Keeping Dwight Howard around | Magic Basketball

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Jan 18

Keeping Dwight Howard around

AP Photo/John Raoux

Well, here we are. The Magic are winning, and there is no end in sight to the Dwight Howard saga. In some ways, this was the least likely scenario, as it sure seemed as if Orlando’s roster and Dwight’s disposition would make this season like getting a root canal. Such was my prediction, anyway. And yet, the Magic have continued — in some ways, rediscovered — their proficiency as a regular season team, and that is going to raise the question.

Should they keep Dwight no matter what this season?

Let me say, first off, that I’m not wondering whether Dwight Howard should choose to stay. I’m wondering whether it makes any kind of decent sense to hold on to Dwight and use the team’s current success as their best argument for keeping him. I know it’s the route a lot of fans would like to see the team go, but so far, the Magic as constructed with Dwight Howard on the team do not seem to have a compelling enough argument to risk trying this approach.

Going forward, the team’s approach with Dwight is all about risk management. Any of the popular choices — trading Howard for young players and picks, trading Howard for Andrew Bynum, holding on to him through the season — carry some risk and some reward. And of those three options, I think holding onto Howard is still the highest risk/lowest reward proposition.

With a trade for young players, the risk of a terrible team, which is high, is mitigated by the almost certain reward of stocking Orlando’s talent pool with players who will learn the game from Stan Van Gundy. With a player like Bynum, the medium risk of a bad team is offset by the reward of having gotten something back for your franchise-sized void while having the Lakers absorb a bad contract (Turkoglu). In the final scenario, the unknowable risk of Dwight’s leaving is offset, or not, by the potential reward of the team staying at its present level. Of course, the team’s present level, while enjoyable to watch on a nightly basis, is hardly worth risking having nothing to show for Howard’s departure.

Look, I’ve enjoyed the start of this season as least as much as anyone. There are stretches when it looks like the Magic are succeeding inevitably, as a sheer function of opposing defenders being unable to be in two places at once. But I think we’ve seen that this is not a contending team. There’s too little athleticism aside from Dwight, and too little defensive ability on the wings.

Take, for instance, the game against the Knicks. The Magic had nobody they could really bother Carmelo Anthony with; fortunately, he shot his team out of the game, but every trip down the court was a question of whether Carmelo had the discipline to get a decent shot against a lesser defender. He didn’t, but it had a lot more to do with him than it did with the Magic.

You could point to similar instances all season long where the Magic have been succeeding despite fairly noticeable deficiencies. Jameer Nelson has mostly been getting outplayed, Jason Richardson has looked out of sync, and so on. This team is good enough to beat the teams it should and, on a hot night, most of the league. It is not built well enough to respond to the adjustments of a high-quality opponent or to beat teams with its weaker areas.

But wait, you say, if the team locks in Dwight, there will be upside beyond the current roster. And my response is: not really. The team is simply too financially locked into its current core. Other than Dwight, the only players who could conceivably come off the books without a trade are Redick (likely back on a team option with decent value), Jameer (who will certainly exercise his $8.6m player option), Larry Hughes and Von Wafer.

So, basically, you’re looking at this year’s team minus Larry Hughes and maybe minus Von Wafer. That’s not fixing the problem, or freeing up enough money to spend. Further, even when the team does free up money to spend, it’s still Otis Smith spending the money of an owner who has called for the team to bring in more “proven veterans.” Listen, I don’t know about y’all, but I do not relish the prospect of being the Wizards South.

As far as the team’s other options are concerned, they seem more palatable to me. Obviously, I have been pretty vocal about wanting the team to acquire young pieces. I’m not wild about the trade for Bynum, but at least you could convince the Lakers to take a bad contract and maybe involve a third team for draft picks.

Of course, this is all assuming you watch and root for basketball teams the same way I do. I tend to track organizations and large issues more than I care about whether the Magic slip up and lose to the Bobcats on a mid-season Tuesday; in my view, a team needs to either be executing a plan or acquiring financial flexibility. But maybe you don’t think that way, and maybe right now is enough for you. The jury is still out, though, on whether right now will be enough for Dwight Howard.

Danny Nowell is a contributing writer for Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.

10 comments
Magician1378
Magician1378

Jeff has a great argument, I couldn't agree more. I definitely vote that we keep Howard and try to convince him to stay (assuming we maintain a record of being around a top 6 in the league). In the offseason we try to get Deron to come join Howard. Now I understand Danny's argument that this is an extremely risky idea, and honestly, I would even say that more likely than not it will fail. However, in the chance it succeeds, the Magic are awesome for several years to come. If it does fail, then the Magic will start rebuilding through their own high draft picks and players contracts' slowing starting to expire. I really don't want to be stuck in mediocrity with a trade.

slamman
slamman

It is so funny about what we have seen In a early season of NBA basketball. First of all health is the biggest issue more than talent alone. The other issue is the latest occurance of players trying to run to the big markets. What ever happen to the Tim Duncans' of the basketball world. It seems to me that the whole principle of the NBA is all show and glow, and not the pursuit of really winning a championship. Lets take the situation about the magic for example. Why are we talking about a team that is breaking up just because a team leader is chasing dreams towards more broader streams, but maybe perhaps the stream may be just as the search of a modern day Ponce De Leon?

