Lakers center Andrew Bynum and Magic center Dwight Howard remain the game's… (John Raoux / Associated…)
Even with limited cap space and few assets, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak laid out a blueprint he hopes the front office can follow.
"We will try to hit a home run," he said.
The Lakers always think big and bold. They're not afraid to take risks. When the Lakers come off a losing season, changes happen. But this new collective bargaining agreement doesn't allow the Lakers simply to adopt a big-money spending mentality. In the case of acquiring Magic center Dwight Howard, however, it would likely require the Lakers giving up a coveted asset in Andrew Bynum. Before, that decision appeared to be a no-brainer. Now, not so much. Yahoo! Sports' reported the Lakers, Rockets and Nets had preliminary talks with the Orlando Magic for a possible deal for Howard. Though the Lakers haven't made a direct offer, the report said Orlando would trade Howard only if it received Andrew Bynum as part of the deal. That leaves plenty of Laker fans wondering whether that's a road the Lakers should actually cross.
1. Why the Lakers should trade Bynum for Howard. Even with Bynum having a career breakout year in points and rebounds, the analysis I put together earlier this season regarding Bynum and Howard still rings true today. Howard beats Bynum in nearly every statistical category, including points (Howard: 20.6; Bynum: 18.7), field-goal percentage (Howard: 57.3%; Bynum: 55.8%, rebounds (Howard: 14.5; Bynum: 11.8) and player efficiency (Howard: 26.4; Bynum: 24.2). But that's not the reason why the Lakers should trade Bynum for Howard. Everything points to Bynum's behavior.
He seriously undermined his breakout season by having a poisonous attitude. Bynum took an ill-advised three-pointer in one game, then proclaimed he'd keep shooting more. Bynum routinely stood out of team huddles, insisting he wanted to get "my Zen on." The Lakers fined Bynum for various transgressions, including missing a meeting with Kupchak. He annoyed teammates and personnel alike by playing loud music in the locker room before games. And the worst of all, Bynum admitted in all the Lakers' loss to Denver in the postseason that he lacked the necessary effort. It's possible Bynum could eventually grow into that. But he's already a seven-year veteran. With the Lakers' championship window closing, they can't afford to go through another season where Bynum's "figuring things out."
Meanwhile, a Bynum-for-Howard swap would keep the Lakers dominant in their size. Yes, there are issues on how Howard would mesh with Kobe Bryant, his back injury that required surgery and whether Howard would actually re-sign with the Lakers once he becomes a free agent next season. But if Howard has taught us anything it is that he appears to be fickle and a people pleaser. So it's easy to envision him quickly finding common ground with Bryant in the team's pecking order and becoming so enamored with the Hollywood spotlight that he couldn't say no.
2. Why the Lakers shouldn't trade Bynum for Howard. Doing such a trade doesn't solve the Lakers' fundamental problems. They'll still have inconsistency at point guard. They still lack a caliber bench. The Lakers still haven't figured out the right dynamic to ensure Bryant and the team's post-presence still flourishes.
Adding Howard would only add to that uncertainty. It's possible Howard would miss a significant chunk of the season as he recovers from back surgery. Bryant and Howard could disagree on how to run the offense. Pau Gasol once again would become lost in the mix. This all could lead to the same outcome -- an early playoff exit. But the consequences could be much worse. Howard could immediately jet, leaving the Lakers without an elite center. There's also this inconvenient fact for the Lakers: Howard doesn't want to come here.
He told Yahoo! Sports on Monday that he has only one team on his wish list and that he won't sign an extension anywhere else. That team is believed to be the Brooklyn Nets, which would feature a Deron Williams-Howard tandem. That might sound preposterous to Lakers fans, who are accustomed to seeing both role players and superstars want to join the purple and gold by any means necessary. But this is a new era for the Lakers. Because of all their fundamental issues, they're no longer considered favorites to win the NBA title. It's best to fix those problems than to believe a superstar will help the Lakers gloss over them.
Verdict: The Lakers can't win another title with the current roster. They've proved that for two consecutive years. But acquiring Howard is no longer as clear cut an answer as many observers, including yours truly, once thought. The Lakers aren't afraid of taking risks, and it's possible this scenario could work out. But there are so many variables, it probably wouldn't. Although the solution lacks Hollywood gloss, what the Lakers need to do is upgrade their team with smart, measured moves rather than splashy ones.
Comparing Bynum and Howard
Andrew Bynum's effectiveness hinged on effort
Mitch Kupchak: 'We'll try to hit a home run'
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