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The New Jersey Nets are prepared to offer a trade package featuring Brook Lopez and two future first-round picks to acquire Dwight Howard before the Orlando Magic center becomes a free agent in July 2012, according to sources close to the situation.
Sources told ESPN.com this week that, to sweeten the proposal, New Jersey would likewise offer to take back the contract of Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu, who has three seasons left on his contract worth just under $35 million. Absorbing Turkoglu’s remaining salary would become financially feasible for the Nets after the expected release of swingman Travis Outlaw through the amnesty clause that will be included in the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement and by including another smaller contract or two in the deal. [...]
It’s been an open secret around the league that the Nets’ dream scenario is pairing Howard with Williams, after they followed up their failed pursuit of Carmelo Anthony last season by trading for Williams just before the February trade deadline. It remains to be seen whether Howard will regard the Nets as a prime destination on par with the New York Knicks, even after they move out of New Jersey, but sources say that Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov has long believed that teaming them up would convince both Team USA stars to commit their long-term future to the Brooklyn-bound Nets.
Most rival teams, however, doubt that the Magic can be convinced to start seriously considering trade scenarios for Howard this early. Orlando has thus far resisted outside interest in hopes of convincing the NBA’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year to stay in Central Florida. Two team executives monitoring the situation told ESPN.com on Tuesday night that they expect Orlando to take a patient approach with what could be Howard’s last year in town.
And so it begins.
Until Dwight Howard’s future is determined, the rumor mill is going to run rampant until the internet explodes.
For the New Jersey Nets, with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov owning the team, with an impending move to the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn in 2012, and with Deron Williams under contract (for the time being), the belief is that they have what it takes to lure Howard away from the Orlando Magic. Fueling the fire is that the Nets are usually among a list of teams that are rumored to be on Howard’s short list, and he’s openly stated in an interview — in Russia ironically enough — during the offseason that he wouldn’t mind playing with Williams. It would appear that all the pieces are there for a union to be formed between Howard and the Nets. However, New Jersey has a few obstacles.
First, Howard must have the desire to sign a long-term contract there.
Second, even if Howard isn’t necessarily too thrilled with the idea of committing to the Nets, in which he’ll need some convincing, general manager Billy King has to make sure his trade offer is best. Let’s expand on this point.
A package featuring Brook Lopez and two future first-round picks, presumably New Jersey’s first in 2012 and Houston’s first in 2012 (which is lottery protected), doesn’t sound too appealing. Why?
Lopez is a fringe All-Star caliber player, at best, that’s also a sub-par rebounder and defender for his size. Yes, Lopez is 22 years old and a talented scorer but he’s not a type of piece you build around. And if the Nets acquire Howard during the middle of the season (more on this in a bit), with Williams en tow, there’s a good chance their first-round pick falls outside the top 10 or even the lottery. Couple that with a lottery protected first-round pick from the Rockets and you have an underwhelming offer on your hands. Those two first-round picks, even in a loaded 2012 NBA Draft, probably net you role players. Combine that with a player like Lopez and you lock yourself into mediocrity.
Clearing cap space is a logical move but if the Magic trade Howard, which is the best course of action because the odds of him staying are low, they need to net as many assets as possible. Lopez, two mid-first rounders, and change isn’t good enough for a player of Howard’s caliber. No, Orlando isn’t going to win in any trade involving Howard but they can get a better deal. The problem is that time isn’t on the Magic’s side.
When it comes to Howard’s future, there’s many more layers to uncover.
Howard has numerous options if he opts-out: 1.) he can opt-out and re-sign with the Magic for five years with Bird rights, 2.) he can get traded by the deadline, opt-out, and re-sign with his new team for five years with Bird rights, 3.) he can get traded by the deadline, opt-out, and sign with a different team for four years with non-Bird rights, 4.) he can opt-out at the end of the season and execute a sign-and-trade with a different team for four years with non-Bird rights, or 5.) he can opt-out at the end of the season and sign with a different team for four years with non-Bird rights.
According to numerous reports, Howard is looking at either a 4-year, $80.5 million contract with 4.5 percent annual raises or 5-year, $110.8 million contract with 7.5 percent annual raises. If Howard chose to opt-in or execute an extend-and-trade, that’s a whole ‘nother ball game.
Consider this: if Howard is really hell-bent on playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, either general manager Otis Smith can acquiesce to his demands, get something in return for Howard, and call it a day. Or Smith can let Howard walk and risk having nothing to show for it. But then Howard can’t sign with the Lakers as a free agent because they don’t have any cap space. If this scenario doesn’t encapsulate the struggle there will be between Smith and Howard, nothing does.
Buckle up, folks. This is only just the beginning.