How the Lakers Land Dwight Howard & Chris Paul In 2012
Kobe: <speed dials Dwight Howard>
Dwight: <answers phone> Hey, what’s up Kobe? You guys figure out a trade for me yet? I’m ready to pull this Melo card when you give me the green light!
Kobe: I got a better idea. Pau just ain’t getting it done bro. His girl dropped him and now he’s playing like Luke Harangody.
Dwight: I know he helped you guys win a couple chips, but I always thought he was pretty soft. Straight baby thighs! What do you have in mind?
Kobe: Let’s get Chris Paul on the line. Why not form our own big 3 and mop these dudes up? You know Chalmers can’t take CP3, and you eat Bosh and Joel Anthony for an afternoon snack.
Dwight: One sec… <conference calls Chris Paul>
Chris: <answers phone> Yoooooo, what’s up Superman?
Dwight: Coolin’ man, chillin’ chillin’! I got Kobe on the line with us.
Kobe: CP, what’s up!
Chris: Kobe! You guys got a charity event coming up? All I’ve got is this Right Guard commercial on Thursday, but I’m free if you need me!
Kobe: We need you on board. I’m about to tell Mitch to blow this thing up, and I’ve got a plan to bring in you and Dwight. I just need you to pull that Melo card. You want to come to LA and win a title with us?
Dwight: C’mon CP! Let’s do this! Can you imagine me running the break with you? We might even be able to convince Phil to come back!
Chris: Consider it done son. Bringing back that Showtiiiiiiiiiiiime!
Kobe: That’s what I like to hear! You know I gotta get a couple more rings so I got one up on MJ. Let me call Mitch. I’ll see you guys soon!
The two most coveted free agents in the class of 2012 will be Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, arguably the two most dominant players at their respective positions in the NBA. It would be unlikely that any team could create the cap room and the supporting cast to lure both free agents to the same destination, but what if both Dwight and CP3 demanded an in season trade like Carmelo Anthony did this year? Would either team risk suffering a similar fate to that of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the NBA’s most hopeless team?
Dwight has reportedly already named the Lakers on his short list of desired destinations, and CP3 has put heavy pressure on New Orleans to acquire more talent with threats of a trade demand behind closed doors. LA has always been a major draw for stars, whether it’s because of the city’s popularity, it’s status as a media mecca, or because Jerry Buss has built a juggernaut franchise ranked as the second most valuable in the league by Forbes, with the second most championships in history. Would an offseason phone call from Kobe Bryant, a man desperate to continue building his legacy, convince Dwight and CP3 to form a Los Angeles Trio of epic proportions? I’ve worked the three team trade seen above as one way this could actually happen. Read on for more details of how this works…
Projected Starting Lineup:
- PG - Chris Paul
- SG - Kobe Bryant
- SF - Trevor Ariza
- PF - Lamar Odom
- C - Dwight Howard
Players Traded: Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Ron Artest, Derrick Caracter
Players Acquired: Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, Quentin Richardson
Why They Do It:
The Lakers biggest problem is fairly obvious; they’re getting old. With 10 players on the roster 31 years or older when next season starts (including the entire starting lineup, except Bynum), the Lakers’ defensive struggles against younger teams will only grow. Longtime former Laker GM Jerry West said the Lakers struggled defensively this season due to age:
If there’s a loose ball now, how often do they get to it? The reason you can’t play defense is because you can’t…I don’t think the Lakers will be good for much longer. You can keep a car running for a long time by changing the tires, etc. But you can’t change a player’s tires.
Coach Phil Jackson agreed, responding to West by saying:
He’s right. We have to do a lot of things right to be able to play defense the way we want to, and most of it is about controlling the tempo of a game.
Even Kobe Bryant responded with:
The dynamics of the team have changed slightly. Last year, you had Jordan [Farmar] and Sasha [Vujacic] in the second unit running around like jackrabbits. That was their big strength, their ability to get out on the open floor. This team, we slow things down a little bit more. We run on need. We’re not a fast-break team by any stretch of the imagination. But fast breaks don’t win championships, anyway. If they did, Phoenix would have a bunch.
With the overwhelming feeling that the Lakers pattern of falling short this season is due to age, why wouldn’t they make a strong move to get younger core players? Kobe is clearly still a top player in the league, and he’s the constant in LA. He’ll retire in purple and gold, so the retooling of the team will be to prolong his legendary career, not trade him. That leaves Pau, Bynum and Odom as the primary trade bait. With Bynum’s star caliber play in the second half of the season, the oft injured young center’s stock will likely never be higher. Pau is still an All-Star starter, a two time champ, and a coveted 7’ PF/C in a league where size is at a premium. Why trade them? Because as good as Pau and Bynum have been, Pau’s age and rapidly declining playoff performance is a factor going forward, and Bynum’s injury history pales in comparison to Dwight’s ironman reputation and undeniable status as the league’s premier big man. With the trade proposed above LA would have the league’s reigning three time Defensive POY, a 25-year-old man who has anchored an otherwise soft as Charmin team en route to 3 consecutive Top 5 finishes in team defensive efficiency. Chris Paul is a quality defender, and someone who routinely finishes among the league leaders in steals. He could effortlessly bring Showtime back to LA, and be the Lakers first star point guard since Magic. Ariza would bring youth, athleticism, and familiarity to the team, while Q Rich could be a veteran option off the bench. Armed with the full mid-level exception to add a key unrestricted free agent (Tim Duncan? Chris Kaman? David West? Nene? Kirk Hinrich?) and with veteran stars lining up to take the minimum for a shot at a ring, the Lakers would immediately reload and rebuild at the same time without skipping a beat. Mitch, you better pick up that phone and start inquiring!
