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What should Orlando do about Dwight Howard?

What do you do when your franchise player has one year left on his deal and there is uncertainty surrounding whether he will sign a new deal or test the market in free agency. Would you trade him or look for a trade?

That’s the dilemma for the Orlando Magic and their franchise center Dwight Howard. Now I know the rumours are going to be continuing for months about the “will-he, won’t he go” situation, but I thought I might as well put my opinions out there.

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that Howard has not agreed to sign an extension with the Magic, despite what was reported last week and Dwight told reporters:

“There’s no truth to that. The biggest thing right now is everybody understands I have one more year left. I’m keeping my options open, but there’s no other place I’d rather be than Orlando. I want them to understand that.

“But, at the same time, I do want to win, make sure everything is in line — our team, just everything from top to bottom — and everybody is reaching for a championship.”

Howard is the best center in the NBA and would undoubtedly make any team better, and there isn’t any team who wouldn’t want him. What I can see is that this saga will drag out until next year and next summer when Howard becomes a free agent, sees what the situation is like in Orlando and then makes a decision.

The part about winning a championship is something every player wants, but let’s face it, the Magic are not winning a title next year, and unless they can pull off some amazing trades, the next few years. Orlando are committed to huge salaries for the next few years, which severely limits the flexibility to make trades. They traded for Hedo Turkoglu, who’s got about $30m and 3 years left on his contract, and swapped a bad contract in Rashard Lewis for an even worse one in Gilbert Arenas, who still has about $60m owed for the next few years. If Hedo and Arenas rediscover their old form, the Magic could make some noise in the playoffs (I’m not saying win anything), and at least get past the first round, which is of course better than last year.

After that, you’ve got the likes of JJ Redick, Chris Duhon, Brandon Bass and Quentin Richardson, all with money owed and years left on their contracts – hardly the basis for a championship team. And with the Heat and Bulls better in the East (we’ll see what the Knicks do in the summer), Orlando won’t be competing for a title in the near future.

That’s the problem for the Magic though – they are in a Catch 22 situation. Trade Howard now and get worse, or wait for a year and then lose him for nothing, and Cleveland knows how that turned out. What I think will happen is they will wait till the February deadline, if Dwight hasn’t signed an extension by then, trade him and get something back in return, a la the Carmelo Anthony trade from Denver to New York in February.

I’m not blessed with the gift of foresight, but let’s have a look at some possible destinations for Howard if he does want out of Orlando. Obviously cap situations can change (with the new CBA) and a lot can happen in a year. Here’s a few ideas if Howard wants to win a ring (I’m ruling teams like Miami out, as there’s no way they can afford to turn the Big 3 of Lebron, Wade and Bosh into a Big 4, as Howard’s going to get max money):

Lakers:

Now I know Dwight has said he doesn’t want to follow in Shaq’s footsteps and leave Orlando for LA. And the only way the Lakers are going to be able to get Howard is via trade, as they have the huge contracts of Kobe and Gasol on the books. And that requires Andrew Bynum being traded (I know the Lakers have declared him “untouchable”, but for Dwight, you would trade him). A Howard-Gasol-Kobe trio would be deadly.

Bulls:

Again, this would have to be a trade, as Chicago owe big money to Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joachim Noah over the next few years, and will have to pay max-money to Derrick Rose. But a Noah-Howard trade wouldn’t be that bad for Orlando, as Noah is a defensive force and one of the top centers in the league (unless Chicago can somehow persuade Orlando to take on Boozer’s contract).

Knicks:

Theoretically, the Knicks can afford to give Howard max-money next summer, and a trio of Howard-Anthony-Stoudemire would be exciting. But that’s all the Knicks would be able to afford, and with a thin roster, would have no quality at the guard spots. An interesting proposal, and you are bound to hear constant Howard to NY rumours until he makes up his mind, but wouldn’t it be better for New York to have a more well-rounded team with a quality PG and a couple of quality defensive wings in there?

Nets:

The Nets have the cash and an elite PG in Deron Williams. That’s it though, as they are rebuilding, have traded away their last lottery pick in Derrick Favors, and given this year’s pick (#3) to Utah. They would be able to give Howard max money and if they can convince Williams to stay, New Jersey is appealing, especially with the upcoming move to Brooklyn.

What do you think? Do you think Howard will stay or go?

