Go West, Superman
Five teams in the West Dwight Howard should land with.
“Go West, young man, and grow up with the country.”
-John B. L. Soule-
History, as they say, repeats itself. In the NBA, we are currently experiencing basketball’s equivalent of reverse Manifest Destiny, where generals in the East are gathering together and forming elite battalions in order to take what they deem to be rightfully theirs, the Larry O’Brien Trophy. It’s why Dwight Howard, who is alone on the island in Orlando, must heed the advice of history makers before him.
What General Howard needs to realize is that there is no more Magic in Orlando. One superstar can’t win on his own. Jordan, Bird, Magic, Kobe, Duncan, and Wade all know this. LeBron DEFINITELY knows this, as we came to see with his “Decision.” The only star in the last twenty years to have won a title without an elite player beside him was Hakeem Olajuwon with the Houston Rockets, and he was able to do so because he had a freakish amount of role players to help with Sam Cassell, Mario Elie, Vernon Maxwell, and Robert Horry being a few who stepped up. The Magic’s supporting cast is not quite as good at coming through in the clutch as the ’94 Rockets were, in case you haven’t noticed.
Magic GM Otis Smith has pretty much left Howard with no choice but to leave. He gambled by grabbing Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu, who must have left his mojo in Toronto, and he has maxed the team’s cap space out. He also is at odds with head coach Stan Van Gundy, which creates more tension in the room as the pink elephant of Howard’s potential departure continues to step on toes.
With that in mind, it seems clear that the best chance for Dwight Howard to make multiple NBA Finals appearances in the near future is to head to the Western Conference, where the land is fertile with possibility. As the Los Angeles Lakers begin their descent, along with the San Antonio Spurs, it is starting to look like the West is where the gold is.
On paper, the Eastern Conference looks weaker, but the numbers are deceiving. While the Conference does have teams scraping into the Playoffs with 37 wins, the teams at the top are built like the legions of Rome and will only get better. You think we’ve seen the best of Derrick Rose’s Chicago Bulls or LeBron and the Miami Heat? For old time’s sake, let me go Chad Ochocinco on you. Child, please.
It’s time for Howard to leave the East to the other beasts and make his name elsewhere. To help him with his decision, here are the three best options for Superman if he chose to bounce out of Orlando. (Note: These teams are not ranked in order of best option aside from the first one, which is more of a no-brainer than “The Situation.”)
The blueprint for this move has already been drawn up. Howard isn’t the only physically intimidating Magic center with a knack for clanking free throws to have been dominated in the East. Shaquille O’Neal was in the same situation in the nineties before he bolted for La La Land. The comparisons don’t stop there. Both made it to the Finals, ultimately bowing out in rapid fashion (O’Neal’s Magic got swept by Hakeem Olajuwon in the 1995 NBA Finals while Howard’s edition was ousted by the Los Angeles Lakers, 4-1, in the 2009 Finals.)
Howard isn’t looking to burn the city of Orlando in the manner LeBron James did in Cleveland, but he also isn’t going to waste away in Florida forever. He has stated he will keep fighting and do his best, but there will come a point when he realizes that the Magic are walking into a gunfight holding Super Soakers.
Why it will happen:
A player like Howard has too much star power and talent to stay in Orlando. What better place is there for him to maximize that Q rating while winning a title than L.A.? If Kobe is willing to share the crown, which didn’t work out perfectly when Shaq was there, the Lakers could trade Andrew Bynum and an additional player to get Superman 2.0. The trio of Kobe, Howard and Gasol would be good enough to carry the Lakers to an NBA Finals appearance, at least. Howard could also be the next in line of the greatest center legacy in NBA history. Wilt, Kareem, Shaq and Howard would make an astounding Hollywood version of Mt. Rushmore, don’t you think?
Unfortunately, both Howard and the former Laker O’Neal have been bitten by the movie bug. Given Howard’s youthful exuberance, the odds are 5-1 on him and Shaq Diesel teaming up for Kazaam 2, with Christina Aguilera playing the voice of the talking genie bottle that tends to forget its lines.
Why it won’t happen:
For some strange reason, GM Mitch Kupchak seems to be fascinated with Andrew Bynum. The best reason is obviously that the size of Bynum and Gasol is unlike any other team in the Association. In spite of the fact that a Howard/Gasol combo would be more dominant and reliable than the Bynum/Gasol duo, Kupchak may continue to hold on to his favorite Lakers project player. That would make Lakers haters very happy.
Why it will happen:
The Spurs won 61 games this season before being destroyed by the No. 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies. Their glaring weakness was a defensive stopper in the paint. Think Dwight Howard might be able to fix that issue if he chose to wear the black and silver? Yeah, me too. The Spurs have Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all on the books and Magic GM Otis Smith has stated there is no way he is going to trade Howard, which is absolutely stupid considering he may end up empty handed if Howard leaves after next season in free agency. The Spurs should still try to make a package deal, even if it means trading Tony Parker to Orlando. A line-up of George Hill, Manu, Richard Jefferson, Tim Duncan and Howard could get to the Western Conference Finals. Or they could wait a year until both Howard and Duncan are free agents, ask Duncan to take a pay cut and then roll with the foursome of Timmy, Howard, Manu and Parker. Methinks the Spurs would have a great chance at getting one for the thumb.
Why it won’t happen:
Howard might be scared off by the thought of being left alone when Duncan and Manu retire, which will happen sooner than you think. As great as the Spurs are at finding gold in the NBA Draft (And who does it better, really?), Howard isn’t looking for just a single ring. It would be better for him to go to a team with young guns that can contend for the rest of the decade.