The NBA trade deadline is now just a day and a half away and Dwight Howard is still in an Orlando Magic uniform – for now. It is safe to say that over the next 38 hours, president of basketball operations Otis Smith and owner Rich DeVos will be forced to make the toughest decision of their respective careers. Do they keep the face of their franchise until the end of the season with the hope that he will resign with the team at season’s end, or do they trade him for a few draft picks and possibly another nice player? Many conflicting reports have surfaced, but nobody truly knows what will happen before Thursday’s 3 PM deadline.
The latest quote by Dwight Howard came after tonight’s overtime win over the Miami Heat, in which Howard put up 24 points and 25 rebounds. He also played excellent interior defense throughout the fourth quarter and overtime, making his presence felt inside the paint and reminding everyone why he is a three time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
In a post game interview, Howard stated, “I told them I want to finish this season out and give our team, give our fans some hope for the future. But I feel they have to roll the dice. It might be tough, but I feel we’ve got a great opportunity. But they’ve got to roll it.”
Well isn’t that a nice quote. This comes on the same day that an article from the Newark Star-Ledger reported that Howard intends to sign with the Nets via free agency regardless of what happens at the trade deadline.
In his ”roll the dice” quote, Howard is obviously not giving the Orlando Magic franchise or fan base any long-term commitment, but exclaims that he is willing to stick around and try to compete for a title this year if given the opportunity.
Do the Orlando Magic have enough to win a title this season? They currently sit 3rd in the Eastern Conference and if the season were to end today, they would match up with the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. The Hawks, depleted at center after the injury to Al Horford, would send Zaza Pachulia out to attempt to cover Dwight Howard, a matchup that clearly favors the Magic and would give them a huge advantage in the series. As their roster currently stands, however, it is unclear if the Magic have enough pieces around Howard to get the job done and compete for a title. While Boston and New York are major disappointments this season, Miami and Chicago are as good as ever and would be the major obstacles in the championship journey for Orlando.
Rumor had it that the Magic were in talks with the Golden State Warriors about a trade that would bring Monta Ellis to Orlando, but trade talks crumbled when the Warriors said they would only deal Ellis to Orlando if Howard was going to Golden State. Earlier tonight Monta Ellis was involved in a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson. What assets do the Magic have that other teams would want? The odds that Orlando will bring in another big player to play alongside Howard for the rest of the season are very slim.
The Magic could keep Howard past the deadline and make one final push towards a title, but if they fall short and Dwight Howard leaves for Brooklyn, Los Angeles, or Dallas via free agency, then Orlando will get nothing in return and all was done for naught. They would find themselves in a dreadful place, similar to that of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors when LeBron James and Chris Bosh fled to South Beach. An ugly rebuilding stage would then take place.
It is likely that as the clock ticks closer to the deadline, offers from outside teams will get worse and worse. It is unlikely that the New Jersey Nets will still part ways with Brook Lopez and two first round draft picks if they feel that they can sign Howard as a free agent. Then, if they sign Howard, they will still have their draft picks and can move Brook Lopez for another piece, most likely a small forward, which the Nets definitely need.
We will see what happens as the trade deadline comes. Rumors will continue to swirl, speculation will be at an all time high, and the entire basketball world will be waiting on any word regarding the status of six time all-star center Dwight Howard.