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Why The Lakers Need To Trade Dwight Howard NOW
Hard to believe that it was only 6 months ago that the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Dwight Howard in a blockbuster four-team deal. Even harder to believe the dystopian nightmare that this once promising situation has become for L.A. In a short span the Lakers have gone from being the darling of the NBA and the pick of many experts to win the Championship, to a non-playoff team and the laughingstock of the NBA.
How did it all go so, so horribly wrong? The answer is complicated. The solution is simple: Trade Dwight Howard, before it's too late. Here's why:
He is all but guaranteed to leave after this season. This is clear to seemingly everyone, except Lakers' management. Dwight has remained noncommittal, insisting that his focus is on this (doomed) season and he does not know what he will do afterwards. But anyone who's paying attention can see from his on-court demeanor and body language, as well as his off-court statements in the media, he's as good as gone.
But what if he does sign? If some miracle occurs between now and this offseason, and Dwight does sign long-term, I still think the Lakers are screwed.
Kobe and Dwight will never successfully co-exist. You know the phrase "two peas in a pod"? Yeah, Kobe and Dwight are the opposite of that. Kobe is ultra-serious, ultra-competitve, and desperate to tie and/or surpass MJ's total of six rings. He needs at least one more championship, and he's running out of time.
Enter Dwight Howard. He's aloof. He's a jokester. A clown. He's known to be caught chuckling on the bench as his team is being blown out. He's more likely to tell an elaborate joke than to give an inspiring halftime speech. In other words, he's the type of teammate that Kobe despises.
Kobe and Dwight are two of the most talented basketball players alive, but their personalities will stand in the way of this Lakers team ever "clicking".
He's on the decline. Most NBA fans still think of Dwight as the monster-child that led the Orlando Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals. Newsflash: It's been 4 years since then. Not only has Dwight developed a reputation for being an immature diva since then, his scoring numbers have dropped 4 years in a row.
His chronic back and shoulder problems have resulted in performance that can only be described as average. His 19.20 PER is good for just 16th among qualified NBA centers, ranked below such superstars as J.J. Hickson and Robin Lopez.
This could just be a down year for him, but again, his statistics have been trending downwards for years. Handing out max contracts to declining players has been the kiss of death to many NBA franchises over the years; do the Lakers really want to be next on that list?
Injuries. The Lakers know them well. All four of the Lakers key players have dealt with injuries this season, from Nash's back to Pau's feet to Kobe's feet to Dwight's shoulder. The Lakers desperately need an injection of health and youth.
With this season pretty much down the drain for L.A., it's time to look to 2013-2014. Aging these guys another year is not going to do anything to fend off the injury bug. Dwight is the one asset that the Lakers could use to bring in some young, healthy talent via trade.
Which brings us to our final point...
Despite all of this, Dwight still has value. He's still a household name, one of the league's most marketable stars, and a lot of teams would love to have him. He's not a good fit for the Lakers, but are you telling me Brooklyn wouldn't offer up a package centered around Brook Lopez? The Hawks won't dangle Josh Smith in a deal for Howard?
Now is the time to act. The Lakers are doomed if they sign Dwight to a max deal. L.A. is doomed if they let their most valuable asset walk for nothing at the end of the season.
If the Lakers want to do what's best for their future, they'll trade Dwight Howard, and they'll trade him now.