In the latest Dwight Howard trade rumor, Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith will be aggressively pursuing Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash before the March 15 trade deadline in what looks like a push to persuade Howard to stay with the Magic for the long term.
Back in December, Howard, who is eligible to opt out of his current contract this summer, requested a trade, the preferential destinations being the New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Lakers or Dallas Mavericks. But since then, the Magic have achieved the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference at 22-13, which only reinforces Howard's past sentiment that team management likely won't trade him because the team is winning.
Howard is averaging 21 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks per game after 35 games for the Magic. (Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi).
However, Howard hasn't yet formally rescinded his trade request, which means the possibility remains the three-time Defensive Player of the Year can walk away come July, leaving the Magic with no compensation.
The logical move would then be to trade Howard and get valuable pieces in return that can help the team stay afloat this season and rebuild for the future. But, according to the Orlando Sentinel, Magic CEO Alex Martins insisted Sunday night that the team hasn't made a decision yet about whether they will trade Howard, which implies hope of holding onto him until the end of the season and getting him to sign an extension afterwards.
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If the Magic start losing again, then that fateful decision to trade Howard could be made sooner than later. And that's why Steve Nash has to come aboard before that decision is made-to prevent that decision from being made-whether the Magic are losing or winning up to that point.
If the Magic start losing more games than they win, then bringing Nash on board can convince Howard that the team can still turn the rest of the season around and potentially make a strong playoff push. On the other hand, if the Magic start winning more games than they lose, then bringing Nash on board would only make them better than they already are and generate an even stronger, more confidence-laden playoff push.
Nash is 38 years old and in the final year of his contract, but statistically speaking, he would seemingly present an upgrade over the Magic's current starting point guard Jameer Nelson. Nash currently leads the NBA in assists per game (10.9) while adding 13.9 points on 54.2 percent shooting and 40 percent shooting from three-point range. Nelson, though, has struggled for much of the season, averaging only 9.3 points and 5.3 assists and shooting 39.8 percent from the field and 30.1 percent on three-pointers.
If the rumor does hold up and a trade for Nash was to take place, one would have to assume that Nelson would be the key piece on the Magic's end. After Nelson, the Magic don't have many tradeable assets that could help them improve their roster, so whoever else they decide to include in a deal would need some careful consideration and time.
The only advantage the Magic have in not getting Nash and letting Howard play through the season is being able to offer the big man a fifth year on a new contract worth about $28 million if he were to try to depart via free agency, according to Yahoo Sports. At the same time, the Magic wouldn't have the financial flexibility to make a big run at a major free agent acquisition during the summer to make up for Howard's loss, despite having waived Gilbert Arenas' big contract via the amnesty clause.
The bottom line is that Howard perhaps must be mightily convinced to stay on board for both this season and any number of seasons to come. Magic owner Richard DeVos Sr. has said that he wants Howard to stay in Orlando.
But the question still remains that no one truly knows the answer to: is Orlando truly where Howard's heart lies?