Dwight Howard Trade Shows Importance Of GM Creativity

Apr 07, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (12) during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. The Magic defeated the Sixers 88-82. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

The most striking thing about this Dwight Howard blockbuster trade, assuming it officially goes through (EDIT: it has), is that Dwight Howard is heading to the Los Angeles Lakers. The second-most striking thing in the Dwight Howard blockbuster trade is that the Magic got screwed.

Beyond that, though? I'm most intrigued by what the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets did, and I think there's a discussion to be had when it comes to the Wizards.

If we accept that the NBA has become a league of a couple haves and a bunch of have-nots, then you'd certainly consider the Nuggets and 76ers in the latter category. Neither team really had a superstar, and they were both stuck somewhere in the middle of their conferences with no real obvious shot at a championship. And yet, both found a way to make their team better with creative moves that nobody saw coming.

Of course, both also gave up something to get something. That's where I think the Wizards' angle comes in.

This trade took some real guts for both the 76ers and Nuggets. On Philly's side, they are committing to a young center with some maturity issues and with just one year left on his contract. I'm not quite sure how Doug Collins is going to reach Bynum, and you never know if Bynum's injuries resurface. But Bynum is also arguably the second-best player involved in this deal, as well as the second-best center in the league. He could become a superstar, whereas Andre Iguodala was who he was. The 76ers simply had to take this risk, and the only major asset of value that they lost was a player they were likely to move anyway.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets, for the second straight year, punted on a long-term contract extension they gave the year before. In this case, it was Arron Afflalo, a fine player who is probably being paid 125 percent of what he's actually worth over the next four years. Instead of paying Afflalo for that long, the Nuggets turned him and Al Harrington (also on a long-term deal) into a better player in Iguodala that's also on a shorter contract. They improved and they saved money long-term, and they erased another mini-mistake to do it.

Neither team is going to win a championship with these moves, but they both successfully leveraged something of value (Iguodala, Afflalo), as well as assets like Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic and a couple of draft picks, to get legitimate all-star caliber players. They had to give up something to get something better, but it was well worth it for both teams.

That's where I think the Wizards should look carefully. So far, the Wizards have been in asset accumulation mode, declining to give up anything of value. The Emeka Okafor/Trevor Ariza trade was one where they got something for absolutely nothing. That's one way that the Hornets trade works.

But at the same time, I do think there will eventually come a time where the Wizards have to give up some of their assets to get something as valuable as Iguodala or Bynum. Maybe the team isn't ready yet, but they have to keep looking. It's nice to say that the Wizards "won" a trade by getting useful pieces for their own trash, but to find a legitimate difference-maker rather than complementary pieces, they'll have to provide something of value to their trade partner.

This isn't meant to be a criticism of the Okafor/Ariza trade, because timing is key. That trade didn't do anything to prevent the kind of trade the Nuggets and 76ers pulled off, because neither team used cap space to get this done. They instead leveraged existing assets to make a move, demonstrating creativity beyond what most of us are able to demonstrate on this blog.

At the same time, the bad news is that they were both better than the Wizards already and now have upgraded their rosters on paper. There will be a certain point where the Wizards need to join the arm's race in some way, shape or form. When that time comes, they'll need to do something creative that makes a difference.

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