4 Teams, 12 Players, and 9 Years later. The Dwight Howard Mega-Trade Is Finally Closed

In a fire sale, Orlando center Nikola Vucevic was traded to the Bulls. Vucevic was the last of the 12 players drafted because Dwight Howard was unhappy in the summer of 2012. Vucevic stayed with his team the longest and was an All-Star. Although trades are always a gamble and most don’t have the effect their media splash expects, no one anticipated the Howard trade to be such a disaster for everyone involved, meaning no one impacted the team they were sent to except Vucevic.

Trading Howard was complicated and affected multiple players and organizations. The players that were involved, whose lives were impacted because Howard was unhappy: Dwight Howard, Earl Clark, Chris Duhon, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington Christian Eyenga, Josh McRoberts, Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, draft picks.

With the exception of making Howard a laughing stock around the league, the trade was one of those historical storylines that lacked meaning. Where is everybody now?

Dwight Howard: He got his wish. He left Orlando and happily migrated to his place of choice, L.A. But be careful what you ask for. It wasn’t smooth sailing with Mike D’Antoni who hated big guys and hated Howard in particular. Kobe Bryant was no picnic either. Howard stayed a year then moved on to Houston where it was a love affair at first, as it always is with Howard, until it gets ugly. Then Howard went to Atlanta and they weren’t in love either. He was traded to Charlotte. Signed with the Lakers, Howard was the perfect no-drama piece in 2019-20 and it got him a ring. Now he’s in Philly with hopes for a second ring. First ballot Hall of Famer.

Earl Clark: He came to the Lakers with Howard and it was the best thing that happened to him in his career. In a questionable move, D’Antoni benched Pau Gasol and Earl Clark started in his place and had a productive year, enough so he got a contract out of Cleveland the next season. It was a partially guaranteed contract and the Cavs traded Clark the following February when they discovered his L.A. miracle was a mirage, meaning he wasn’t that good. He couldn’t shoot. He was waived by the 76ers and signed with the Knicks on a 10-day contract. He has since been signed and waived by the Grizzlies and Rockets. He played in China, Turkey and, Korea and is currently in Spain. The trade didn’t help his career in the long term. It ushered him out the league.

Chris Duhon: He also went to the Lakers but didn’t make much of an impact. He hardly played. He shot 38% and averaged 2.9 points. He was waived the following year. It ended his unremarkable eight-year career.

Andre Iguodala: Iguodala went from Philly to Denver and had a very good year. The Nuggets won 57 games and made the playoffs but lost in the first round to the Warriors despite Iggy’s 18 points and 8 rebounds. George Karl was fired as a consequence. The year before, Karl won Coach of the Year. Igoudala was out the door too. He signed a four-year deal with Golden State. His second year with the Warriors, he won a championship and was named Finals MVP. The trade had zero impact on Iguodala. Had he not been traded and stayed in Philly, he still would have bolted for the Warriors. He is currently playing for Miami.

Andrew Bynum: The Lakers didn’t have any use for Bynum now that they had Howard. Bynum did his job. He secured the paint for two titles. But Bynum had a history of bad knees and questionable behavior. The 76ers overlooked all that and were ecstatic and rolled out the red carpet for Bynum as if he were a megastar. Remember that press conference when the Sixer brass invited the fans and Bynum showed up in a white tee and huge afro? That manic love gave Bynum, who always felt submerged in the Kobe world, the opportunity to let his massive ego run amok.  It would have been perfect except Bynum’s knees got worse. He was damaged goods. Basically, the 76ers got nothing for trading Iguodala. Bynum, who put a new spin on the word immature, went bowling when he was on the shelf from team activities. The bowling turned his knees into paper. The bad knees were decomposing and so was Bynum’s career. He never played one game in Philly. He signed with the Cavs that summer and it didn’t take him long to go rogue on Mike Brown. He was suspended indefinitely and then traded to the Bulls. He was waived by the Bulls, signed with the Pacers, but that wasn’t going to work either. The trade which Bynum was a centerpiece ended his career.

Jason Richardson: He went from Orlando to Philly and like everyone Philly took in this trade he was a bust. He played 33 games and then had surgery. The next year he was injured and missed the year. He would retire the next year.

