like I have tons of unfinished business in the public eye. I have my second chance.  This is my moment. This is my Excitable Boy.  I am Warren Zevon.  But I am mostly Kris Humphries, and this is my moment.  Thank you Rebecca Black, thank you Kim Kardashian, thank you Dwight Howard.  Thank you New Jersey, thank you Cleveland.  It’s time for me to shine; it’s time for me to get paid.  It’s time for me to break the Dwight Howard trade. (C.Dirks)*

*If you were surprised to not see (K. Humphries) at the end of this post, then I am deeply sorry.

It’s been reported that the Magic, Nets, and Cavaliers may be nearing the completion of a proposed trade that would send Dwight Howard to Brooklyn.  The Nets have had quite a summer, pursuing big-money, big name free agents with reckless abandon.  They also locked up Gerald Wallace with a long-term, high-cost deal.  The Nets will push the salary cap to its limit with a Dwight Howard deal, or even if they simply re-sign Brook Lopez.   Widely criticized a month ago for risking too much without a commitment for Deron Williams, the Nets stayed the course, signed Williams, and now have a chance to pair him with Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Dwight Howard, and, well… no one else of note.  Unfortunately it has been proven that these kind of top-heavy teams can succeed, as offensive as they may be to fans of teams in smaller markets who patiently wait through protracted, usually unsuccessful, rebuilding attempts.  “For every Oklahoma City, there are several Torontos.”  Or something like that.

The salary cap, the NBA draft, and trade salary-match provisions are all in place to encourage balance.  Ideally, a team in Orlando or Oklahoma City should have access to enough incentives to retain their own players.  A top draft pick goes through a contract cycle of at least seven years with his first team.  After the first three years, a top draft pick can sign an extension with the team that drafted them, like LeBron James did.  In the alternative, that player could decide not to sign an extension, play through their fourth season, and become a restricted free agent (like Eric Gordon and Roy Hibbert have done).  If the player is a clear top-tier talent, they will most likely sign an extension, because there is no question they will receive a max offer from the team that drafted them and they are free to negotiate the terms of that contract.  LeBron’s extension (four years tacked onto initial four-year contract; player can opt out after seventh year) effectively meant that the Cleveland Cavaliers had him, guaranteed, for the first seven years of his career.  If Indiana matches Hibbert’s offer four-year max offer from Portland, they will have him guaranteed for the first eight years of his NBA career.

This is the cycle of a young star in the NBA.  No matter which route the player decides is best, the provisions of their rookie contracts are built to keep young stars with the teams that selected them for either seven or eight years.  Unfortunately, this period of time has become more of a window than ever before: teams must demonstrate to their stars that they can build a winner, and that it is worth staying in their small market.  When players like Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and others tell their bosses to start looking for a trade despite a contract obliging them to play for their current team for a period of time specified therein, the effect is that the window is lessened by one year.  Although the player is still technically obligated to fulfill their contract, a team that knows their star player is not returning has a duty to try and salvage what they can from his departure, losing leverage with every day that passes.  Chris Paul was traded after six seasons when he informed New Orleans that he wouldn’t re-sign with the team.  His contract still had two years left on it. Carmelo Anthony also dangled a similar factoid to Denver brass, asking to be traded to the Knicks during his eighth season with Denver.  Because of how challenging it is to win an NBA championship and how far a team must come, teams attempting to win one during their star’s six to eight year window do not often meet with success.  It is far more likely that a team will, by rushing to win as early as possible, ruin their chances for long-term viability.

It is difficult for teams to break out of the cellar and into the NBA’s elite. A team with a top draft lottery pick is, most likely, a team without much in the way of talent.  Losing enough games to win the rights to a star prospect isn’t pretty.  As most stars who are drafted high quickly find out, it takes more than one player to experience NBA success.  Teams normally spend two to three years building talent around their young star (if they are lucky enough to acquire a “star” in the draft). If all goes well, they are eventually ready to compete in the playoffs.  After Dwight Howard was drafted, the Orlando Magic went 36-46 for two consecutive seasons as they stripped down their roster and rebuilt around their new star.  They suffered a significant setback when Fran Vasquez, their pick at #11 after Dwight’s rookie year, stayed in Europe for his girlfriend.  In his third season, the Magic went 40-42, locked up the eight seed in the East, and got swept by Detroit.  It wasn’t until Dwight’s fourth season that the team came together: they gave Rashard Lewis one of the biggest contracts in NBA history, signed Howard to an extension, went 52-30, beat the Bosh-led Raptors in the first round, and then lost to Detroit again, this time in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

And then they got their shot: 59-23 in Dwight’s fifth year.  They made it all the way to the NBA Finals, taking down LeBron James’s Cleveland Cavaliers along the way. They lost to the Lakers in five games, and their desperate, short-sighted player acquisitions crippled them from making any further improvements.  Otis Smith, the ex-Magic GM, tried desperately to get the “right” pieces around Howard to get back to the promised land in much the same way that the Cavaliers scrambled with LeBron.  And, similarly, it never quite panned out.  The window closed for the Magic when, in December 2011, Dwight requested a trade.  In a sense, it is a courtesy to extend your team the opportunity to get something back for losing their star by informing them beforehand of your intention to sign elsewhere.  But Dwight not only wanted out, he also wanted to control the process.

