The End of the Dwight-mare: An email discussion

This is the picture that keeps Tom awake at night.

As the post-Dwightmare offseason hits us, Derek and Tom’s email posts, bouncing ideas off each other, will increase in frequency. You can see the abbreviated version of these posts by following Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (Tom_NBA) on Twitter.

Derek: It’s been a long time since we’ve done one of these discussion posts, but I figure I should write something before Jonah gets my picture on a milk carton. There hasn’t been much Timberwolves news to discuss, but the NBA community was put out of it’s misery with the conclusion of the Dwightmare as Dwight Howard was finally dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers in a mega deal.

I know this must grieve the smaller Celtics fan within you, and I know we were both looking forward to the Timberwolves maybe taking a game or two from the Lakers over the next couple years as Kobe got older, but now it looks like the Wolves (and any Western Conference team not from Oklahoma) will likely have to settle for fighting to be the conference’s third seed at best for the near future.

Still, I don’t feel as if this makes the Lakers a lock to come out of the West. Kobe’s sixth title now hinges on, not just his own health, but Dwight’s back, Steve Nash continuing his high-level play and Mike Brown figuring out how it all fits together. Let’s say Kobe keeps the ball out of Nash’s hands, Dwight’s back continues to act up, and Mike Brown can’t figure out how manage the roles of players like Pau. Suddenly they’re back where they were in the standings before the trade.

What do you think about this Lakers team?

Tom: I hate them even more than I hated last year’s Laker team. But I’m almost happy that they got Dwight: now everyone else will hate them as much as me! At least that’s what I’m telling myself as silverish lining from the fact that, once again, the Lakers have become a favorite to reach the NBA Finals, provided they all stay healthy.

And, as you said, LA’s biggest concern is health. I assume you caught Dwight’s comments Friday night in which he refused to provide a timetable for his return? This could be harmless, of course. But if I was a Laker fan, this would be worrisome. Howard is many things, but weak is not one of them, and back injuries are no joke. Combine Dwight’s back with Kobe’s age and Steve Nash’s lack of a Phoenix training staff, and suddenly I have hope for Oklahoma City again.

If the Lakers are all healthy, and they all click together on offense, they will be horrifyingly good. The pick and roll opportunities for Steve Nash are endless, and having a point guard who is both extremely intelligent and well-respected by Kobe might make the Lakers more efficient (read: less Kobe-oriented). Damn it all.

Defensively, it will be interesting to see how the Lakers match up. Howard is an absolutely fantastic defender, both individually and as part of a team. It will be interesting, however, to see a team with both a good point guard and a good center attack Los Angeles. Howard may have to help Nash quite a bit on defense, opening up opportunities for opposing centers. But now we are picking some very small nits.

Quick, let’s get to our next topic before I start poking my own eyes out with a screwdriver. The Lakers always get what they want. THEY ALWAYS ALWAYS GET WHAT THEY FRIGGIN WANT. It drives me absolutely beserk. The last time LA was even CLOSE to bad was just before Gasol arrived. The adage “LA doesn’t rebuild, they reload” is absolutely, horribly cliché, and it’s equally true. I hate my life.

You, however, think differently?

Derek: I do, and I have no problem with how the Lakers are able to keep their window open time after time. Maybe I’m envious of their extended successes growing up a fan of Minnesota sports, and am more accustomed to getting fleeced instead of doing the fleecing. What if the Lakers are just a well-run organization that knows how to play the game and bring in the right people at the right time? It’s not as if they had the inside track on Dwight, either. Houston could’ve had him, but didn’t want to take on the Magic’s bad contracts and sacrifice all of their young players. Had New Jersey Brooklyn not pissed off the Magic with tampering allegations, Dwight could’ve wound up there since that was his first choice. He was also hardly free since the move cost them Andrew Bynum, but you trade Bynum for Dwight 10 times out of 10, anyway.

Yeah, that last paragraph may not make me popular amongst most readers. With that being said, let’s look at the rest of the deal.

Since you mentioned just about everything that I would’ve mentioned about the effects of this trade on the Lakers, I’ll take this opportunity to point out that Andre Iguodola is now on a division rival of the Timberwolves—the Nuggets. This of course is bad news since Iggy is a returning All-Star and world class defender that is coming to a team that was probably a playoff team already. Unfortunately, this move likely solidifies Denver as the second-best squad in the Northwest, and if the Jazz Kids take another leap, it’s bad news because the Northwest isn’t sending 4-teams to the playoffs. OK, now I’m going to be sick.

I like this trade a lot for the Sixers after reading A Wolf Among Wolves’ Zach Harper’s post for Bleacher Report on what Bynum can bring if properly utilized. According to Harper, Bynum should have a chance to thrive in the pick-and-roll with Jrue Holiday, and with a strong passing big man like Spencer Hawes. Bynum, and the Sixers putrid “offense”, could be in for a big year next season.

And then there’s the Magic. Most teams dealing their superstar are able to acquire lottery picks, a former lottery pick, and dump some bad contracts. The Magic achieved none of these things. I can understand not wanting to take on the big money of a Kris Humphries or Brook Lopez to maintain long-term flexibility during a rebuild, but rebuilding is going to be difficult when your return is Arron Afflalo, Moe Harkless, and a few late first round picks. Afflalo is nice, and Harkless could very well end up being a nice player, but there is much to be desired, still.