Arron Afflalo: He came to Orlando and had a good two-year run with the Magic, giving them an experienced two-guard and solid defense. He was arguably their best player. He had some monster games for them such as scoring 43 points in a loss to the 76ers. He had a game in which he made 8 threes. But after two seasons, he was traded to Denver because the Magic were afraid he would opt out his deal and they would get nothing for him. In return, the Magic got Evan Fournier who they just traded to Boston.. Afflalo stayed in Denver and then was traded to the Blazers. He played in New York and then signed with the Kings as he tried to hold on to the late stages of his career. His Orlando years were two of the best on the Afflalo bio.

Al Harrington: He came from Philly to Orlando and had zero impact. He rarely played. He was waived the next year. He signed with the Wizards and played in China and Australia before retiring. In 2017, he played for the Big3.

Christian Eyenga: Congolese Eyenga was in the deal to make the money work. He never played meaningful NBA minutes with the Lakers, mostly for their D-League team. The Magic quickly waived him and he went to China and has remained overseas.

Josh McRoberts: He was traded from the Lakers to Orlando. For the Magic, he wasn’t very good shooting the ball, his supposed specialty, as well as his deceptive athleticism. He was traded to Charlotte where his numbers all of a sudden spiked to 50% shooting. He eventually signed a free-agent deal with the Miami Heat. He was traded to the Dallas Mavs in the summer of 2017 and played one more NBA season.

Nikola Vucevic: The only player rostered on one of the four teams (Magic, 76ers, Nuggets, Lakers) who stuck. What the Magic found in Vucevic was a center. He could score and rebound. He has good fundamentals and played hard. He had one game in which he had 29 rebounds. He has had 20 point games, 20 rebound games, and game- winners. He dominated in the paint and had none of the Dwight Howard insecurity drama. He signed a contract extension with the Magic for $53 million. His Magic years were impressive. 591 games. Two All-Star appearances. 17.7 points, 10.8 rebounds. PER 21.0. Defensive Rating 105. He was a great placeholder but he didn’t erase the Dwight Howard void.

Points Rebounds Games All-Star Appearances Winning %
Dwight Howard

2004-12

18.4 13,0 621 6 62%
Nikola Vucevic

2012-2021

17.7 10.8 591 2 36%

Maurice Harkless: The 2012 fifteenth pick was traded from Philly to Orlando before his first NBA game. He wasn’t a great player but he did a lot of things well in his first season. He had a nice touch, he could rebound, and was a solid defender, not to mention good in the passing lanes. The next year, his minutes were on a string as he was no longer a starter. When he was a starter he once again exhibited what a solid player he was in multiple areas. After three years in Orlando, he was traded to the Blazers. He was in Portland for four seasons. Then the Clippers and Knicks. He is currently with the Heat.

Elfrid Payton: One of the draft picks Philly received in the trade. He was instantly traded on draft night to Orlando (2014). If Vucevic was the center the Magic needed, then Payton was the point guard. Quick and agile in the lane, he controlled the offense and ran their actions with a pass first mentality which was a throwback. He was Rookie of the Month, a participant in the Rising Stars game, selected to the All-Rookie team and posted triple-doubles in his first year. He was a durable player, never missing a game because of injury until he sprained an ankle. His inability to score was a huge liability. He’s played for Phoenix, New Orleans and has been with the Knicks for two seasons.

So if you are counting at home, Andre Iguodala and Nikola Vucevic were the winners, and everyone else was the losers. After Howard left L.A., the Lakers submerged into the Kobe Bryant countdown until retirement day and weren’t relevant until LeBron rescued them. The 76ers began The Process and in 2021 are poised to make their first NBA Finals since AI. The Nuggets drafted well since they lost Igoudala. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are their anchors and Michael Porter Jr. is an athletic phenom. Denver just added JaVale McGee and Aaron Gordon. Can they make it to their first NBA Finals?

Playoff Record since 2012: 

Orlando Magic: Missed playoffs 6 years in a row, 2013-18. Haven’t won more than one playoff gone since Dwight Howard’s exit.

Los Angeles Lakers: Hadn’t won one playoff game since the Dwight Howard trade until last year when they won the title, breaking a franchise record six-year playoff drought.

Denver Nuggets: Missed playoffs 5 years in a row, 2014-18. Lost in Conference Finals last year and in semi-finals the year before.

Philadelphia 76ers: Missed the playoffs 5 years in a row. Then went 5-5 and lost in the second round in 2018. Sixers had a 7-5 playoff record in 2019 but lost in a heartbreaking Game 7 to the Raptors. Last season, they were swept in the playoffs.