Last season (2011-2012), as the trade deadline drew near, it became clear that the Magic planned to trade Dwight Howard.  However, they did not plan to trade him to the New Jersey Nets.  On March 15, 2012, Dwight waived his opt-out clause, essentially committing to playing in Orlando for the rest of the 2012 season, and the entirety of the 2012-2013 season. It is speculation, but many believed that Dwight wanted to be traded to the Nets last season in order to re-sign with Brooklyn in free agency and obtain the additional year under his Bird rights, a favorable contract that wouldn’t be available with Brooklyn if he were traded to any other team.  When no Nets trades were on the table, Dwight had a change of heart.  He “played” the rest of the season (actually he missed the playoffs with an injury!) and promptly requested a trade to the Nets after the season ended.  This time, he was far more blunt: he told the universe that if he was traded anywhere other than Brooklyn, he wouldn’t re-sign with the team that traded for him.  Circumstantial evidence points to Howard convincing Orlando to not trade him elsewhere last season so that he could be traded to the Nets this summer.

Howard’s market value effectively plummeted.  The Nets realize that they have the leverage.  Teams are free to lowball the Magic, as if Howard were already a free agent and this was just a formality sign-and-trade (i.e. when LeBron was “traded” to Miami).  Will the Magic be able to recoup equal value for Howard? Of course not: a team never does with an All-NBA talent.  Will they get enough in return to validate the two seasons of being Howard’s hostage? Absolutely not.  Will they be able to get anything of value whatsoever from Brooklyn in a trade for Dwight Howard?  It seems like the answer is no here as well.  If their return haul is Brook Lopez, Damion James, Shelden Williams, Luke Walton, and three draft picks, then they would be better off making no trade at all.  Lopez will be grossly overpaid.  With all due respect to the rest of the aforementioned players, those are throwaway players who would do more harm than good going through the motions on Orlando’s roster.

As bad as “The Decision” was after seven years with the Cavaliers (and it was awful, lest you forget), at least fans in Cleveland never had to spend time watching their superstar take the court after he made it clear he wanted out.  I can’t imagine how conflicted fans in Orlando felt about cheering Dwight dunks during the post-lockout season.  If fans in Florida were half as passionate and/or hateful as those in Cleveland, he would have been booed out of the building.  As well he should have been.  Part of the blame, of course, is on the Magic for not being wise to Howard’s true intentions, but what Howard has done is manipulate his employment agreement in order to secure a more favorable outcome for himself, harming all other parties in the process.

In order to effectively circumvent his contract, Howard needs the Magic to trade him to the Nets.  Here is where, for the good of the Orlando Magic, and really the entirety of the NBA, I plead with the Magic front office: do not kowtow to Howard’s demand.  The proposed trade with the Nets will do nothing but secure Orlando’s mediocrity.  If Dwight isn’t traded to the Nets, they (most likely) won’t be able to sign him in free agency.  They simply don’t have the ability to do so without Orlando’s help under NBA salary cap rules.  And once it becomes clear that New Jersey is no longer an option, the Magic might actually have some leverage!  Although Howard would like to be in Brooklyn, he won’t be if the Magic refuse to trade him there.  So, why not refuse?  Two can play that game.  Now, Dwight might name a few more teams he would like to be traded to, so here’s a hint: refuse to trade him anywhere that doesn’t give you some modicum of value in return.  At the end of the day, only the team he is traded to, or the Magic if he isn’t traded, can re-sign him to a maximum contract, and go over the cap in doing so with their Bird rights.  This is important to Howard. It’s important to every player.

I’ll take it one step further.  Don’t trade him this offseason unless a killer offer comes across the table.  Most, if not all, of the offers you get will be there at the All-Star break.  And while you’re waiting to trade him, send him home.  Playing him at all will just make their first-rounder in the 2013 NBA Draft less valuable and stunt the growth of younger, more committed players.  His trade value won’t diminish with him sitting at home, and re-establishing the hierarchy in team decision-making to reflect the fact that Howard is not the GM can’t hurt either.  The landscape other than Brooklyn may look bleak now, but I’m betting that Dwight’s “list” expands after the Nets move on.  That is a good thing for the Magic, the NBA, and fans of both. (C. Dirks)

PG

SG

SF

PF

C

John Wall Bradley Beal Trevor Ariza Nene Emeka Okafor
Shelvin Mack Jordan Crawford Chris Singleton Trevor Booker Kevin Seraphin
Jan Vesely Andray Blatche