CarloSimone
CarloSimone

I think there's an issue to think about and that's cap space as the end-all-be-all in terms of general management. Gaining cap space doesn't always get you anything in return. In fact, most GMs (cough, Otis, cough) would probably overspend on mediocre players if given cap space. So really the issue is do you get a quality player to build around or do you get picks and hope that your picks work out? If Dwight leaves, I'm of the mindset that the draft is the number one place to start. The field of young talented players in the league currently that are available is low.

Having a plan is certainly important but luck really needs to be on our side for this to really work out. There really aren't many smart ways to play this situation. It's a roll of the dice no matter what you do.

canegrad05
canegrad05

What young players are the Magic getting in return that you think we have a shot at? Bynum's better than Lopez. We're not getting youth from Dallas. DeAndre Jordan is young, but his contract is awful considering his actual production.

jeffshannonhouse
jeffshannonhouse like.author.displayName 1 Like

The problem with trading him is - and its the same argument you used for not trading him - it is still Otis Smith who would be getting the deal. I don't trust Otis at all. And the worst part is unless those players we get back are on expiring deals, we will be in cash-strapped mediocrity for a while. That's not good. I'd rather be bad w/o Dwight for 2 years, have Otis fired, and rebuild through the draft and with all the cap space we WILL have in a couple years, via free agency. That and the fact that the season is still quite young, and we are playing fairly well, are the reasons they need to keep Dwight til the end.

DannyNowell
DannyNowell

@jeffshannonhouse I guess that's one way of looking at it, but if the plan is to bottom out, go ahead and bottom out, right? Why keep Dwight, lose him for nothing, and have all the pieces of the team that were around Dwight just play out their contracts?

jeffshannonhouse
jeffshannonhouse like.author.displayName 1 Like

@DannyNowell You were weighing the risk/reward factors. I think the risk of keeping him and possibly losing him for nothing, thus throwing us into a cash-strapped, 2 year spiral isn't really that much worse than the risk of trading him for a mediocre team who is also cash strapped, and now isn't able to build via the draft. I haven't seen anything even being rumored to being offered that would say otherwise (meaning not cash strapped and/or mediocre). Bynum is nice, and dumping Turk's deal is ok, but it will be gone in 2 years anyway. So if we lose Dwight for nothing, Turk will be gone in 2 years along with everyone not named Richardson or Davis, and both of them can be stretched. That is literally blowing it up and starting from scratch. Plus, our teams would be so bad w/o Howard, that the reward is high draft picks. With Bynum, we're at the bottom of the lottery, maybe even a fringe playoff team.

The risk imo, is well worth the reward of keeping him, which is one of the best rewards you can possibly have in the NBA. If you trade him, you obviously don't have that reward any more. And now your new reward is what, Andrew Bynum? Gimmie the dynamite.

Wundervogel
Wundervogel

@SouthSydeEnt@jeffshannonhouse@DannyNowell I am truly the mindset that we keep Dwight, ride this thing out. If we trade him, we might get draft picks, but you are also filling the cap room right back up. I don't trust Otis either. But, as stated previously, we could be a terrible team with cap room, or a terrible team with no cap room. We are not the New Orleans Hornets, but we are also not the Lakers. We can, and have, attracted young, great free agents in the past. If you trade Dwight, you rarely - as thats overstating it - get the value back that you trade away. And yeah, I would try to move some guys on our team to get more athletic. No, don't blow it up yet. But come on, let's move someone to create an atmosphere that Dwight wants to stay in. Also, does anybody really want Bynum or Lopez?

jjmagic
jjmagic like.author.displayName 1 Like

@jeffshannonhouse@DannyNowell I agree with you jeff. Plus, this team seems to be coming together well--TEAMS still win championships. Athleticism--other than Howard--does seem to be our biggest deficiency. Everything I read and observe, says it takes time to learn Van Gundys defense. We have some very athletic guys sitting on the bench. (rookies) Clark is a freak--I hope he learns! Wafer is looking good. Davis is learning fast. Bass for Wafer and Davis? Looks like we came out way ahead. Last, and certainly not least, the Guys seem to really enjoy each other! (eg--Howard "resuscitating" Davis last night, and then later in the game--Davis "resuscitating" Howard) My bottom line, like yours, lets hold our cards, and see what happens!