The Dwight Howard Mega Trade: Was It An “F”?

In the summer of 2012,  perpetually unhappy Dwight Howard was traded from Orlando, the team that drafted him. The Magic had high hopes that Howard would do what Shaquille O’Neal never did, stay in town. But Howard had been miserable for a couple of years, burdened by the usual grass is greener somewhere else. He craved big city lights and attention, and if that wasn’t enough, he wanted the Magic to treat him the way other organizations treated their superstars, like they really cared. Of course, a lot of this so-called disrespect was in Howard’s mind. According to Howard, the Magic were a no-show when he was in Los Angeles for back surgery which he then interpreted as not caring about him. The Magic tried to mend fences but Howard was absolute. He wanted out.

But 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.

What has happened to everyone?

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. Five years, four teams.

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 and is currently in Turkey. 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.

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 mega star. 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 in 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 too 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 re-signed. 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. He is currently a free agent.

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.

Christian Eyenga: He 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.

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 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.Then he was a starter and once again exhibited what a solid player he was in multiple areas. After three years in Orlando, he was traded to the Blazers and last summer signed a free agent deal to stay with the Blazers.

Nikola Vucevic: The last man standing. The only player rostered on one of the four teams (Magic, 76ers, Nuggets, Lakers) involved in the trade. What the Magic found in Vucevic was a center. He can score and rebound. He has good fundamentals and plays hard. He had one game in which he had 29 rebounds. He has had 20 point games, 20 rebound games, and game winners. He dominates in the paint and has none of the Dwight Howard insecurity drama. He signed a contract extension with the Magic for $53 million.

Elfrid Payton: One of the draft picks Philly received in the trade. He was instantly traded on draft night to Orlando. If Vucevic was the center the Magic needed, then Payton was the point guard. Quick and agile in the lane, he controls the offense and runs their actions with a pass first mentality which is 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. The innately gifted point guard is still developing as a scorer but in Payton the Magic have a point guard for the next decade.

So if you are counting at home, Andre Iguodala and Nikola Vucevic were the winner(s) and everyone else were losers. After Howard left L.A., the Lakers submerged into the Kobe Bryant countdown until retirement day and haven’t been relevant until drafting Lonzo Ball. The 76ers began The Process and they are still unwatchable, except the Joel Embiid highlights. The Nuggets have been rebuilding forever and frankly so have the Magic. None of the teams have been in the playoffs these past four years. This past season, their records were a combined 139-205, 35%. However all four teams have young, athletic talent from acquiring high round draft picks and transferring them into players with potential. It is the development of those players that is in question. Will any of them be All-Stars? Can you build franchises around them? Can they attract elite free agents?

Trading Dwight Howard was a gamble. As far as making the four teams involved in the trade better than they were before the trade, it hasn’t happened as of yet.

Playoff Drought:

Orlando Magic: 5 years. They were in the playoffs Dwight Howard’s last season (2012)

Los Angeles Lakers: 4 years. They were last in the playoffs Dwight Howard’s only season. (2013)

Denver Nuggets: 4 years. They were in the playoffs the year they got Andre Iguodala. It’s been famine every since. (2013)

Philadlephia 76ers: 5 years. They knew what they were facing and decided to swing for the fences. They came up way short getting rid of their best player in Iguodala and receiving a lot of damaged goods in return. They were in the playoffs in 2012.


photo via llananba