Insider: Dwight Howard & The New Jersey Nets

Dwight Howard continues to be the hottest commodity in the NBA.

Brook Lopez, two first round picks and the chance to dump Hedo Turkoglu is the latest offer that has been reported by ESPN.com’s Chad Ford and Marc Stein.

The New Jersey Nets are prepared to offer a trade package featuring Brook Lopez and two future first-round picks to acquire Dwight Howard before the Orlando Magic center becomes a free agent in July 2012, according to sources close to the situation.

Sources told ESPN.com this week that, to sweeten the proposal, New Jersey would likewise offer to take back the contract of Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu, who has three seasons left on his contract worth just under $35 million. Absorbing Turkoglu’s remaining salary would become financially feasible for the Nets after the expected release of swingman Travis Outlaw through the amnesty clause that will be included in the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement and by including another smaller contract or two in the deal.

At first glance, the offer may not seem so bad.

It’d be great for the Magic to be able to unload Turkoglu’s contract. Per ShamSports.com, Turkoglu is owed $11,015,850 this season and $11,815,850 for the 2012-13 season. If you combine that with the amnesty clause that would allow the Magic to dump Gilbert Arenas and the $19,269,307 he’s owed this season, you could be onto something.

Brook Lopez is clearly one of the better up-and-coming centers in the league. In just his third season as a professional, Lopez averaged 20.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. The former Stanford star is a legitimate seven-footer and is still only 23. Plus, the Magic could pick up his option for the 2012-13 season and it would cost them just $4,190,851.

However, upon closer inspection, the deal is just about as one-sided as any other rumor we’ve seen.

I’d like to reiterate that Lopez has the potential to be a very good player and can already score very well, but there are definitely some glaring weaknesses in Lopez’s game. Lopez’s field goal percentage took a dip over the last seasons, going from 53.1% his rookie year to 49.9% in his second season, all the way down to 49.2% last season. Lopez took 2.2 more shots per game last season, which is likely something the Nets asked him to do, but he took lower quality shots, becoming more of a jump shooter. He was a less efficient player, which is why you see a consistent dip in his shooting percentage.

Lopez also struggled to consistently rebound the basketball last season. He averaged 5.9 boards per game, an extremely low number for someone aspiring to become a big-time NBA center. Although his rebounding numbers were higher in his previous two season, it was still nothing special before the 2010-11 season.

During the 2010-11 rebounding percentage fell to just 10.0%. In comparison, Dwight Howard’s rebounding percentage was 21.6% last season. Obviously, that isn’t a fair comparison, so we’ll take a look at Orlando’s power forwards instead. Ryan Anderson grabbed 14.5% of all available rebounds while Brandon Bass grabbed 12.5%. Former Magic and current Suns center Marcin Gortat grabbed 17.4% of all available rebounds before being dealt to the Suns last season, where he upped that percentage to 18.1%.

The prospect of gaining two first round picks is appealing but the Magic would not be picking at the top of the draft. If the Nets were to land Howard and pair him with one of the league’s elite players in point guard Deron Williams, that team would be near the top of the standings for years to come, leaving the Magic with picks in the mid-to-late 20s, a place where it’s hard to find a player who can make much of an impact.

There are several other reasons a deal like this doesn’t make sense, even from a Nets perspective. There’s no guarantee Howard would re-sign with the Nets. Obviously, playing with Deron Williams is an attractive option, but the Nets would have just a year to prove to both Howard and Williams, who will also be a free agent after this season, they can win a championship in New Jersey (or Brooklyn).

Most importantly, the Magic don’t have to trade Howard. He’s under contract for the remainder of the season. Although there have been several indications Howard would be interested in playing somewhere else, he hasn’t come right out and told Magic management he was leaving. Even if that does happen, it probably won’t be for some time.

Howard is coming off the best season in the NBA. He averaged a career-high 22.9 points per game, pulled down 14.1 rebounds per game and as usual, played better defense than any other player in the league.

There is literally nothing the Magic could trade for and land anything close to equal value outside of unrealistic scenarios involving a player like LeBron James (who is the only player I could have justified winning the MVP award over Howard last season).

Insider: Dwight Howard & The New Jersey Nets by

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