Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers manufactured their Lamar Odom trade exception and some halfway decent, and potentially irrelevant, draft picks into Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. That is an immense coup especially considering they kept Pau Gasol, allowing the Lakers to retain their unique attack — spearheaded by two bonafide big men who are adept at scoring in the post.
Yes, Andrew Bynum provided them with ample production from the post but Howard is an elite defender, while Bynum is merely an above-average one, that essentially allowed Orlando to play top-three caliber defense rather than Denver Nuggets caliber defense (21st) when he was on the bench. His presence is that significant.
Offensively, he’s a slight downgrade, as he averaged less points per possession last season than Bynum, but he graded as the second-best pick-and-roll big man. That skill set will juxtapose perfectly with Steve Nash, who used up 60.9% of his possessions as the pick-and-roll facilitator. The rest of the league, if Kobe Bryant doesn’t deter them from their optimal attack (which certainly isn’t isolations), will likely cower in fear.
Orlando made the inexplicable decision to forgo three better deals with Atlanta, Brooklyn and Houston in favor of a deal that hastens their rebuilding. This isn’t poor logic, per se, but it was a blatant misunderstanding of the potential market for a unique talent like Howard. It’s true that Arron Afflalo, Moe Harkless and three protected first-round picks could form a playoff contending core but that will not come to fruition unless Orlando makes sound front office decisions, an acuity they have yet to exhibit.
At the very least, they allowed themselves to increase their future cap flexibility as they can buy-out Al Harrington’s partially guaranteed contract next summer, opening upwards of $20 million of cap space in 2014. But by not unloading Hedo Turkoglu’s damaging $24 million contract (over two seasons), they will be strapped a bit more than they should be.
In a development that will ostensibly signal the end of the potential Hawes-Kwame frontcourt disaster, Philadelphia will receive Andrew Bynum, who will quickly inherit Howard’s throne as the best center in the Eastern Conference. Bynum’s arrival will also create a more lucid, sensible Philadelphia rotation, as they flipped Andre Iguodala in the deal.
Flipping Iguodala for Bynum brings the added bonus in cap flexibility. Iguodala is set to earn $30 million over the next two seasons, unless he waives his ETO (Early Termination Option), an option that doesn’t seem realistic considering he would leave $16 million on the table. Bynum’s contract ends this season and should he leave the 76ers, it will not be quite the irreparable blow as it may seem. They’d have anywhere from $10-$15 million in cap space next summer, after factoring Dorell Wright and Nick Young’s cap holds, which isn’t bad for a team that remains a defensive juggernaut that could contend for years in a weak conference.
Denver didn’t do anything remarkable in the deal, as they acted as the de facto facilitator in this blockbuster, but they added another piece — Iguodala — who fits in well with Denver’s current core of Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Javale McGee and Wilson Chandler.
The subtle brilliance of this deal for Denver, who may have made out better than Orlando and Philadelphia when it’s all said and done, is that they shed future salary commitments that were owed to Afflalo and Harrington. Their $13 million trade exception with Washington, created in the Nene deal, is also preserved which should give them a multitude of future options. Denver continues to build their team without a superstar and, though this isn’t an ideal model of infrastructure, they are slowly moving their way up the Western Conference ledger.