The Los Angeles Lakers are coming to a point where they will have to make a very difficult decision that will either secure the future success of the franchise or set it back for years to come.
Do they relentlessly pursue Dwight Howard and risk losing him for nothing.
Or do the Lakers decide to give up their pursuit and work with Howard in facilitating a sign and trade to net some talent in return.
The Lakers will be in fierce competition with a number of teams vying for Howard’s services.
It was recently reported that the Houston Rockets are shopping last year’s number 5 draft pick, Thomas Robinson, to any takers in order to free up cap space to offer a max contract to Howard. There were also reports that James Harden is actively making his pitch to Howard. Houston with Harden and some other nice young pieces make a great fit for Howard and appear to be the Lakers biggest threat.
Mark Cuban has made it clear of his intentions to do anything possible to sway Howard’s decision of staying in Los Angeles. The Dallas Mavericks do not have enough to offer Howard a max deal at the moment, but with Cuban’s persistent focus on nabbing Howard and screwing over the hated Lakers, he will undoubtedly make the necessary moves to clear cap space and make his aggressive and elaborate pitch. The pampering style of Cuban has always impressed NBA free agents and is likely the next most intriguing location for Howard.
The Atlanta Hawks already have the cap space to offer Howard a max deal without any maneuvers or assistance from other clubs. While all reports to this point have been that Howard is lukewarm about playing in his hometown of Atlanta, the flexibility that the Hawks posses make them a definite threat.
Many believe that the Lakers would be better off letting Dwight Howard walk because he is not a player to build your franchise around due to his limited offensive skills and questionable character. While there is some merit to that position, it is completely illogical; an asset is always better to posses than no asset.
In the Lakers keeping Dwight Howard they secure arguably the best center in the game, easily the best defensive center when healthy and a player that can consistently provide around 20 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks per game, albeit awkwardly and lacking aesthetics.
Even if Howard doesn’t pan out as their center piece, he is still an asset that they can move a year from now for talent and be in a better bargaining position than the desperate position that they find themselves in now.
The Lakers’ brass, Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss, will need to continue to gauge Howard’s interest and assess which direction Howard is leaning in his decision to stay or go. Their assessment and timing must be spot on accurate, if not, the Lakers franchise could be in disarray.
Kupchak and Buss must have discussions with Golden State about players like Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and David Lee. While netting all three would be ideal and a great starting point in negotiations, getting one of them is crucial.
Lakers should talk to Houston about players like Thomas Robinson, Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin.
The Lakers can start talks with other teams that Howard might have not considered but could find attractive. Involving new teams can open up new opportunities for acquiring talent.
They can also have discussions to coordinate more attractive packages by involving other teams in a 3 to 4 team trade.
Mainly, the Lakers must talk, and talk, and continue to have discussions until the ideal acquisition is identified.
They must not sit on their hands and bank on the idea that nobody would voluntarily decide to leave the storied franchise of the Lakers with their illustrious history of championships, NBA legends and the bright lights of Hollywood.
A stubborn, all or nothing approach to the Howard situation by Kupchak and Buss could have disastrous results.
Mitch, Jim Buss and the Lakers’ future is on the clock with the alarm is set to go off on midnight July 10th, the first day that Howard can officially sign a contract.
Will we hear celebratory bells commemorating the signing of Dwight Howard, or the cunning execution of a trade that nets the Lakers exciting young talent for the future?
Or do we hear the death knell signifying the franchises spiraling downward path to obscurity.
We find out in 38 long and tense filled days from now.
You can reach me at the my Twitter handle, @fullcourtfern, to discuss this article, anything Lakers or NBA related, or if you just need someone to talk to.