Ladies and gentlemen, Dwightmare 2013 has officially begun.
Following a report last week that Chris Paul and Dwight Howard want to team up a la the Miami Superfriends, the web ran rampant with possible destinations, with Atlanta and Dallas both registering the necessary cap space and attractive intangibles. Of course, both players are already in Los Angeles and the Clippers just fired walking flop-sweat Vinny Del Negro, so the Lakers’ Staples Center rivals became the destination du jour. Now, “inside sources” have “confirmed” (translation: wild speculation) that the Los Angeles Clippers are ready to trade Blake Griffin and Eric Bledsoe to the Los Angeles Lakers for Howard.
First, to any and all opposed to a sign-and-trade, it is far preferable to trade for more talent than stand pat on a roster or pick through the weak 2013 NBA free-agent market. It may wound our pride to barter one of our most prized pieces, but if Howard wants to leave, this is the only way.
A dedicated armchair GM, I approve of the concept of a sign-and-trade with the Clippers, but not the specifics outlined above. Bledsoe is the young, athletic wing we need to take pressure off Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant’s thousand-year-old knees, and the young guard could be mentored into becoming the next great perimeter Laker. Keep him in the trade, he’s the most attractive chip they have.
As for Griffin? You may be dazzled by his car leaps, alley-oop finishes and commitment to ref justice, but his lack of a half-court game and general immaturity make him more liability than asset. I’d pay him a role player’s wage, not the max contract he comes with. The major complaint Lakers fans have with Dwight Howard is his utter absence of killer instinct; Griffin carries the exact same concern.
If we’re booting Griffin off the trade table, who takes his place? I’d ask for Jamal Crawford and DeAndre Jordan.
Crawford takes care of the biggest problem the Lakeshow had last season: bench contribution. He is a proven, creative scorer that would flourish in Coach D’Antoni’s system; his value is undeniable, the only question is whether the Clippers would part with him. For Howard, I’m betting they might.
The other addition, Jordan, is the bruiser we need to complete our paint rotation, starting at center alongside Pau Gasol. Where Gasol had conflicting offensive interests with Howard, Jordan doesn’t require entry passes or back pats to get going, just throw it near the basket and he’ll be there. He’s not terribly reliable or talented, but he’ll bang bodies in the paint, haunt the boards, and provide the necessary physical counterpart to Gasol’s cerebral and finesse-focused game.
The only wrinkle here is that Jordan is reportedly trade bait to land Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics, but if the Clippers can placate Paul by securing Howard, they might bail on their other operations or at least adjust accordingly. Despite his struggles and our citywide apathy, Howard is still a marquee player that most of the league will overpay handily for. Signing him would be great, but if he’s already out the door, let’s shop around and make sure we cash in on his exit as best we can, rebuilding for this season and the future in one fell swoop.