Hawks should trade any two players for Dwight Howard

If it takes trading Josh Smith and somebody else to get Dwight Howard, do it. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

If Orlando wants Josh Smith and another player to get Dwight Howard, fine (Curtis Compton)

NBA teams are starting to open their facility doors to players, having conversations with agents and formulating plans for their respective rosters.

What a great time for the Hawks to push for the one move they could make that would grab everybody’s attention, fill Philips Arena and possibly move them closer to title contention: Trade for Dwight Howard.

I realize this is a long shot. But Howard almost certainly is going to be traded some time over the next several months. He can opt out of his contract after this season and there’s no indication that he wants to stay in Orlando.

Howard never has stated that he wants to come back home to Atlanta to play center for the Hawks. But let’s put the team’s potential sales pitch to him on hold for just a minute.

Here’s the plan, after my high-level talks with Michael “Ice Man” Cunningham: Tell the Magic they can have any two players they want.

At some point, Orlando will come to the realization that it can’t convince Howard to stay so management will go looking for the best deal. I can’t believe any other team in the league could offer as valuable a trade package as the Hawks can. Tell the Magic that they can take Joe Johnson and Al Horford. Or Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. Or Al Horford and Josh Smith.

Regardless of which two players Orlando chooses, the Hawks would have the most dominant center in the game and the major marketing piece the franchise needs in this city. Their starting two pieces toward building an NBA title contender: Howard and Johnson (I can see the commercials now), Howard and Horford or Howard and Smith (reuniting the pre-school teammates).

Now, about Howard. There are ramifications of the new collective bargaining agreement that I freely (and proudly) admit ignorance about. I’m aware that impending free agents don’t quite have the leverage they used to (see: Carmelo Anthony). Therefore, Howard might prefer just opting out of his contract, hitting the open market and getting a longer, more lucrative deal as a free agent than he could in some sort of extend-and-trade situation.

But the Hawks have ammunition if they want to pitch Howard:

• 1.) Atlanta is home. His parents, family and friends can watch him play.

• 2.) The cap space cleared by two high-profile players leaving would give the Hawks the ability to pursue other players in trade and free agency. Howard’s presence also immediately makes Atlanta a more attractive option for other NBA players, many of whom already live here in the offseason.

• 3.) Howard wants to build his brand. That’s understandable. But he doesn’t need to go to Los Angeles or New York to do that. The Hawks need only show him last week’s New York Times story that was titled, “Stars Flock to Atlanta, Reshaping a Center of Black Culture.”

Excerpts from the story:

” … Fueled by a generous entertainment tax credit, the migration of affluent African-Americans from the North and the surprising fact that even celebrities appreciate the lower cost of living here, this capital of the Deep South is emerging as an epicenter of the black glitterati. …

To be sure, Atlanta has long had a high concentration of well-connected, affluent blacks. But the Atlanta area is now home to such a critical mass of successful actors, rappers and entertainment executives that few would argue its position as the center of black culture. Tyler Perry and his movie and television empire are based here. Sean Combs has a house in a suburb north of the city. The musicians Cee Lo Green, Ludacris and members of OutKast call it home. So does the music producer and rapper Jermaine Dupri.

Gladys Knight, an Atlanta native who was honored at the awards, which were taped Nov. 17, runs a chicken and waffle restaurant here. And it is not unusual to spot Usher at one of the city’s better restaurants.”

The Hawks’ biggest problem handicapping them in this situation: ownership. Regardless of what you think about the Atlanta Spirit, they are trying to sell the team and arena rights. (A potential sale to Alex Meruelo fell through four weeks ago.) Major trades, contracts, hirings and firings generally don’t happen when an ownership situation is in flux.

But this is a trade the Hawks need to pursue. As much as last year’s playoff showing was impressive — eliminating Orlando and taking Chicago to six games — few have a sense that this team could maneuver through the Eastern Conference, past Chicago, Miami and Boston, to get to the NBA finals.

Acquiring Howard is one huge step toward making that possible. He is worth any two players Orlando may want.

By Jeff Schultz

204 comments Add your comment

The Barves

November 30th, 2011
12:25 pm

I mean yeah… yes please!

But i’m not sure how fond Dwight is of Atl after how the fans went after him in the playoffs. He did not seem pleased.

That probably doesn’t matter. But having Josh here would. and imagine that is who the Magic would want, along with Horford.

that wouldn’t make us anymore of a contender then w/o Howard

The Barves

November 30th, 2011
12:26 pm

and i hate the Firsters, and I am so glad they do not win today.