2012-2013 Salary: $59,364,062 (including Beal and Blatche)

2012-2013 Expected Salary: $52,245,560 (including Beal, excluding amnesty candidate Blatche)

Expected Salary Cap Space: Around $6 million

RFAs: (none)

UFAs: Roger Mason, Jr., Cartier Martin, Maurice Evans, James Singleton, Morris Almond, Brian Cook

Strengths: After trading away Rashard Lewis, Nick Young, and JaVale McGee for Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, and Nene, the Wizards have shown their commitment to being a good defensive team: a refreshing change for fans in Washington who, even under the marginally successful Eddie Jordan-era Wizards, haven’t seen a good defensive team in many, many years.  McGee (a.k.a. “Epic Vale”) was among the top shot-blockers in the league, and boasted the highest PER (player efficiency rating) on the team, but the poor souls who watched the Wizards on a consistent basis (this panelist included) know that McGee’s stats were not an indicator of his effectiveness on defense.

All of the players in Washington’s “new” roster are extremely athletic and a few have the reputation (Ariza, Okafor, Vesely, Singleton) for being tough defensive players.  Wall and Beal both have the potential to be great defensively, but Wall was often burned by opposing teams in his second year, and Beal is, until further notice, unproven.  Still, this team should terrorize opposing offenses with their length, speed, and athleticism.  Washignton’s real strength last year was their effectiveness on the fast break (third in the NBA at 17.9 ppg).  Look for this to be further improved, now that they’ve added a sharpshooter in Beal, and get a full season with Nene, Vesely, and Ariza running the floor with the “one-man fastbreak,” John Wall.  With more competent teammates, Wall will be more effective in the fast break and the open court.  Mike Prada of Bullets Forever made an appropriate tool to measure the detriment Wall’s teammates were having on his assist total last season, and the need for such a tool was evident to anyone who watched how frustratingly often Wall’s 2011-2012 teammates flubbed open shots after a bit of playmaking from Wall.  Despite these hardships, Wall averaged eight assists per game, and that number should rise this season.

Washington’s frontcourt has been significantly upgraded, and starters Ariza, Nene, and Okafor should provide a huge rebounding boost over incumbent starters Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker, and Kevin Seraphin.  Booker and Seraphin should be excellent role players on this team, and this panelist believes that Seraphin, who showed significant polish and effort once McGee was sent out of town, could wrestle significant minutes, and maybe even the starting job, from Okafor (if minutes aren’t computed by salary).

Needs: The Wizards addressed their need for rebounding (see above) in their trade with New Orleans.  But they still have one glaring weakness: shooting.  The only players on Washington’s roster with any ability to shoot from beyond the three-point line are Jordan Crawford (29%), Ariza (33%), Singleton (35%), and presumably, Bradley Beal.  Those numbers aren’t exactly encouraging.  Ariza should benefit from playing alongside a playmaking backcourt, and may perhaps return to the form of his best season with the Lakers in a best-case scenario.  Put simply, the Wizards are one of the worst jump-shooting teams in the NBA, and desperately need another shooter to take the scoring pressure off of Bradley Beal, and the defensive pressure off of John Wall.  Wall suffers the most from Washington’s shooting woes, as defenses feel free to converge on him in the driving lane, not fearing kick-outs to shooters who are more likely to miss a shot than make it.

Potential Free Agent Targets:

  • Roger Mason, Jr. (UFA, WAS, SG) and Cartier Martin (UFA, WAS, SG/SF) – Both of these players were serviceable shooters last season for the Wizards.  Mason is a well-liked, well-respected veteran who can hit from deep, especially when he’s on a hot streak.  Cartier Martin is a high-character guy with an excellent haircut who has an outside shot, and shows some ability to make cuts to the basket.  Neither of these players are long-term answers, but could likely be signed for the veteran’s minimum, and fill a significant need.
  • Jeff Green (UFA, BOS, SF) – “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” Green isn’t the best three-point shooter available, but he is a solid midrange jump-shooter, a smart player, and a competent rebounder at the SF position.  He’s also a Georgetown alumnus (he graduated this year, after sitting out the NBA season due to a heart ailment), and by all accounts a bright, professional human being.  But to make this a valuable signing, the Wizards would have to hope his heart ailment: a) hasn’t atrophied his game; b) won’t cause him to miss any more time; and c) keeps his price low.  Signing Green for between $3 million and the mid-level per year would be an intriguing pickup for the Wizards
  • Carlos Delfino (UFA, MIL, SF) – Carlos Delfino isn’t going to radically restructure your team, but he provides dependable three-point shooting (career 36%) at the small forward position, something that Washington will need.  Chris Singleton, touted as a defensive specialist, and developed as a three-and-D prospect, hasn’t shown that he can excel at either aspect of that player tagline, and shouldn’t necessarily be tolerated on the court when better options are available.  Delfino and Ariza sharing time at the small forward position in Washington seems like a good plan of action going forward, if Washington can nab Delfino for an affordable price on a short-term deal.
  • Mickael Pietrus (UFA, BOS, SF) – Decent three-point shooter, mean on defense. Pietrus would be a relatively good fit on this Wizards team, but is overvalued due to his contributions with Orlando and Boston in recent years, and will likely sign with a more established contender.
  • Jodie Meeks (UFA, PHI, SG) – Philadelphia is likely to re-sign the inexpensive Meeks, as he is one of their only players who can hit jump shots outside of Louis Williams.  But he could be an excellent fit in limited minutes with the Wizards, and is a career 37% three-point shooter.