 

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Where do Melo and the Nuggets go from here?

The press coverage surrounding the Denver Nuggets and their superstar forward Carmelo Anthony has been going on for weeks now: the will he/won’t he saga about Melo’s future continues to go on, but despite the constant rumours: are the Nuggets better holding on to or getting rid of their franchise player?

The rumours of a four team trade involving the Nuggets, Nets, Jazz and Bobcats are set to be “dead”, according to sources. While Denver are understandably cautious to offload their best player, they do not want to see him leave for nothing in the summer, just like the situation in Cleveland with Lebron. Melo, on the other hand, has watched the likes of Lebron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh form the super-trio in Miami this offseason and wants to win a championship, and feels that is not a possibility in Denver. While Carmelo has performed a U-turn and said he never demanded a trade and wants to stay with the Nuggets, if he is unwilling to sign that 3 year, $65 million extension, they need to look at trading him, particularly before the trade deadline.

If the Nuggets are looking to trade Anthony this season, they will never be able to get the exact value back, as Carmelo is a top 5 player in the league and there is no chance of getting a Lebron, Kobe, Wade or Durant back. What they can hope for though is a solid building block for the future or a player that is just on the cusp of being an All-Star, that they can pair with the likes of Chauncey Billups, Nene and Kenyon Martin.

Melo has refuted speculation that he is unhappy in Denver and insisted he wants to keep his options open. But the Nuggets will need to do something or risk losing him for nothing. Here are some trades I would look at that haven’t been in the news, as New York and New Jersey have little to offer Denver:

Sixers get: Carmelo Anthony

Nuggets get: Andre Igoudala, picks +cash (or someone like Thaddeus Young)

The Sixers get a go-to-guy in Anthony who could team with promising youngsters Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner in Philly. The Nuggets get a good replacement in Iggy, who doesn’t have to be the number 1 option in Denver and can sit behind Chauncey Billups. The only thing is would Melo be happy in Philly, or would this be just a one-year rental?

Blazers get: Carmelo Anthony

Nuggets get: Greg Oden, Nic Batum +picks

The Blazers get another superstar to pair with Brandon Roy and would be an instant title contender with a lineup of Camby, LaMarcus Aldridge, Melo, Roy and Andre Miller. The Nuggets need size and get former number 1 pick Oden, who still has amazing potential and when healthy, is productive, as well as Nic Batum, who also has tons of potential.

Wizards get: Carmelo Anthony

Nuggets get: Gilbert Arenas

Gilbert Arenas is no longer “the man” in Washington with the arrival of John Wall, who is the future of the franchise. Arenas notoriously had the gun suspension last season and really needs a change of scenery. His contract is huge, but Denver may be able to help him be an All-Star again, which is possible if Gilbert can stay healthy. The Wizards get Melo to pair with Wall, which could be a devastating two-punch combo. But Melo wouldn’t really find himself in a better situation than he already has?

Breaking News: NBA All-Star reserves leaked

The All-Star reserves are not set to be announced until tonight, but Yahoo! sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski and Mark J. Spears have revealed who will be making the trip to Dallas for the ASG in February. According to them, the West and East reserves are:

East
Rajon Rondo (Celtics)
Derrick Rose (Bulls)
Paul Pierce (Celtics)
Chris Bosh (Raptors)
Gerald Wallace (Bobcats)
Joe Johnson (Hawks)
Al Horford (Hawks)

West
Deron Williams (Jazz)
Chris Paul (Hornets)
Pau Gasol (Lakers)
Kevin Durant (Thunder)
Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks)
Zach Randolph (Grizzlies)
Brandon Roy (Blazers)

If you remember when the ASG ballots where announced a few months ago, I made my predictions on who would make this year’s All-Star team. I didn’t bank on Allen Iverson securing a starting spot on the East, mainly because of the trouble Iverson had in Memphis and the fact that A.I isn’t exactly putting up All-Star numbers (14.2 ppg, 4.4 apg). A.I’s place as a starter has recieved intense criticsm from the media, but the All Star game is for the fans and if the fans want to see Iverson play then you can’t complain. Obviously no one could have forseen the circumstances in Washingon with Gilbert Arenas (who today was banned for the season along with Javaris Crittendon after both were indicted on felony charges). Shaq’s production in Cleveland (11.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg) is what let him down, and Danny Granger’s affection towards the treatment table are what excluded them from places on the East’s roster.