Ted M

November 30th, 2011
12:32 pm

That is a no brainer.

bob dylan

November 30th, 2011
12:33 pm

The only return value for Josh Smith would be a rack of used basketballs and a youth sized Dwight Howard jersey. Get him out of town….NOW!

tmc

November 30th, 2011
12:34 pm

2 players? i’d do 4 or 5 (not kidding).

Word

November 30th, 2011
12:35 pm

mike

November 30th, 2011
12:39 pm

So if we give up Al and Josh, that leaves us with Kirk, Joe, Dwight, Marvin, Z, Teague as our core players. Jamal is probably gone through free agency.

Jeff- do you see that group I mentioned above going deep in the East playoffs?

If we give up Joe and Al or Josh for Dwight, who is going to create points? Again, Jamal is probably gone. For all of Joe’s shortcomings, he can create shots.

Ted M

November 30th, 2011
12:39 pm

if Orlando did it they wouldn’t take JJ so it would be Al Horford & Josh Smith.

No Brainer

November 30th, 2011
12:42 pm

BRING HIM HOME!

TampaDawg

November 30th, 2011
12:43 pm

No chance the Hawks get Howard. He is the face of the magic.

Nom Nom Nom Chucks....Taylor or Norris, I don't care

November 30th, 2011
12:44 pm

Jeff…yes and yes again.

Maybe they could just sell the team to Dwight Howard.

Thoughts?

Sisyphus

November 30th, 2011
12:46 pm

Have always heard he’s said that he would never come back to play in Atlanta. Who would, with this ownership?

Nom Nom Nom Chucks....Taylor or Norris, I don't care

November 30th, 2011
12:47 pm

Send Orlando Sean Combs too……

The Real Fan

November 30th, 2011
12:48 pm

Should they? Yes.
Will they?
Of course not. Who do you think owns the Hawks?

The Real Fan

November 30th, 2011
12:50 pm

The only thug in this town and on this blog is gnomeboy.

tmc

November 30th, 2011
12:50 pm

Let me amend my trade bait…

i’d trade 4 or 5 players and throw in the owners…
and give Howard ownership too!

oh wait, i don’t care if the NBA plays or not… but i might if DH comes here!

JacketFanMarcus

November 30th, 2011
12:51 pm

Jeff – you have lost your mind! This is a waste of internet space. Glad you’re not a GM in real life!

Hankie Aron

November 30th, 2011
12:51 pm

Jeff- This would be a great move but he said that he HATES Atl in a past interview. The only thing that would bring him here is if Atl Spirit throws in the keys to Fort Knox.

TK

November 30th, 2011
12:52 pm

“Thugs, thugs, and more thugs”

Have you even watched the NBA in the last 5-10 years? No doubt for a time after MJ retired the league had it’s share of “thugs” as you call them. However, the league has taken great strides to clean up its act and there is no question the thug aspect of the league is mostly gone. You look at the stars of the league now – Kobe, Durant, Wade, Lebron, Paul, Melo, Dirk, Dwight Howard to name a few – these guys aren’t thugs by any means. Are there still some around the NBA? I guess so. But no more so than in any other sport.

Hawks fan

November 30th, 2011
12:53 pm

Nice article, Jeff. May I suggest a headline to work toward for your next piece: ” Hawks owenership should trade themselves for anyone willing.”

BillS

November 30th, 2011
12:56 pm

Yes, yes yes. But I doubt it would happen. Still, bringing Howard to ATL would bring a little life to a dormant franchise that is on schedule to finish in the middle of the pack (again), lose in the playoffs without having any serious shot at a title (again), and suffering maximum fan disinterest (again).

Brian

November 30th, 2011
12:57 pm

Sorry folks….this will not happen.

Dozer

November 30th, 2011
12:57 pm

My choices are Josh & Joe – addition by subtraction. there should be incentive for the Spirit (think of the irony in that name)to do this – the team would be much more saleable with a franchise center like Howard in the fold…….

Dr. Warren

November 30th, 2011
1:01 pm

Trading the Hawks’ core for Howard could set the Hawks back into the pre-2008 Stone Age if he left in free agency.

rollo lawson

November 30th, 2011
1:04 pm

I would love to see a core of Joe, Dwight, Josh, and Jeff Teague. Everyone else should be expendable.

Negi Uno

November 30th, 2011
1:05 pm

Nice Article, Jeff

But I willing to do that for Chris Paul if Hornets wants, since Hawks, Clips, Knicks and Nets will be the only teams that he will signed ext if he traded to that time.

But at the end of the day, the ASG needs to look at the mirror and ask this question, do you want to stick with the core or not.