Potential Trades:

  • Dwight Howard (ORL) to Washington for Emeka Okafor, Jan Vesely, and Trevor Booker – Dream on.  Orlando wouldn’t do it.  Dwight would bitch endlessly before faking a back injury and leaving the following summer.
  • The Wizards have very few tradable assets, and since they’ve just acquired Ariza and Okafor in positions of need, they are unlikely to make any other trades.  Another issue with the Wizards is that most of their second-string talent is still playing on rookie contracts, making salary matches difficult.  Look for the Wizards to make one or two minor signings in free agency, and let the great experiment begin!

The Orlando Magic are an unattractive franchise. They have a star who doesn’t want to play for them. They had (until recently) a General Manager who consistently collected half-talents and retread ex-stars, signing them to deals for more money than they were worth. (Quick poll: would you rather pair Dwight Howard with three borderline bench players like J.J. Reddick, Glenn Davis, and Jason Richardson or one max-salary all-star caliber player? If you are Otis Smith you want the three borderline bench guys rather than a star. That’s why Otis Smith isn’t a General Manager anymore.) They have never been good enough to really be considered title contenders but they’ve always been good enough to ensure they won’t have any young superstar talent fall in their lap via the draft. And make no mistake, with Otis Smith at the helm it would have taken the talent falling in their lap (as Howard did) for true transcendent talent to have landed in Orlando.

Howard will be gone by the end of next year. This is almost undeniably true. Smith and Magic ownership begged, groveled, prayed that Howard wouldn’t ruin the team by leaving in free agency only to overlook the fact that Howard’s waffling and hijacking of the season had already ruined whatever was left of the team after Smith’s terrible moves. Further, the teams that Howard wants to go to are all devoid of any game changing young talent to give back to Orlando. This means Orlando will either have to take back (1) middling talent (Brook Lopez and change, etc.), (2) Andrew Bynum, or (3) just let Howard go. I suppose taking two years of Bynum wouldn’t be a terrible idea, but at the same time, doesn’t it just seem like it won’t work out? Bynum’s youth and talent are intriguing but I don’t see him leading a franchise anytime soon.

Orlando may yet still have a trick up its sleeve and stay semi-relevant. Maybe newly minted 30 year old General Manager Rob Hennigan will know just what to say to make Howard stay. Maybe he’ll know just what to say to other teams to regain some of the leverage Orlando lost by not trading Howard earlier. Maybe a “player friendly” coach will get introduced into the mix and will be the kind of pacifier that Howard has been waiting for. I suppose a call to the Los Angeles Clippers to discuss Blake Griffin plus other pieces is worthwhile but something tells me that with Howard’s recent back surgery Donald Sterling is more likely to rent a clean, safe, low-rent apartment to a family in need than give up on his worldwide media darling/meal ticket Griffin for the chance at a few more wins with Howard.

In the meantime, there is a draft to think of. If I were Orlando I would not look at “need position” and would draft the best player available at pick 19. No one you have beyond Howard is so talented and essential to the team that he should have an unchallenged starting spot. Even though the power forward position is fairly crowded in Orlando, Terrence Jones is the right pick. Jones is an athletic, inside-outside forward whose statistics suffered in his sophomore campaign because of the presence of presumed #1 pick Anthony Davis and presumed Top 3 pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Some see this as a sign that Jones is nothing but a complimentary player. I see it as evidence he can work and adapt his skills to fit what his team needs. There were times this past NCAA season where Jones was the best player on the floor for Kentucky. Without him they would not likely have won an NCAA championship. Orlando should stockpile talent wherever they can, because there’s no point in picking positional need when the center (no pun intended) of your team’s universe, the player that all other pieces were built around, is likely out the door in the coming year. Think of Howard’s departure as Orlando’s own personal impending fiery apocalypse. Orlando shouldn’t spend their savings putting window treatments on a house that’s about to burn to the ground. They should get in their emergency shelter and bring with them anything they can get their hands on that will help best when all hell breaks loose. Jones at 19 would be a decent start.