On the eve of training camps opening, on the day the NBA's lockout officially ended, on the day David Stern said the league had achieved competitive balance, the New Orleans Hornets turned the league on its head. Chris Paul will be a Los Angeles Laker when the season starts Christmas Day.
The Lakers, Hornets and Rockets completed a three-team deal that sent Chris Paul to Los Angeles in exchange for Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol. The Hornets will receive Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and Kevin Martin from the Rockets and the Rockets will get Gasol.
UPDATE: Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that the league has killed the trade. So throw the Lakers into the Howard discussion again. But still read the rest of this post, I promise it will possibly be worth your time.
While the trade was originally reported to involve Andrew Bynum and not Gasol, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that the two had agreed to a deal involving Bynum before the Lakers reneged. Of course, Bynum is reported to be the key piece to any deal the Lakers could put together to acquire Dwight Howard.
And therein lies the rub. Los Angeles got its point guard in Chris Paul and now has some decisions to make moving forward to fill out the rest of its roster. But the ultimate end goal appears to be acquiring Dwight Howard. Everyone expects the Lakers to make an offer to Howard now. And with Bynum still around, there is still a chance. It was no secret Orlando had little interest in Pau Gasol and the $57 million remaining on his three-year deal. Bynum was their target.
So what does this trade mean to those trade negotiations?
It means the Lakers have very little to offer the Magic outside of Bynum. Bynum and Howard have virtually similar salaries, so technically the Lakers would not have to add anything. But clearly Bynum is not enough. And draft picks will do nothing to entice Orlando considering Los Angeles is not going to be making any lottery picks any time soon -- and some were included in the Paul trade.
Orlando holds the cards in this sense. The Lakers have to do more to sweeten the pot and make an offer the Magic can live with (that is what it would be... let's not kid ourselves). And the question is: what more can the Lakers do?
Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest) has three years and $22 million remaining on his contract. That is not appetizing. Other than him, who else do the Lakers have to offer? And with so little to offer, Orlando will be looking for cap room and to unload one of their massive contracts.
It would take a third team to make a Dwight Howard trade to Los Angeles work. And I doubt any team in the NBA will be eager to help the Lakers acquire Howard. At least not voluntarily.
The only thing Los Angeles can hope for is that they have cleared enough cap room to sign Howard to a new free agent deal. That may not get the Lakers Howard this year, but it would force Orlando to trade Howard before the trade deadline.
Did the Lakers clear enough cap room for to make a Howard run in July? I would say no.
The Lakers sent out $27.6 million in salary and took in $16.4 million. As Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld reports, there are still details to this deal that need to be ironed out. Their payroll this year will be nearly $75 million. So they will still be over the luxury tax line. For 2012, the Lakers (if Paul declines his early termination option) will have $58.2 million committed for 2012. The Lakers will be right at the salary cap line.
Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld reports the Hornets may also send Emeka Okafor to the Lakers. Okafor is due $40.6 million over the next three years. He might be another asset the Lakers would try to include in a Howard deal. But his contract killed any thoughts Orlando had of trading for Paul last year. Why would they take him now while not keeping Dwight Howard?
If Okafor is part of the deal, the Lakers will have $71.7 million committed for 2012. That should be well over the luxury tax line.
Theoretically, Los Angeles can sign Howard to whatever contract he wants and take the luxury tax repercussions. Remember that in Year 3 of this bargaining agreement the escalated tax kicks in. And Kobe Bryant is still due $83 million in the next three years. The Lakers have not cleared enough cap space to make a run at Dwight Howard and his salary that will likely be greater than $18 million.
The Magic still need to work to find another star player to pair with Dwight Howard. Orlando is not out of the woods yet on that front. And I still want to hear your trade offers and proposals (I think what is important is figuring out who the Magic have to give up to get the deal they want) for the exciting third part of the Acquiring a Superstar series.
What the Paul trade means, is that perhaps we can cross the Lakers off the list in pencil. If they are truly determined to sign Howard and Howard is determined to go there, there is nothing Orlando can do about it -- there was nothing the franchise could do about that anyway. But the Magic will likely not be trading Howard to the Lakers any time soon.