The Dwight Howard trade saga hasn't played out anything like the one we saw engulf Carmelo Anthony a year ago. With 'Melo, a trade seemed both inevitable and constantly right around the corner. Even when Anthony demurred on this team or that, or a team publicly dropped out of the running, a major move always felt certain. With Howard, it's the opposite: There has never seemed to be any urgency, any great likelihood that today would be the day. All told, the Orlando Magic (and New Jersey Nets, perhaps) have done a good job deflating the story as much as a story about the best center in basketball asking for a trade can be deflated.
Still, nothing takes on higher importance for the next week.
NEEDS & TARGETS
If the Magic decide to wring out the season with Howard on the roster, the team desperately needs to make a major play to strive for the top of the conference. Unfortunately, Howard is the only major asset the team has. Ryan Anderson is a cracking good power forward, but he doesn't seem to carry the value he deserves. He's getting almost no free agent buzz, despite the fact that he'll be a restricted FA in July. Anderson is good enough and young enough to be the centerpiece of a deal to land Orlando a veteran playmaking guard. But those rumors just aren't out there right now.
If the Magic decide to ship out Howard, the best offer appears to be the one from New Jersey: Brook Lopez, the Nets' 2012 first-round pick and other less important considerations. Lopez is a good player, but he's due a pay day and he's a steep downgrade from Howard (as would be almost any replacement). But because the Nets' offer isn't overwhelming, the Magic could be in position to receive a similar or better offer from a team willing to rent Howard without a guarantee he'll sign a new deal in July. Of course, Orlando has no reason to turn down a rental offer it likes better than New Jersey's full-blown offer; the only issue with the rental situation is that teams are expected to downgrade their offers to mitigate the uncertainty. But if the Golden State Warriors are willing to cough up Stephen Curry? That's worth looking at.
Orlando may also be looking to unload Hedo Turkoglu in a Howard deal, saving the team lots of salary and cap space. In a rebuilding situation, decreased salary obligations are almost as important as players.
SALARY CAP SITUATION
The Magic have a salary figure of $69 million, according to ShamSports.com. That puts Orlando just below the luxury tax threshold. The club has just $37 million committed for the 2012-13 season; losing Turkoglu could free up another $11 million, depending on what a Howard return package looks like.
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