Howard for 2 players and draft choices will be good for Magic, heck it should beats Nets offer.

UGA alum

November 30th, 2011
1:06 pm

The Atlanta Spirit Group will get none of my time, none of my attention and none of my cash. The most inept ownership group in the history of professional sports.

ron

November 30th, 2011
1:06 pm

Josh Smith & Joe Johnson a must that needs to go!!! there’s no needing to trading if he’s not going to sign a long term contract.Joe Johnson type of money can go a long way in signing Dwight Howard.

rollo lawson

November 30th, 2011
1:06 pm

Is “thug” a code word for something else? Seems like it!

Mid Town Joe

November 30th, 2011
1:07 pm

Nobody would want Joe Johnson. Not the contract, nor his inability to perform in the playoffs.

marcus kelly

November 30th, 2011
1:13 pm

U could offer any number of players to Orlando but bottom line is dwight is not coming here.

Lenox Financial Guy

November 30th, 2011
1:16 pm

Biggest no-brainer in the history of earth. Get him.

Please Please Please

November 30th, 2011
1:17 pm

Make this happen.

mick crysler

November 30th, 2011
1:17 pm

I’m in. Horford would hurt, but I’d like to see it. Alas, I doubt it’ll happen.

afan

November 30th, 2011
1:17 pm

Get it done..hell Yes!

Delbert D.

November 30th, 2011
1:18 pm

Jeff, what in the world are you doing, writing about this? Football, man.

PMC

November 30th, 2011
1:22 pm

They can have the entire ROSTER for Dwight Howard.

Brian

November 30th, 2011
1:23 pm

So the Orlando Magic w/ D Howard as their ‘franchise’ guy led to them being a team the Hawks could beat in the first round. If we trade away 2 integral pieces of that Hawks team for said ‘franchise’ guy, we “[can] maneuver through the Eastern Conference, past Chicago, Miami and Boston, to get to the NBA finals”? I no sure I follow, but I don’t think D. Howard as franchise equals titles. Ask Orlando.

Remember how Howard playing well meant a playoff loss? http://www.nba.com/home/playerfile/dwight_howard/

Jeff Schultz

November 30th, 2011
1:24 pm

Mike — In your scenario, Hawks obviously would either bring in other players to support Howard and/or re-sign Jamal. But yes, there’s the possibility of taking a hit for a year before moving forward.

PMC

November 30th, 2011
1:24 pm

Shouldn’t a superstar town, have a superstar athlete?

Jeff Schultz

November 30th, 2011
1:25 pm

Gnomeboy — I don’t think the word “thug” necessarily always carries a racial connotation. But in the case of your comment, I think it did. So I deleted it.

Jeff Schultz

November 30th, 2011
1:26 pm

TampaDawg — Howard is the face of the Magic, but that doesn’t mean he wants to stay there and, ultimately, it will be his choice to leave.

tony

November 30th, 2011
1:26 pm

I would be happy if they could trade JJ and JS for D.Howard. It will only happen in our dreams. Nice thought though.

Jeff Schultz

November 30th, 2011
1:26 pm

Nom Nom Nom — Hah. I think for now, Howard would prefer just getting paid. The headaches of ownership can come after retirement.

Jeff Schultz

November 30th, 2011
1:27 pm

JacketFanMarcus — “Have you lost your mind?” …. Yes. Years ago.

Harpie

November 30th, 2011
1:27 pm

Why would Dwight Howard want to come play for a team with an idiot for a coach?

Jeff Schultz

November 30th, 2011
1:28 pm

Hankie Aron — Howard rolled his eyes about losing to “the Hawks” last year when Cunningham and I were there during the playoffs. Then we pressed him on it and he begged off from elaborating much. MC asked him again recently at a charity function and he wouldn’t talk.

Gerhart76

November 30th, 2011
1:29 pm

One and done for Howard and then what? It certainly would put us back in the lottery game.

Seems I recall the Nique for D. Manning trade that sent them on that near 10 year spiral down.

This is crazy.

Howard is going to follow the path of Lebron and Wade and go somewhere he can win a title (or at least have a shot).

essss eeeeeeee seeeee

November 30th, 2011
1:29 pm

Ah the life of a sportswriter. What a job. Almost as good as Pat Sajak’s. I had this exact same conversation with my friends a year ago.

Good Grief

November 30th, 2011
1:29 pm

C’mon, Jeff, as long as the ASG is in charge this will never happen. It’s more likely that they sell the Hawks and move them to St. Louis before they make a trade that will possibly better the team.