Monday, 12 March 2012

How Orlando can win with Dwight - A four step plan

Danny Granger (left) shoots over Dwight Howard on January 26, 2011 at Conseco Fieldhouse
(Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
By now, most NBA fans are familiar with the "Dwightmare", the follow-on from LeBron, Carmelo and CP3's final season with the teams that drafted them. Most seem to think Dwight's had enough of Orlando and is sure to team up with Deron Williams on the Nets or Mavs after the season.

The Magic, unlike the Hornets and Nuggets aren't convinced their star is bolting and seem poised to take the Cleveland route, holding onto Howard through the trade deadline and letting him enter free agency to decide his own fate.

Personally, I'm a fan of this approach. Chris Webber said it best: "Championship teams are stubborn". Dallas, LA and Boston all stuck with their core when given an opportunity to blow it up and rebuild, and those teams account for the last four championships. The 2008-09 season proved to us that a team built around Dwight Howard can get to the Finals - only a series of ill-fated trades and unfortunate injuries have prevented the Magic from returning.

I honestly believe Dwight's best chances for personal and team glory come with the Magic. In this era of super teams, Dwight is good enough to be the only max contract player on a championship team. Keep reading to see how...

First, and most importantly, Dwight Howard needs to re-sign with the Magic. Dwight will serve as the anchor of the defense and the first option in the half court offense.

Secondly, the Magic need to match any offer for restricted free agent Ryan Anderson. I'm expecting Anderson to fetch an offer starting in the realm of $6-8 million for the first year (possibly front-loaded). The Magic need to then make the following trade happen: Orlando-Indiana-Utah Three Way, bringing in Devin Harris and Danny Granger to start at point guard and small forward, shipping out JJ Redick, Ryan Anderson and Jameer Nelson*.

Third, The Magic trade Hedo, cash and a first round pick to Denver for Harrington and Birdman**, Harrington assuming the starting power forward spot and Andersen coming off the bench as an energy big.

Finally, there needs to be a shift in the offense to feature the pick and roll more prominently. This is good for the following reasons: Devin Harris is a better passer than Dwight Howard - passing when the defense helps on the pick and roll will result in fewer turnovers than passing out of the post; Harris and Chris Duhon (the two rotation point guards) aren't forced into being spot-up shooters, roles that don't suit either of them; and finally, it takes the pressure off Dwight to be a creator with his back to the basket.

So where does Granger fit in? Granger's role will be that of the primary perimeter defender and offensively, will be asked to slash in the half-court, spot-up and score in transition, where there should be plenty of opportunities due to the attention the Howard pick and roll receives and the fast break opportunities this team will generate with the game's premier interior defender and one of the quickest point guards in the league.

The Magic's rotation would look like this:
Point Guard - Harris, Duhon, Smith
Shooting Guard - J. Richardson, Q. Richardson, Wafer
Small Forward - Granger, Q. Richardson, Clark
Power Forward - Harrington, Davis, Clark
Center - Howard, Davis, Andersen

Jason Richardson and Al Harrington are the designated shooters, moving off the ball to launch any open threes they get. Quentin Richardson fills this role from the bench, while Earl Clark is the best defender on the bench, taking Granger's match up when he needs rest. Davis is the first big off the bench, hustling after rebounds and providing extra big man defense when Harrington's man is heating up.

It's a long shot, obviously, and like all attempts at rosterbation, it probably won't happen. Harris and Harrington may seem past their best, but it's probably a case of fit, not talent. Harris and Harrington are still capable of being effective role players.

I don't know if this is enough to convince Dwight to stay, and at the end of the day, since I'm not actually a Magic fan, I won't blink twice if Dwight does go elsewhere. But, as always, it's fun to speculate.

*Indiana gets JJ Redick and Ryan Anderson, Utah gets Jameer Nelson. Indiana solidify their core, moving on from the Granger era and into the Paul George/Roy Hibbert era with Redick and Anderson starting at the 2 and 4, with George moving to SF and David West coming off the bench as a sixth man. Utah would love to move Harris, and by swapping for Nelson, get a point that better fits the perimeter shooter role and saves the team around $600,000 on Harris' contract.
**The Nuggets save $7 million on the Harrington and Andersen contracts, $13 million if the team waives Turkoglu in the final year of his deal, which is only guaranteed for $6 million, and get $3 million cash and a first round pick to sweeten the deal. Not to mention, Turkoglu could actually play a decent role off the bench for the Nuggets as a point forward and shooter in the mean time.

(Player salary data courtesy of

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