Fake Trade Friday: Volume 1

Every Friday until the trade deadline I will take a look at the pros and cons of a completely fake, unsubstantiated trade. To start things off I will present the curious case of Dwight Howard.

The Trade:

Los Angeles Lakers Receive
Josh Smith (1 yr remaining)
Kyle Korver (1 yr remaining)
Anthony Tolliver (1 yr remaining)
Future 1st round pick (lottery protected)

Salary Taken On: $19, 054, 389
Salary Sent Out: $19, 536,360

Atlanta Hawks Receive
Dwight Howard (1 yr remaining)

Salary Taken On: $19, 536,360
Salary Sent Out: $19, 054, 389

Why the Lakers Would Do It
The Lakers stink. They have a solid offense, but their defense is just plain bad, they rarely run back in transition, and, worst of all, they have absolutely no depth. Aside from a surprise showing from Earl Clark in recent weeks Los Angeles has been limited to only five competent players the entire season. Injuries have made the situation even worse. Steve Nash and Pau Gasol have both missed time, and the aforementioned Earl Clark has only gotten playing time because Jordan Hill (who is a better player than Clark) is out for the year.

When the core four players have all been healthy, they have all shown decline. Kobe Bryant has tailed off noticeably after a blistering start, and while his full season numbers are strong even by his standards, lately it seems that he may be spent after trying to carry the team early. Gasol and Nash both are showing their age more than they ever have. As for Howard, the lingering effects of off-season back surgery have taken their toll, turning him into a good, but not great center whose defensive effort and quickness are diminished from his days in Orlando. He has also complained about the team and the Lakers have discussed being open to trading him.

Swapping Josh Smith for Howard would mean the Lakers wouldn’t be taking on any long-term salary, but would have an inside track on re-signing him in free agency if they so desired. Smith isn’t the defender that Howard can be when Dwight is healthy, but he may be better suited to the current Lakers roster. Smith loves chasing down opponents in transition for blocks and would be active on the weak side.

Smith’s impact on Gasol on both ends of the floor would be the most important part of this trade. Gasol would slide to center, where his diminishing quickness would not be as exposed on defense. On offense Gasol would be allowed to man the low post with Smith on the elbow or baseline. Aside from the barrage of errant jumpers, Smith’s offensive game would mesh well with Gasol regardless of the perimeter lineup. Both players can rebound fairly well and are good passers – a skill that could make this team very fun to watch and very effective in half-court sets.

The other key to the deal would be Korver. Teams routinely sag off of Metta World Peace to clog the paint. No one plays off of Korver without paying the price. He and Nash would combine to provide just enough shooting to keep the offense humming.

Tolliver is a throw-in who could provide a little frontcourt depth. He has been awful this season, but his PER of 6.6 is over three times better than the current backup center, Robert Sacre. So there’s that.

Why the Lakers Wouldn’t Do It
Both Smith and Howard are seen around the league as difficult to control and coach. One of them is a perennial borderline All-Star, the other is two years removed from being a legitimate MVP candidate. Howard will probably have to make at least a few more inflammatory comments to make this one happen, even if the roster might make more sense with Smith.

Why the Hawks Would Do It
Smith has recently been suspended by the team for one game, and he is once again being shopped around.

Getting Howard now is the best chance for Danny Ferry to bring in an elite talent in the next few years. Howard is from Atlanta, and could probably be convinced to stay around after half a season of being the centerpiece of a team built around his strengths. The offense would feature endless pick and rolls with solid guards Jeff Teague and Devin Harris, plus Dwight would have a complementary frontcourt mate in Al Horford to give him a hand on defense and the boards.

Horford would also provide some offensive spacing with his midrange jumper and strong passing from the high post. When opposing defenses collapsed around the pick and roll Anthony Morrow or John Jenkins would be waiting to rain jumpers from deep to make the defense pay.

Why the Hawks Wouldn’t Do It
Howard comes with some risk – he will cost an enormous amount on his next contract, he could walk after the season, and if he does stay it’s unclear if he will ever be able to return to his previous level of play.

There are a couple of other minor problems for the Hawks as well. This trade would leave them with only one small forward, the incomparable DeShawn Stevenson (sporting an oddly impressive 38%/38%/38% shooting line as of the writing of this article). It would also send out their best shooter in Korver, and they will need as many shooters as they can get with Howard around. Even with a healthy Howard, the team may not have enough to go far in the playoffs this season.

Of course, the Hawks would still pull the trigger on this deal, while it would take a continued slide by the Lakers for them to okay it. But as the trade deadline approaches it is entirely possible that the Lakers look at their core and realize that they need to make a move, and this could be the best one available given their specific needs.