By Jonathan Lee
July 17, 2012
Message to all NBA teams: don’t play poker with Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers. Los Angeles won another big hand on Friday completing a long rumored trade for Dwight Howard without having to part with Pau Gasol.
The Lakers acquired Howard as part of a four-way trade that sent Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson to Philadelphia, and Andre Iguodala to Denver. Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, Josh McRoberts, and Christian Eyenga are going to Orlando along with five draft picks over five years, three of which are lottery protected. The Lakers also received Chris Duhon and Earl Clark.
The Lakers are the clear winners of this deal somehow acquiring both Howard and Steve Nash earlier on in the summer and only parting with Bynum and picks. The team’s major weakness had been almost entirely on the defensive end which Howard solves immediately all by himself. It is his impact on that end of the floor that accounts for much of the +6.3 win gain in AccuScore projections for the 2012-13 season. He helps make his new team the number one seed in the West overtaking the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Sixers are the other major winner in this trade adding a young dominant center in Bynum to their young core of players. With Howard in the West, Bynum now becomes the one elite true low post player in the East. Philadelphia gains nearly four wins in projections, and jumps three spots in the Eastern Conference playoff pecking order behind just Boston and Miami.
Denver meanwhile managed to shed salary and acquire an elite wing defender in Iguodala which is vital to match-up against players like Kevin Durant in the West. The Nuggets remain a solid playoff contender and come out ahead in this deal.
The true loser of this deal is clearly Orlando. The team gained many assets, but lost one of the five best players in all of basketball and somehow did not end up with either Gasol or Bynum or even Iguodala. Even the draft picks the Magic acquired will not occur until a few years down the road and are likely to be of low-value being towards the back half of the first round. What is left on the roster will likely compete at the bottom of the standings being projected to win just 26 games and finish as one of the worst teams in the NBA.