The Los Angeles Lakers pride and plans for the future after the Kobe Bryant era took a disastrous hit yesterday with Dwight Howard’s decision to leave Los Angeles for the sunnier skies of…Houston? Whether Howard’s decision was a good one or not is really not the Lakers concern anymore as they have to adjust their plans to return to dominance quickly.
What we know today with complete certainty is that Howard is going to sign with the Houston Rockets whether the Lakers assist in getting him there or not. The Rockets still have to dump a few more salaries in order to offer Howard a max deal and will ask the Lakers to assist in accomplishing that goal. Instead of the Lakers being bitter about losing out on Howard they should work on acquiring what the can from Houston. While Houston might not have much to offer, there is nice young, untapped talent with potential that the Lakers can at least take a look at next year and see if there are any surprises in the same fashion as a Shannon Brown and Earl Clark have turned out to be in the past.
Houston will likely try to rid themselves of big man Omar Asik and maybe even Jeremy Lin, but will not succeed in pawning them off on the Lakers as both players are not worth their salary and are under contract for beyond next season which would hamper the Lakers flexibility for the free agent season of 2014.
The young players on the Houston Roster that the Lakers should acquire in trade with Houston:
Terrence Jones: Forward / 21 years old / Experience: 1 year
- A long 6’9 forward with athletic ability in the mold of Earl Clark, only without the offensive skills. Doesn’t have much of an outside game, but likes to attack the basket and is devastating in the open court.
Donatas Motiejunas: Forward/Center / 22 years old / Experience: 1 year
- The 7 foot Lithuanian has been compared to Dirk Notwitski due to his body type, size and offensive skill set. In March Motiejunas got some playing time and did produce, putting together a string of double digit scoring games.
Greg Smith: Forward/Center / 22 years old / Experience: 2 years
- A 6’10 bruising forward/center that makes a living around the paint. Rockets might not be so willing to give up on Smith as he was able to crack the rotation in his 2nd season with the Rockets. Smith appeared in 70 games last season for the Rockets and was very productive in limited time. Based on 36 minutes per game, Smith averaged 13.7 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game.
Isaiah Canaan: Point guard/ 22 years old / Experience: Rookie
- Rockets picked up the Murray State point guard with their 34th pick in this past NBA Draft. Canaan was listed as a late first rounder in many mock drafts and is seen as a player very similar to the Denver Nuggets Ty Lawson. Strong, aggressive and good outside shooter, Canaan could be a player that could provide some youth to the aging backcourt of Nash and Blake.
The Importance of the Trade Exception:
In the Lakers trading Howard and his roughly 20 million dollar contract to the Rockets, while only taking back a portion of that salary in return, the difference will net them a trade exception that they can use in acquiring a player in a trade down the road. By having a trade exception in their back pocket all year they could be players in acquiring talent that come up on the trading block later in the season. For example, Lamarcus Aldridge might demand a trade from Portland. The Lakers could acquire Aldridge and absorb his 14 million dollar contract with the trade exception. Combine the additional young assets that they acquired and developed from Houston they could offer a decent trade package to the Blazers. This is just a hypothetical scenario but it is to show the value of a trade exception.
The Lakers could also acquire draft picks from Houston in addition to the young talent on their roster to further stock pile their assets for future trades.
This is not the position that the Lakers were hoping to be in at this point but it is where they find themselves, searching for plan B and trying to mitigate their loss of Dwight Howard. They need to swallow their pride and get what they can from Houston, then move on. After this devastating season of not meeting expectations, numerous injuries, getting swept in the first round and months of wondering what Howard will do only to have him leave the Lakers in disarray, we all want and need to move on.
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