- Get two franchise stars to transition seamlessly from the Kobe era
- Get younger and more athletic
- Unload the long term injury risk of Bynum
- Break up a back-to-back championship core
- Acquire the league’s premier big man at the cost of losing two 7’ stars
- Let’s get real. We’re nitpicking. This is only possible if these stars force it to happen. This is an incredible deal for LA.
Projected Starting Lineup:
- PG - Jameer Nelson
- SG - Jason Richardson (if re-signed) or JJ Redick
- SF - Hedo Turkoglu
- PF - Pau Gasol
- C - Emeka Okafor
Players Traded: Dwight Howard, Gilbert Arenas, Quentin Richardson
Players Acquired: Pau Gasol, Emeka Okafor, Derrick Caracter
Why They Do It:
Orlando has had multiple opportunities to make a Finals run in a weak Eastern conference, and has only managed to reach the Finals once before falling behind the likes of Chicago and Miami, both young teams on the way up. Orlando understands Dwight is unhappy, and their blockbuster trade to acquire J Rich and Arenas, and subsequent move to reacquire Turkoglu, have not worked out. Dwight has no help, and it is clear the strategy to surround Dwight with three point bombers is flawed. With the threat of Dwight departing in free agency like Shaq before him, Orlando knows it can’t afford to get zero return for the league’s best big man if he makes it clear he will leave. Magic GM Otis Smith has even stated his fear:
At end of day, I think he wants to stay here and wants to win here…But with so many marquee guys moving, it’s kind of hard for me not to have any angst about it. I’d be crazy if I didn’t. Of course.
Orlando had a tough decision to make when choosing between Okafor, who had just won a Championship with UConn, and Howard, fresh out of high school. They ended up making the right decision, but it would be interesting to see Okafor in a Magic jersey after all, wouldn’t it? Losing the league’s best big man would usually be a catastrophic blow, but in this scenario, Orlando trades away one 7 footer to get back two. Not only that, but they unload the horrible contracts of Arenas and Q Rich, both of whom have fallen out of the rotation for extended periods of time. If Dwight demands a trade, and this was on the table, you better believe Otis Smith would pick up the phone and pull the trigger.
- Trade the league’s best 7 footer for two all-star caliber 7 footers
- Unload the Arenas and Richardson contracts
- Instantly change styles, and move away from the three point happy team
- Lose the league’s best center
- Get slightly older
- Still not good enough to challenge Chicago or Miami
- PG - Gilbert Arenas
- SG - Marco Belinelli
- SF - Ron Artest
- PF - David West (if re-signed) or Carl Landry
- C - Andrew Bynum
Players Traded: Chris Paul, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza
Players Acquired: Andrew Bynum, Ron Artest, Gilbert Arenas
Why They Do It:
For the same reasons as Orlando in this scenario, this has to appeal to New Orleans on two levels. First, they get a premier young big man to anchor their team into the future. Bynum has shown enough this season to indicate, if healthy, he can be a perennial All-Star if given an increased offensive role. He shoots around 60% from the field with solid free throw shooting, and he already has averages that place him in the top handful of NBA rebounders and shot blockers. At age 23, he is a worthy gamble as a franchise center. If you lose CP3 to a trade demand, you could do FAR worse than bringing back a coveted 7 footer, especially one that already has two rings before he turns 24. With a scoring void at the guard positions aside from Paul, bringing in Arenas makes a lot of sense. His contract is awful, but he’s still young enough to be a key contributor if he can stay on the court. Once one of the league’s brightest stars, Arenas is a volume scorer to accompany Bynum’s post presence, and bridge the gap till New Orleans can land a young star guard via the draft or free agency. As a bonus, they only need him to fill the role for two years until he becomes a coveted 20+ million dollar expiring contract. Ron Artest teams with Bynum to bring immediate grit and toughness to the lineup, instantly making Monty Williams’ team a potential defensive juggernaut with an addition or two. Defense has been a hallmark of Williams’ Hornets teams thus far, as coach Larry Brown noted:
Monty did a wonderful job of managing the clock and putting them in position to win…I think they’re committed to guarding, right up and down the line…They’re emphasizing (defense), and that’s why their record is what it is.
The Knicks have nothing close to the package this trade would net the Hornets, and that seems to be the only place CP3 is legitimately being drawn to. The Bobcats have been mentioned, but with the supporting cast being so horrid, Paul would be insane to think he could win there, no matter how hard Jordan pitched him. A phone call from Kobe and Dwight would have to be music to his ears, and landing Bynum would be a solid consolation prize for a team that doesn’t want to compete for the first pick in the draft every season.
- Acquire a young franchise capable center with championship experience
- Get tougher on defense
- Unload Ariza’s contract mistake
- Lose arguably the league’s best point guard
- Get older in the backcourt
- Acquire the horrible Arenas contract for 2 years until it becomes an expiring contract asset in the final season
While I understand this is a bit of a stretch, and a trade with Orlando for Dwight is far more likely for the Lakers, this is a new era of basketball. This is an era where stars use the increasing power of media to their advantage. An era where players with premier talent can hold their teams hostage, and force their way to franchises they want to play for. Just because a trade of this magnitude isn’t likely to happen doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. If the Lakers had lost in a heated 7 game Finals series, large scale changes almost assuredly would be off the table. After being unexpectedly swept, and in horrific fashion before they even reached the conference finals, a roster blow up to eliminate complacency and age issues could very well be in the cards. Colin Cowherd always says:
Don’t fall in LOVE with players. Fall in LIKE with them.
Thanks for the championships guys, your contributions won’t be forgotten. Like Laker champions before you, you’ll always be part of the family. That said, aside from Kobe Bryant, I refuse to call any other players untouchable. With a longer offseason then Laker fans are accustomed to, what better way to pass the time than to consider the endless possibilities?
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