So who are notable snubs from this year’s teams? Mo Williams, Danny Granger, Devin Harris, Jameer Nelson, Ray Allen and David West do not return after making last year’s team, although none of them actually deserved a place on this year’s roster. Gerald Wallace’s impressive form for the Bobcats guarantees him a place, as does Zach Randolph, who is working wonders in Memphis this year, averaging 21 points and over 11 boards a game. Z-Bo has always been a 20-10 guy, but has managed to actually help the Grizzlies instead of hindering them this season.

I thought Chauncey Billups should have had a place on the West. Averaging 19 points and 6 assists this season, he is deserving of a spot and is as, if not more, important than ‘Melo for the Nuggets. But Billups omission does give a well-deserved place to Deron Williams, who makes his first All- Star appearance in what has been a couple of years overdue.

David Lee is another player who should be in Dallas. Averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds, Lee is excelling for a woeful Knicks team and should have been picked over Al Horford as the reserve center. The Hawks are doing well, and Horford is one for the future, along with Nets’ center Brook Lopez, but Lee is deserving of a spot on the East team.

My opinion on the Gilbert Arenas controversy

The storm of negative publicity that has shrouded the Washington Wizards for the last few weeks came to a head this week when point guard Gilbert Arenas was suspended indefinetely without pay amid allegations that he threatened team-mate Javaris Crittendon by storing guns in his locker over a $25,000 bet.

According to the Washington Post, Arenas laid out four guns in Crittendon’s cubicle with a note saying “Pick One”. This led to NBA commissioner David Stern imposing an unlimited suspension on Agent Zero. In a statement released this week Stern said:

“The possession of firearms by an NBA player in an NBA arena is a matter of the utmost concern to us. I initially thought it prudent to refrain from taking immediate action because of the pendency of a criminal investigation involving the office of the United States attorney …. Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will result in a substantial suspension, or perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is currently fit to take to the court of an NBA game. Accordingly, I am suspending Mr Arenas indefinetly, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of an investigation by the NBA.”

If only Arenas had kept his mouth shut. The league probably would have let the legal process go on till a ruling had been made, but Agent Zero practically begged for a lengthy suspension and to forfeit millions of dollars. From the John Wayne references made on Twitter to the completely unnecessary and stupid pantomime firing on his teammates in the pre-game circle before the game against Philadelphia. It’s like common sense went out of the window, and frankly, Arenas deserves everything he gets.

But in a story that seems to be constantly twisting and turning, rumours that Crittendon responded to Arenas threats by brandishing his own gun, loading it and then chambering a round. If this is true, then Crittendon’s hostile reaction is much worse than Arenas’ initial actions. If a gun was actually loaded, then no one can downplay the “it was just a joke, no guns were loaded” angle. Also, Crittendon could be kicked out of the league, as well as face serious legal prosecution.

Arenas allegedly tried to cover for Crittendon, he originally withheld details of the seldom-used guard’s actions in order to protect him from prosecution, saying he would accept full responsibility for what happened that day. Whatever allegedly happened, you do not bring guns, unloaded or not, into a locker room. Arenas’ actions were unacceptable and he should have known better than to act in such an inappropriate way.

Since signing a 6 year, $111 million deal in 2008, Arenas has spent most of his time on the sidelines, only playing 47 games in the last three seasons because of a knee injury (13 games in 2007-08, 2 games in 2008-09 and 32 games this season). Not exactly value for money. And with Arenas returning from injury this season, combined with All-stars Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, and new arrivals Randy Foye and Mike Miller, the Wizards had high hopes for this season and were hoping to challenge the top three teams in the East. Currently at 11-22 and well out of the playoff picture, the Wizards are struggling big time, trailing the likes of the Knicks, Bobcats and Bucks in the standings.

I think Arenas is going to be made an example of, if prosecutors find him guilty of possessing illegal firearms, then I can see the NBA voiding his huge contract, something I can imagine the Wizards would be glad to get rid of if they keep constantly underachieving. And with the firearms charges hanging over Cleveland guard Delonte West due to be reach court soon, this has brought more negative attention to the NBA, and threatens to ruin it’s clean-cut image, embodied by well-behaved superstars like Chris Paul, Lebron James, Brandon Roy etc.