A few weeks ago, several teams set the tone for offseason moves in the NBA by making deals leading up to draft night.
New Orleans sent small forward Trevor Ariza and center Emeka Okafor to Washington in exchange for fourteen-year veteran Rashard Lewis and the No. 46 spot in the draft. The Hornets used the pick to select University of Kentucky sixth man Darius Miller.
The Bobcats swapped swingman Corey Maggette with the Pistons for shooting guard Ben Gordon and a projected first round pick in the 2013 draft.
Houston traded center Samuel Dalembert and the No. 14 pick to Milwaukee for the No. 12 pick and players Jon Brockman, Jon Leuer, and Shaun Livingston. The Rockets also sent sharpshooting small forward Chase Budinger to the Timberwolves for the No. 18 pick.
However, after taking chances on the young players that the draft had to offer, teams have since looked to continue to improve their rosters through trades and the free agent market.
Two of the biggest moves so far this summer came within days of each other starting on July 2 with a deal between Atlanta and Brooklyn. The Hawks agreed to send six-time all-star shooting guard Joe Johnson to the Nets for Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro, Anthony Morrow and Jordan Williams—players that all have expiring contracts. In addition, Atlanta will also receive DeShawn Stevenson via a sign-and-trade and Brooklyn’s 2013 first-round, projected lottery pick (via Houston).
This move along with the announcement via Twitter that two-time All-NBA second team point guard Deron Williams will resign with the Nets long-term seemingly set the table for Brooklyn to land this summer’s most sought after player— 6-foot-11 center Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic.
Howard, who shocked the world at the brink of last season’s trade deadline by committing to remain with the Magic at least through the 2012-13 season, requested soon after the season that Orlando trade him to the Nets, stating that Brooklyn is the only team he will sign a long-term deal with.
However, in an unforeseen twist to this offseason madness, Howard is not expected to get what he longs for the most—a chance to play for the Brooklyn Nets.
On July 11, which marked the first day that contractual agreements could be made official, the Nets and Magic were unable to come to terms on an agreement that would deliver Howard to Brooklyn.
After reaching the 6 P.M. deadline on the 11th that Brooklyn set for both teams to complete a deal, the Nets officially ended their quest to trade for Howard by agreeing on a four-year, $60 million max contract with their current center Brook Lopez. As one of the league’s premier postmen, Lopez received max offer sheets from both Charlotte and Portland, leaving Brooklyn no choice but to secure the four-year player at the sight of lost hope for Howard.
While the Magic are now expected to explore their options of potential trade partners, teams besides the Nets that have expressed interest in the three-time league defensive player of the year include Houston, Dallas, and another team that has pulled off a blockbuster deal so far this summer—the Los Angeles Lakers.
On July 4, the Lakers landed Steve Nash in a deal that will require them to give up first-round draft picks in 2013 and 2015 and second-round selections in 2013 and 2014. The two-time league MVP chose Los Angeles over teams such as the Mavericks, Knicks, and the Raptors who offered him a compelling three-year, $36 million deal to return to his country of Canada. From Nash’s perspective, the move to L.A. will not only allow him to continue to pursue his first title but also to remain near his children in Phoenix.
For the Lakers, who have not gotten past the second round off the playoffs in the last two seasons, the signing of Nash could place them back into the title discussion due to the team’s expected improvement in the assist category. Last season, Nash averaged 10.7 per game— just under double the Lakers’ assist leader Ramon Sessions who tallied 5.5 per game.
While the possibility of Howard playing alongside two former MVPs in Nash and Kobe Bryant next season is very much so an attractive one, it may not be an option that the Lakers want to exploit.
In order to get Howard, Los Angeles would most likely either have to give up 11-year veteran big man Pau Gasol or the young center Andrew Bynum who showed great promise last season by being named to the All-Star and All-NBA second team, both for the first time.
And with Howard currently unwilling to sign a deal beyond next season with any team other than the Nets, the risk outweighs the reward for L.A.
Despite other big moves that have taken place this offseason such as shooting guard Ray Allen’s decision to take his talents to South Beach and join the defending champion Miami Heat, the question that remains on everyone’s mind is: Where will the man people call ‘Superman’ be playing at the start of next season?
A question that Dwight Howard himself does not yet have the answer to.