Well, the "Dwightmare" has finally ended. My initial reaction to the huge four team trade last Friday is not that different than this reaction or this one. I don't, at this point, have much more to add that those two popular articles have not already done a good job pointing out. That said, there are a few more things I find interesting about the trade:
-Obviously the Lakers (who are lucky to be allowed to be this absurdly far over the cap) seem better on paper with the deal, but I am not so sure they are even the favorites in the Western Conference next year. OKC will be hungry and is possibly just as talented, and the Spurs seem too good to just be lightly dismissed. The largest concern for the Lakers is health. This is an old team. It will be tough to keep the four stars healthy (and we already know that Howard is currently hurt.) Injuries should not be a significant concern during the regular season, but if one or more of these guys is badly hurt going into the playoffs, L.A.'s chances of making the Finals are obviously diminished.
The more fascinating aspect of the trade is how a team with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Howard will play together. Nash is maybe the best chemistry guy in the business, but Bryant and Howard have had some major chemistry issues throughout their career. Clearly having four stars guarantees you major success, but besides from the health question, the biggest factor that will decide the Lakers' greatness will be on-court chemistry.
This Lakers team could be potentially transcendent to watch. In many ways that is what we, as true fans of the game, most want to see. But we know, particularly after what happened to the Heat in 2010-11, that apparent superiority often does not play out the way it is supposed to. The Heat team of 2010-11 was one of the most disappointing of the modern era. This was not just because they failed in the playoffs, but because they utterly failed to accomplish aesthetically on the court what we all thought would be possible. Only now is Miami beginning to live up to our initial expectations, and still not consistently, even with a title in hand.
I am a realist, and try to appreciate the NBA game for what it is, but still get disappointed when I see a team not come close to maximizing its (imagined) potential. The 2012-13 Lakers have a real chance to be very special. But I think there is a better chance that they don't make the Finals, and are remembered as a large footnote, and nothing truly historic.
-Philadelphia got the second best player in this trade in Andrew Bynum, and we can applaud them for taking a gamble and acquiring an All-Star center. To get Bynum, Philadelphia had to give up a slightly overpaid (but very good) Andre Iguodala, as well as somewhat promising prospects in Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless. They also had to take on Jason Richardson and give away a future draft pick.
The success of this deal for Philadelphia hinges almost entirely on Bynum's health. When healthy, Bynum has proven himself to be the second best true center in the league, and worthy of a huge salary. But he has never stayed healthy. I think the Sixers will be happy with this trade if they can re-sign Bynum and if he can be healthy for the playoffs the next half decade. But that seems a stretch, as does the odds that Bynum consistently can play more than 60+ games each of the next four or five years. So while I commend the Sixers for going all out and getting an All-Star center, it is not wise to think of Bynum as anything less than a very serious risk over the long-term. The job of Philadelphia will be to accept this, and to act accordingly.
-The Nuggets are getting a lot of praise for their part in this deal, and it's easy to see why. Iguodala is a higher-level player than both Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington, and has a much shorter contract. Denver also had to surrender two picks (a conditional first and a second rounder) in the deal, but it was worthwhile to jettison two expensive long-term commitments to average players, and get a borderline All-Star in return.
-Orlando, on the other hand, is rightfully getting killed for making this deal. There is not much to like here if you are a fan of the Magic. The hope is that Vucevic, Harkless and all these future draft picks will amount to something impressive a few years from now, but I have my doubts. It seems none of the future picks Orlando will be receiving will be in the top ten, and Rob Hennigan has better be as good a drafter as Sam Presti if he expects to create something great from the haul he just received. Disturbingly, despite receiving five future picks, only two of those picks are in the next two drafts. At least the Magic have comfort knowing they will probably have their own top 5 pick in 2013.
It didn't have to be like this obviously. Both the rumored New Jersey and Houston offers for Howard seemed sweeter, and it definitely seemed as if the Rockets specifically were willing to give Orlando more attractive assets than they ended up with.
If I were the Magic I would simply have waited. I know this "Dwightmare" was becoming more and more of a public relations disaster for everybody involved, but Orlando should have held out as long as it took to get a better deal done. Howard was going to receive much more of the flak for the situation than the Magic. I truly believe, like most NBA executives and fans, that Orlando should have gotten (much) more. The reality today is that they have traded Dwight Howard, and are immediately one of the more irrelevant and least interesting teams in the league. I don't see how they can think that is a good thing.