The Lakers may have never been in a better position to acquire Dwight Howard.
The disgruntled center wants out of Orlando, requesting that he be sent to Brooklyn. While it seemed inevitable a few days ago that Howard would become a Net, that possibility has become a lot less likely with the events of Wednesday.
Brooklyn has agreed to a four-year, $60 million contract with Brook Lopez. The deal essentially ends any chance of Howard joining the Nets in 2012. Lopez would have been the centerpiece of a trade sending Howard to the Big Apple. After signing the new contract, Lopez isn't allowed to be moved until Jan. 15, 2013.
It's possible that Orlando will begin the season with Howard as their starting center, and move him before the trade deadline. After talks with the Nets broke down, however, Howard reiterated that he wants to be dealt. Magic general manager Rob Hennigan has indicated that he wants to trade the star as soon as possible, if he's unwilling to commit to his current team.
With the Nets out of the running in the Howard Sweepstakes, the Lakers, as well any other teams interested in the All-Star, can take advantage and acquire Howard.
Howard hasn't budged from his stance that he will only sign a long-term contract with Brooklyn. He will be a free agent in the summer, and teams have been reluctant to offer Orlando a desirable package, for fear that he will leave after just one season.
Even though Howard has intimated that he will sign with the Nets in the summer, the chances of that happening are remote. The Nets will be well over the salary cap next season. If he's not traded, the only way Howard can go to Brooklyn is by accepting the mid-level exception.
It's doubtful that Howard will leave tens of millions of dollars on the table to play for the Nets. That leaves the Lakers and Rockets as the two front runners to land the center.
Los Angeles can offer Orlando something no other team can-- a star player. Andrew Bynum would go to the Magic in a deal for Howard. He was one of the best players in the league this past season, averaging 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.
The only issue is Bynum's contract status. He will be a free agent in 2013, as well, and hasn't guaranteed the Magic that would sign an extension to stay in Orlando.
Houston can offer Orlando a few draft picks and young players. Luis Scola or Kevin Martin would also be a part of a potential trade.
Since the Magic don't want to lose Bynum after just one season, a deal won't be easy to get done. However, with the Nets out of the way, the Magic's options are dwindling.
L.A. can give Orlando a proven star, while taking on another bad contract, like Jason Richardson or Hedo Turkoglu. Houston has multiple pieces they can trade, but none are as good as Bynum.
Expect the Lakers to make a big push for Howard with the Nets out of the picture.