Give the Lakers some credit. They've got an aging roster and the pulled to trigger to make a title run with Dwight Howard this year and hope they can resign him next year. They also managed to keep Pau Gasol, which wasn't necessarily expected. This was a big trade in an era of increasingly big trades, so let's have a look at what we think the rosters for the Lakers, Nuggets, 76ers and Magic are going to look like, barring more off-season moves.
The Lakers theoretically upgrade with Howard (we'll get to the risks involved in a minute), shore up the back-up point guard and swap backup power forwards. Basically swapping another All-Star center, back-ups and conditional 1st and 2nd round draft picks. Here's what the Laker's depth chart should look like:
C: Dwight Howard - Jordan Hill - Robert Sacre PF: Pau Gasol - Earl Clark SF: Metta World Peace - Antwan Jamison - Devin Ebanks SG: Kobe Bryant - Jodie Meeks - Andrew Goudelock - Darius Johnson-Odom PG: Steve Nash - Steve Blake/Chris Duhon - Darius Morris
If everyone's healthy, that's a pretty scary starting 5. The weakest link is the former Ron Artest at small forward, who's just not as quick as he used to be. The extra value of Dwight Howard is his ability to block shots and protect the rim. Much like World Peace, Nash is going to have trouble staying in front of the quicker point guards. For that matter, Kobe isn't getting any younger. Antwan Jamison, who looks to be the 6th man, isn't an accomplished defender. Andrew Bynum is far from a slouch in this department, but Howard is a defense upgrade and more of an intimidator in the paint. The defensive question becomes how quickly that starting 5 can close out on 3-point shooters.
The Lakers are fairly deep with players that play multiple positions. If Howard misses some time, Gasol slides over to center and you'll see more minutes from Antwan Jamison at the 4. Jordan Hill swings 4/5. Devin Ebanks could play some 2. Kobe has been a 3 before. With all the players over 30, that flexibility might come into play.
Back-up point guard will be an interesting battle. Blake will likely start the season as back-up, but Duhon could unseat him. Blake's the more consistent shooter (Duhon being a little streaky), but I'd give Duhon the nod for both running an offense and on the defensive end. Bottom line: if they need to rest Nash, the back-up has a back-up. Darius Morris might spend some time in the D-league.
Offensively, if World Peace is hitting the 3, the Lakers could be awfully hard to slow down. They're definitely in the finals conversation this year. They do this at a cost. They traded an injury-prone All-Star center they could have signed a long-term deal with for an All-Star center coming off back surgery with one year left on his deal. If Howard's back isn't 100%, there goes a potential title. If Howard decides to go elsewhere next year, particularly if it's a last minute decision and the Lakers don't have a chance to trade him, the Lakers have no young All-Stars and an old team.
Orlando seems to be playing a game of "dump that salary." They've got mostly young players, no confirmed star player, and some conditional draft picks. Their most highly regarded incoming player is Arron Afflalo. Al Harington is solid forward with a diverse game. Josh McRoberts was a starter for the Pacers, a couple years back, but certainly no All-Star. Center Nikola Vucevic did have a few nice stat lines for Philly when he got the minutes, but is a little green. Christian Eyenga has barely played in the last two years. Moe Harkless is a rookie. You have 2 conditional first round picks and a conditional second round pick. Afflalo's a keeper. Harrington's a quality player, but at 32 he's not going to be in long term plans. Maybe Vucevic is a keeper. Harkless we haven't seen in the league yet. This doesn't seem like a lot for Dwight Howard, does it?
