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Numbers Game: Howard to Lakers in four-team deal

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Scott Cullen
8/10/2012 12:32:22 PM
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After a season of going back-and-forth about his long-term intentions, Dwight Howard was finally traded, landing with the Lakers in a four-team deal.

Numbers Game analyzes a deal that figures to put the Lakers back in the title hunt.

The Lakers Get: C Dwight Howard, PG Chris Duhon and F Earl Clark.

Howard, 26, has damaged his reputation with constant waffling about his future plans, but it hasn't affected his game, which means he's still the game's best centre. Over the last five seasons, he's the only player in the league averaging at least 20 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks per game. He's also shooting 59.0% from the field over that time, which helps offset his most notable shortcoming, 57.9% from the free-throw line.

Aside from those numbers though, Howard's greatest impact is at the defensive end. A three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Howard will protect the rim for the Lakers and his help defence will particularly come in handy given the Lakers' acquisition of point guard Steve Nash. While Nash is a sublime playmaker, who will keep Howard well-fed offensively, Howard will be there to shut down the lane when opposing point guards beat Nash off the dribble.

Howard signed a contract extension with Orlando last season that will pay him more than $19.2-million next season, after which he will be a free agent. The expectation is that playing for a championship contender like the Lakers will convince him to sign long-term, and while that seems a likely scenario, it's not guaranteed either.

29-year-old Chris Duhon is past his prime and will be hard-pressed to find a regular spot in the Lakers' rotation. Over the last two seasons with the Magic, Duhon averaged 3.2 points and 2.4 assists per game.

Despite shooting a career-high 42.0% from three-point land last season, Duhon finished third-worst in PER (8.39) among point guards that played at least 50 games last season, finishing ahead of Derek Fisher and Norris Cole.

Duhon has two years and $7.6-million left on his contract, which figures to make him an expensive third point guard if he remains in L.A.

Clark is a 24-year-old, 6-foot-10 forward who hasn't been able to establish a regular role through three NBA seasons. He played a career-high 12.4 minutes per game last season, averaging 2.7 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.

He has one year, at $1.24-million, left on his contract, but figures to have a spot next to Duhon on the Lakers' bench.

The Lakers were already going to be contenders going into next season, but upgrading at centre from Andrew Bynum to Dwight Howard could make them the favourites for the title.

The 76ers Get: C Andrew Bynum and SG Jason Richardson.

24-year-old Andrew Bynum is one of the game's best centres - he's just not Howard. Though he's been injury-plagued throughout his career, Bynum played 60 of 66 games last season and averaged career-highs in points (18.7) and rebounds (11.8).

He makes immature decisions at times, but is one of the most talented 7-footers on the planet, with the ability to average 20 and 10 if he gets enouh touches offensively and that should come in Philadelphia, where he ought to be the focal point of the offence.

With one year, and nearly $16.5-million, left on his contract Bynum is an improvement in the middle for the Sixers, but his contract status does leave it to the 76ers to try and convince the New Jersey native that it's worth sticking around long-term.

At one time, 31-year-old Jason Richardson was a high-flyer who scored more than 20 points per game three times in his career, but had career-lows with 11.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last season.

Richardson has two more years and about $12-million left on his contract (with a player option for $6.6-million), so he can ably fill a complementary role with Philadelphia, sharing time on the wing with Evan Turner and Dorell Wright.

Considering that the Sixers only had to surrender Andre Iguodala, a talented player with a hefty contract, Philadelphia should be decidedly better after participating in this deal.

The Nuggets Get: SF Andre Iguodala.

Iguodala, 28, has one year (and $14.8-million) left on his contract, with a player option for $15.9-million the next season. While that's a significant price to pay, especially for a player that averaged 12.4 points per game last season, Iguodala is a versatile performer. He was one of two players to score a dozen points and average at least six rebounds and five assists per game -- LeBron James was the other.

Where Iguodala shines is on the defensive end. According to the site www.82games.com, Iguodala allowed his opponents a PER of 9.2, the best among all wing players that played starter's minutes.

The Nuggets lose depth sending a pair of rotation regulars to Orlando, but Iguodala is going to be a bigger factor than Afflalo on the wing and Kenneth Faried should see more minutes in the Denver frontcourt now that Harrington is gone.

The Magic Get: SG Arron Afflalo, PF Al Harrington, F Moe Harkless, F Nikola Vucevic and three first-round picks (2014 from Denver, 2015 from Philadelphia, 2017 from the L.A. Lakers).

26-year-old Arron Afflalo has improved steadily throughout his career and fills a role as a solid defender who can shoot threes. He shoots 40.5% from beyond the arc over his career and scored a career-high 15.2 points per game last season.

There could be more looks for Afflalo in Orlando, which might boost his scoring numbers, but he's really better suited to a complementary role with a good team.

Afflalo has three years and three years and almost $22.7-million (with a player option for $7.75-milllion in 2015-2016) remaining on a contract extension he signed prior to last season.

32-year-old Harrington is a veteran who can score, putting up at least 12 points per game in 12 of the last 13 seasons, including 14.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season. While his skills give him a role to play in any rotation, Harrington is under contract for three more years at a cost of $21.4-million; a significant commitment for a rebuilding team.

Harkless is a 6-foot-8 forward that the 76ers drafted 15th overall this summer. The 19-year-old averaged 15.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per game as a freshman at St. John's. While his shooting can improve (he was 21.5% on threes), Harkless' production suggests that he has the athleticism to contribute to an NBA rotation.

Vucevic, 21, is a 7-footer who played nearly 16 minutes a game as a rookie, averaging 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He'll get an opportunity to play in Orlando, where they obviously have a need at centre.

The three first-round picks don't offer a lot of value, unless these currently contending teams drop off significantly, but they are assets that will help in the rebuilding process.

Considering that they just gave up their franchise player, the Magic really didn't get much quality. There's quantity and maybe this quantity will somehow yield quality if, say, three of these seven pieces turn into quality starters some day, but the Lakers, 76ers and Nuggets come out of this deal looking better than they did before.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Dwight Howard (Photo: Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images)
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