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Dwight Howard traded to Nets in deal for Timofey Mozgov

Howard averaged a double-double last season and still got traded.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Howard was once a perennial all-star. Now he’s reportedly getting traded for a 31-year-old who averaged 4.2 points per game last season.

The Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Hornets have agreed on a trade surrounding former all-star center Howard, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Charlotte is sending Howard to Brooklyn in exchange for Timofey Mozgov and a pair of second-round picks — the 45th selection in Thursday’s 2018 NBA Draft as well as a 2019 pick.

The move clears more than $17 million from the Nets’ cap space for 2019, creating more than $70 million in spending room for a crop of free agents that could include players like LeBron James, Klay Thompson, and Karl-Anthony Towns. It also adds a still-productive Howard to the Brooklyn roster; the former three-time defensive player of the year averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds last season.

The Hornets will get a little draft capital with the two picks and some cap relief in 2018 in exchange for taking on Mozgov’s albatross of a contract. The burly Russian will make $16 million this winter and $16.7M in 2019-20 after signing a head-scratching four-year, $64 million pact with the Lakers back in 2016. This marks the second time in his career he’s been unloaded for a past-his-prime, but still effective former all-star. He’d previously been jettisoned from LA along with D’Angelo Russell for Brook Lopez and a late first-round pick.

Why are the Hornets doing this?

The Nets got the better player in the deal while unloading more long-term salary in the process. All it cost them was the 40th and 45th picks in this year’s draft. While that could come back to haunt them — this is a deep draft class and the 40th and 45th picks have reeled in useful players like Goran Dragic, Monta Ellis, and Matt Bonner in recent years — it looks like a win for Brooklyn.

Charlotte, on the other hand, just downgraded from a double-double machine in the middle to Mozgov, who played just 11.6 minutes per game last season on a bad Nets team. His last double-double came in December 2016. With Willy Hernangomez as the only other true center on the roster, the trade could signify a full-time commitment to smaller lineups — at least depending on who the Hornets pick with the 11th selection in Thursday’s draft.

That’s good news for Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky, who, along with Marvin Williams, will absorb the bulk of the minutes left behind in Howard’s wake. That pair can’t provide the kind of muscle and rebounding the former eight-time All-NBA center did, but Kaminsky in particular can stretch the floor with his shooting in a way Howard never could. If the goal in Charlotte was to create the spacing to give Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum more breathing room, this should accomplish that — albeit at a cost in rebounding rate and post defense.

The move also saves a little money for 2018-19; Mozgov costs nearly $8M less than Howard this winter. While the team is still a estimated $10.7M over the salary cap, losing Howard allows the Hornets to use their full 2018 exceptions (mid-level, bi-annual) without breaking into luxury tax territory.

That adds a little justification for Charlotte’s play. Of course, it’s also possible team chairman Michael Jordan just finished binge watching 30 Rock for the first time, hasn’t slept, and thought he was getting Tinafey Mozgov.