Here's my guess for the new Orlando rotation, and this could change a lot before the season starts:
Center: Nikola Vucevic - Gustavo Ayon - Kyle O'Quinn Power Forward: Big Baby Davis - Josh Mc Roberts - Justin Harper - Andrew Nicholson Small Forward: Al Harrington - Hedo Turkoglu - Moe Harkless - Quentin Richardson - Christian Eyenga Shooting Guard: Arron Afflalo - JJ Reddick Point Guard: Jameer Nelson - Ish Smith
It will be interesting to see where Harrington fits in. He could conceivably play either small or power forward and could also be the super-sub. Still, unless Vucevic really blossoms and blossoms quickly, this doesn't look like a playoff team to me. If Harrington gets decent minutes, he could put up a lot of points for your fantasy team, though. I could also see Harkless starting if they're trying to build up the young players.
I think what we're looking at here is dump some salary, lose some games, start building from the draft. The Oklahoma City model.
The Nuggets are interesting. They swapped out their shooting guard for an all-star/stud defender and threw in some draft picks and a key reserve to do it. Yes, there were likely cost-cutting implications to this trade. Andre Iguodala immediately upgrades the Denver defense, and that's not a slight on the thoroughly competent Afflalo, who the Magic are happy to have. The real key to the Nuggets is developing young players. Iguodala and Andre Miller are the old men on this team, but it looks like another play-off run will happen.
Center: JaVale McGee - Timofey Movgov/Kosta Koufos (toss up, but Mozgov's having a nice summer) - İzzet Türkyılmaz Power Forward: Kenneth Faried - Anthony Randolph Small Forward: Danilo Gallinari - Wilson Chandler - Jordan Hamilton - Quincy Miller Shooting Guard: Andre Iguodala - Corey Brewer - Evan Fournier - Julyan Stone Point Guard: Ty Lawson - Andre Miller
I suspect Denver will have a nice three man rotation of Iguodala/Gallinari/Chandler at the 2/3 and this will be their strength. For them to take the next step, they need one of the young players to take the next step. If McGee's concentration and consistency improved, they'd be a hard out in the playoffs. I'd call this trade an interesting tweak for the Nuggets. Not huge, and partially influenced by salary cap, but interesting.
The 76ers, on the other hand, got themselves a young All-Star center... assuming he can stay healthy. They also ate Jason Richardson's contract, but he's a classic example of someone you don't mind having on the team if the price is right. It also makes for an interesting discussion of rotation, since Andrew Bynum takes up an awful lot of space on the blocks. Do they go Twin Towers with Spencer Hawes at the 4 or do they move Thaddeus Young up to play a high post 4? There may be a little more tinkering with the roster before this is over. Need a beefy front court player? Philly has a few right now.
Still, you have a chance to get a 24-year-old All-Star center, injury prone or not, you jump on it. Of course, they will need to resign him, similar to the Lakers and Howard, but this is a gamble you make.
If you go by how the 76ers _had_ been playing people, the depth chart would look something like this:
Center: Andrew Bynum - Kwame Brown Power Forward: Spencer Hawes - Lavoy Allen - Arnett Moultrie SF: Thaddeus Young - Dorell Wright SG Jason Richardson - Evan Turner - Nick Young PG: Jrue Holiday - Royal Ivey - Maalik Wayns
Philly could really use an upgrade at back-up point guard. Past that, the issue here is what you want to surround Bynum with on offense. If you have a center who's going to command a double-team, you usually want 3-point shooters on the wing. That hasn't been a strength for Thadeus Young and Evan Turner. On the other hand, you have three bombers in Wright, Richardson and Young.
You probably need to have three point shooter at either the 2 or 3 spot when Bynum's playing, so I don't think you're going to see both Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner starting at the same time. Similarly, I'm not sure that Richardson, Wright and Nick Young are quite as defensively skilled as Doug Collins would like and he might not want to play two of them at the same time.
There's a good team to be made out of this, but adding Bynum is going to alter how the 76ers approach things. It wouldn't surprise me if they make another move before the season starts
There doesn't appear to be a loser in this trade, although I do wonder if Orlando could have gotten a better deal. One suspects they wanted no part of Bynum's injury history. That or they're a little suspicious of All-Star centers after the ways Shaq and Howard left town.