Whether or not the Lakers would be willing to sign and trade Dwight Howard is likely only something Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss know for sure, and maybe they don’t even know. What I can guarantee is that they haven’t shut the door completely on the idea, as reported earlier this week.
While the Lakers can’t receive a player via sign and trade, as I broke down yesterday, that does not mean the Lakers won’t be able to get solid assets in return. All that means is the likes of Chris Paul, Josh Smith, and Monta Ellis can only join the Lakers by signing the mini mid-level exception, which isn’t happening.
The likelihood of completing a sign and trade relies almost entirely on the Lakers plans going forward, specifically regarding the summer of 2014. Any possible deal the Lakers might make would have to include cap-friendly contracts for 2014 and beyond. Pair that with only a handful of teams being “in the run” for Howard and the assets the Lakers could get in return begin to become clearer and clearer.
By taking a team-by-team look at sign and trade possibilities for team’s with interest in Dwight, we should be able to figure out exactly who the Lakers could expect in return.
Los Angeles Clippers
We’ll start close to home, considering the Clippers made the biggest sign and trade news recently. With their on again, off again talks with the Celtics regarding a Kevin Garnett, Doc Rivers, and DeAndre Jordan swap, it’s not very certain what assets the Clippers will have left.
Assuming the KG/Doc trade goes through, which appears to be where we’re leaning at this point, the Clippers most valuable asset will be Eric Bledsoe. And while he’s potential has greatly outweighed his actual performance at this point, he’s still someone that should be coveted. However, it would take a whole lot more, specifically Blake Griffin. A deal surrounded around Griffin and Bledsoe, which is what was reported, is a deal that the Lakers would have to greatly consider, and likely the most appealing deal possible.
The other big players in the Howard Sweepstakes have been the Houston Rockets. They currently sit very close to the edge of being able to offer Howard a max contract. However, they’re making efforts to move Thomas Robinson’s $3.5 million dollar contract to create enough cap space for Dwight.
However, even then, that would put the Rockets right at the edge of the salary cap. Instead, the Rockets are rumored to have a proposed deal of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin for Howard. For the Lakers, this should be an easy “No” response. In theory, adding a young, solid defensive center in Asik and a point guard who played incredibly well under Mike D’Antoni makes lots of sense. But take a look at those contracts for the 2014-15 seasons for these too.
Asik – $14,898,938
Lin – $14,898,938
These “poison pill” contracts kept the former teams of these two players from matching their contracts last summer, but it also sticks the Rockets with them, essentially. But that isn’t to say the Rockets don’t have the pieces that would make them a suitable partner.
First, the center piece should be Omer Asik, if a trade is getting done. But the Rockets can keep Lin and his inconsistent play. The Lakers should be interested in Chandler Parsons. Parsons shined for the Rockets last season and would fill a huge hole for the Lakers. On top of that, he won’t even make $1 million a season either of the next two years. Add in one of their young forwards in either Thomas Robinson or Terrance Jones and you’d have yourself a hell of an offer. Could the Lakers turn down an Asik, Parsons, Robinson offer?
Golden State Warriors
It’s a team that isn’t considered a favorite, but makes sense and Howard has hinted at playing there. For the Lakers, though, any trade begins with including either Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes. The two young perimeter players showed out in the playoffs and should be options 1A and 1B in trade talks.
Next would be the inclusion of Andrew Bogut or David Lee. Both have their positives and negatives. Bogut has injury concerns, but his contract expires next summer. Lee has a bigger, longer contract but he’s far more suited for D’Antoni’s offense. In the end, given the Warriors roster and the Lakers needs, Bogut will be the one included.
Lastly, it comes down to the Lakers preference of young talent (Brandon Rush, Draymond Green) or their willingness to take on large, one-year contracts (Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins). If the Lakers take on one of those huge contracts. Although the Lakers are prepared for a big summer in 2014, I’m not sure they’d be prepared to spend $11 million on Jefferson or $9 million on Biedrins. Instead, they might look to grab Green and fill their small forward hole.
Again, how willing would the Lakers be to take a Bogut, Barnes, Green deal? If they did, they could comfortably amnesty MWP and save another $7 million. Is this something the Lakers would consider?
In the end, the Lakers may just determine the best plan for them in the future is to let Howard walk. But I assure you they haven’t made a final decision on the matter yet and a sign and trade, most likely with one of these three teams, is a plausible course of action.