Not since Wilt Chamberlain was traded (to San Francisco) in 1965 and then again three years later (to Los Angeles), and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was dealt to the Lakers in 1975, have the NBA’s most dominant big men been involved in such a momentous transaction. Indeed, the relocating of Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard qualifies as the Deal of the Century.
Disregarding salary cap implications and potential buyouts, let’s take a closer look at what the individuals involved might bring to their new teams.
DWIGHT HOWARD TO THE LAKERS
He’s obviously a dynamic rebounder and shot-blocker, but there are several cautions that must be noted. The first, and most important, being Jimmy Buss, who has inherited the management of the Lakers from his father. It was Buss the Younger who inhibited Andrew Bynum’s development by making excuses for his young center’s every mistake and generally catering to the many manifestations of his immaturity.
It was Buss who insisted that Bynum be the focus of Mike Brown’s offense. With Howard in L.A. on a trial basis, expect Buss to bend over backwards to spoil his new big man and insist that, like Bynum, the offense must be centered around Howard. The impact on the team’s overall chemistry must necessarily be disruptive.
Also, since Howard’s crude offensive did not improve much under the tutelage of Patrick Ewing in Orlando, he isn’t close to being a go-to scorer. Moreover, with his extremely limited range, Howard will clog the lane, severely restricting the sphere of influence of Steve Nash. Indeed, the last time Nash was paired with a pivot-bound big man (Shaquille O'Neal in 2008-09), the Suns were decidedly mediocre.
Plus, Howard’s being anchored in the pivot continues to reduce the multi-talented Pau Gasol into being largely a jump-shooter.
To take full advantage of Nash’s skill-set, Howard will have to learn to set sturdier picks than is his wont, and also to make more forceful rolls hoopward. And with Howard’s pitiful performance at the stripe, he will receive minimal touches in the clutch.
In addition, in Howard’s eagerness to block every shot he sees, he’s often out of position and therefore unable to provide the kind of rim-protection that he should. In other words, despite all the awards and hoopla, Howard’s defensive prowess is somewhat overrated.
But here’s the worst aspect of Howard’s game plan: Because of his dim-witted immaturity, he’s a loser.
EARL CLARK TO THE LAKERS
A one-on-one scorer who can’t do anything else. A useful 12th man, who can sometimes have a brief impact in an emergency.
CHRIS DUHON TO THE LAKERS
An adequate backup point guard whose game gets worse the more he plays.
ANDREW BYNUM TO THE SIXERS
His offensive moves are much more refined than Howard’s but his defense is slightly more confused. When to fully commit to lane-penetrators and when to just show-and-recover? Another question: Will Doug Collins exert enough of an edge to provoke Bynum into showing up for every game?
Although Bynum is an inferior passer and tends to turn the ball over when doubled, in the long run and if he stays healthy, he just might develop into a much more rounded, and therefore more effective, player than Howard. On the other hand, Bynum’s sometimes laissez-faire work ethic might stall his development and make him another NBA player who never quite achieves his full potential.
ANDRE IGUODALA TO THE NUGGETS
He’s the third-best player involved in the transaction. An excellent defender, improving three-point shooter, willing passer, and perfect third option on offense behind Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, Iguodala is definitely a step-up from the departed Arron Afflalo, and exchanging his defense for Al Harrington’s erratic offense is another plus.
JASON RICHARDSON TO THE SIXERS
He’s a potent scorer off the bench, which almost compensates for his subpar defense.
ARRON AFFLALO TO THE MAGIC
This guy can play both ends of the court and his game has improved on an annual basis. He’s now a dangerous three-point shooter and almost a stopper on defense. He’s by far Orlando’s biggest get and could be the sleeper in his new team’s haul.
AL HARRINGTON TO THE MAGIC
A scorer. Period. Harrington excels at creating his own shots but lacks any degree of consistency. Strictly a bench-player. If he misses three consecutive shots during his initial rotation, he should immediately be yanked and given a similar opportunity during the second half.
NIKOLA VUCEVIC TO THE MAGIC
A big, slow, relatively unathletic player who can’t defend without fouling and has limited lateral movement. At best, he’s a backup center.
MOE HARKLESS TO THE MAGIC
Rookies are always an unknown quality. A power forward at St. John’s, he’ll get his minutes as a small forward until he does his due diligence in the weight room. Might or might not be a key component in Orlando’s rebuilding process.
JOSH McROBERTS TO THE MAGIC
A hustling banger who specializes in dispensing hard fouls.
CHRISTIAN EYENGA TO THE MAGIC
Supremely athletic, but remains a long-range project who will only play in blowouts.
The most significant benefit that Orlando will reap from this colossal deal is the multiple first-round picks they have collected from Denver, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
ORLANDO: C-plus for now, INC for the future.