I’m not sure anyone could pay me to go to a Magic game next year knowing that one of JJ Redick, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, or Arron Afflalo is going to be their best player. And unless something serendipitous happens, I may feel that way for a long time.

Tom: Something serendipitous…like the Magic playing like crap all of next season and getting the number one draft pick in the 2013 NBA Draft? To me, that is pretty clearly their end game here. Pick up a few good role players like Afflalo and Harkless and go the Bobcats route of losing a ridiculous amount of games to pick up a potential superstar in the draft so the Lakers can steal him away in eight years as he is entering his prime. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if Orlando’s best player is Andrew Nicholson. He needs a couple years to develop, but he looks like a really good piece.

I should mention that I have no doubt that you are right about the Lakers being an extremely well-run organization. They clearly know EXACTLY what they are doing, and I laud their ability to land superstars consistently. That doesn’t stop me from hating them forever.

Harper’s BR article was great. Bynum was a big pick up for the Sixers, a team that doesn’t exactly have a history of getting big pick ups. I confess, however, that I’ll be curious to see if they make the playoffs next year. Bynum/Collins is either a matchup made in heaven or a recipe for disaster, and quite frankly, I have no idea which one it will be. If Collins can get Bynum to play as hard as the rest of the Sixers, they will be an improved team from last year. If he can’t, things might be a little bit ugly, and Bynum might end up with 30 three point attempts on the year.

Obviously the Lakers are the big winners in this deal, but for sheer value, it’s hard to beat what Denver did. Turning Al Harrington and Aaron Afflalo into an athletic all-star and one of the best perimeter defenders in the league ranks among Masai Ujiri’s best moves. But while I agree with you that Denver is pretty clearly the second best team in the NW division, I’m curious as to why you think the Jazz are going to be better than the Wolves next season. Do tell?

Derek: I think you’re right about the Magic’s strategy, and it sucks for Magic fans that already had to suffer the Dwightmare. It would be one thing if the worst record guaranteed them the number pick, but they could go through a 10 win season and still only get the 4th pick. You’re right though, if they can suffer through Hedo and Jameer, Nicholson and Harkless could be something for fans to follow.

I completely forgot about the Collins-Bynum dynamic. Actually, that should be a reality show centered around Collins and Bynum living together. We get everything from Collins chiding Bynum to do the dishes over and over to Bynum attempting to show coach a good time on the town. The show could actually be called, “The Collins-Bynum Dynamic”. I mean, why not since this is like storing your matches next to your gunpowder.

And you doubters didn’t think we could work in a picture of Rubio on a Howard post.

I see it this way. The Timberwolves will be banking on Ricky Rubio missing time and coming back without missing a beat, Brandon Roy’s knees, and the Russian imports just to make the playoffs. I’m not so worried about Andrei Kirilenko, but I think that from what we saw in the Olympics is that we can expect an adjustment period for Alexey Shved.

While I do think the Wolves had a good offseason, I feel like the Jazz improved, too, coming off of a playoff berth. I think Mo and Marvin Williams are nice pickups, and the Jazz Kids – Favors-Hayward-Burks – should continue to improve as well. On top of that, they still have Paul Milsap and Al Jefferson, who naturally improved once he left Minnesota.

I don’t think they are far and away better than the Timberwolves, but I do think they should be slightly favored coming into the season based on their successes last season and the moves they’ve made in the offseason. I’d be more confident in the Wolves if they didn’t have so many wild cards in their hand, and maybe if I wasn’t so terrified of good things.

Tom: That’s fair. I suppose I’m counting on Rubio returning healthy for most of my T-Wolves predictions, since it sounds like his recovery is coming along swimmingly. And to my mind, a core of healthy Rubio-Love-Pek-AK47 is preferable to any lineup the Jazz can trot out on the court. I also feel that while the Timberwolves did gamble this offseason, it’s the kind of gamble that has 1-3 odds of working out and you gambled three times to ensure that you would win. I would also like to point out that Utah’s biggest offseason acquisitions (Mo and Marv Williams) sound more like front office additions than player personel. But I digress.

You say that the NW division isn’t sending four teams to the playoffs, but even if the Jazz are better than the Wolves, I could see Minnesota grabbing the 8th seed as the 4th team in the division. Their main competition will be Dallas (who are worse than last season) and Houston (who are a very different animal, and I have no idea what they will be next season). If the Wolves were to beat out Houston and Dallas, the teams going to the playoffs would be San Antonio, OKC, Memphis, LAC, LAL, Denver, Utah, MIN. Unless you see massive strides coming from Sacramento or New Orleans next season, that seems very plausible to me. The argument, of course, is that the NW division will spend most of the season beating up on each other, knocking Minnesota out of playoff contention, but I like to think positively, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, you and I can start counting our money from this Collins/Bynum TV show royalties, because that is sure to be a hit. Philly’s first game of the season is against Denver, so we can even have Iguodala crash the show on the first episode and bring out the “superstar who left” character dynamic. It will be can’t-miss TV.