Most obervers believe it’s only a matter of time before All-Star center Dwight Howard opts to leave Orlando for a better financial situation in his next contract.
It’s already sparked much attention across the NBA, particularly the chances of Howard joining Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers when his contract with Orlando expires after the 2011-12 season.
The Magic are only two years removed from a trip to the NBA Finals. But several bad contracts for other players have provided a situation where they don’t have much salary cap space.
The Basketball Prospectus.com’s Kevin Pelton writes at ESPN.com that there’s only one way for the Magic to attempt to get approximate value for Howard. That would be by rather than waiting for a sign-and-trade after next season.
And Pelton writes that the best location would be the Lakers in a package including Los Angeles center Andrew Bynum.
The Magic would gain some youth by obtaining the 23-year-old Bynum. While he’s not nearly as accomplished offensively as Howard and a lot more injury prone, Bynum might have a chance to emerge with the Magic when not battling for touches with experienced inside offensive threats like Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.
Pelton provides a lot of statistical evidence that proves the Magic wouldn’t suffer much of a decline if they plugged Bynum into their team in place of Howard.
What to do with Howard will be the major question facing the Magic. Orlando had the fifth-best point differential in the NBA last season and posted a 52-30 record last season that was eighth-best in the NBA.
Whenver the lockout ends, Howard’s future with the Magic will become one of the most intriguing stories in the NBA.
It could happen next month or it might be next year. But Howard’s future playing status could affect the balance of powers in the league for several seasons afterwards.