It's the week of the NBA Draft, and that means general managers have their headphones on and they're taking tons of phone calls.
While much of the week revolves around landing top amateur athletes, there's also talk about making big trades.
The blockbuster deal that continues to be discussed is the Orlando Magic sending center Dwight Howard to the Lakers for Andrew Bynum. The major reason for the trade is the Magic's fear that Howard will leave the organization as a free agent at the end of the upcoming season.
Howard, 25, wants to play for a contender, and should the Lakers give up only Bynum and perhaps some draft picks, then Howard would get his wish. A starting lineup of Howard, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and any two players would likely be enough to get the Lakers to at least the Western Conference Finals, and realistically make them favorites to win the title.
The Magic don't want to lose Howard for nothing next summer the way Cleveland was left holding the bag with LeBron James's departure, and also don't want Howard dictating where he goes like the way Carmelo Anthony did in the regular season. The sooner the Magic can deal Howard, the better.
Acquiring Bynum, 23, wouldn't be a bad move. The Lakers' center has had his bouts with injury and immaturity, but Bynum is still an excellent center with fine post moves, very good defense, and emerged late in the season as one of the better rebounders in the NBA.
The trade doesn't need other parties involved to make it work, which can often kill a trade. It would be a center-for-center swap and the Magic could certain do worse.
Offensively, with Bynum being the probable go-to guy in Orlando, he may emerge as a better scorer than Howard. Bynum is a good free-throw shooter for a center with a career average of 69 percent, while Howard is a career 60 percent shooter. Both Howard and Bynum shoot roughly the same field goal percentage.
Though Bynum is not as good defensively has Howard (who is?), he can certainly hold his own.
In short, Howard is a better player than Bynum, but the difference isn't significant. Meanwhile, the Magic would be younger, and have a new look in a conference that is becoming increasingly more difficult to reach the Finals.
The one person who might be holding up the deal is Jim Buss, son of owner Jerry Buss. With the departure of assistant general manager and former scout Ronnie Lester, one of the best in business, Jim Buss took the reigns as general manager Mitch Kupchak's right-hand man, but with added cache because of his father.
Buss can certainly hold up a potential Howard-for-Bynum deal. When Anthony was on the trade block during the regular season, Buss refused to offer Bynum. The same went for rumors that Howard would be dealt to Los Angeles near the trade deadline for Bynum, because Buss continues to see Bynum's potential.
Meanwhile, it seems that Jim Buss has been throwing his weight around more than ever. The Lakers have already done a house cleaning with Lester's dismissal, and as new head coach Mike Brown has arrived Phil Jackson's assistants were sent packing. Brown came to the Lakers on Buss's approval, and Bryant wasn't even consulted about the hiring.
Basically, the possibility of the Lakers making any major deal involving Bynum will have to go through Buss. Kupchak, Brown, and Bryant may have influence on the organization, but it's Buss who has the final say.
Will Buss decide it's finally time to part ways with Bynum?