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Last week, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard supposedly opened the door for a trade to the Chicago Bulls by telling the Chicago Tribune’s Vaughn McClure that he would not mind playing with Derrick Rose. Many people took Howard’s comments as him finally putting the Bulls on his “list,” and the idea of making a blockbuster deal with the Magic has been a hot topic of debate over the past week.
Now I feel that the chances of actually getting Howard to Chicago are slim to none. I really do not put much stock into what Howard said to McClure, because honestly, what the hell was he supposed to say? Was Howard really going to say he would not want to play with arguably the best point guard in the NBA?
Furthermore, Howard never said anything about signing a contract extension with the Bulls. The discussion really only centered around whether he would like to play with Rose. If Howard ever comes out and says he will for sure sign an extension in Chicago, then we can really get excited.
All this being said, nothing is impossible until a Howard deal actually goes down. So until that happens, the Bulls should do everything in their power to pull off the “possimpible” and land Howard.
And that means everybody but Rose is on the table.
Many people say the Bulls do not need to blow it up. They believe that, when healthy, this team can get over the Heat hump and win a title. And I could somewhat go along with that sentiment. The Bulls as is are a phenomenal team that has an excellent chance of bringing title number seven back to The Windy City.
To me, it’s not just about this season and it’s not about whether the Bulls need Howard or not. They may not need him. But when you have a chance to pair up the league’s best big man and perhaps the league’s best point, you do whatever you can to try and make it happen. A core of Rose and Howard makes you instant title contenders for at least the next half-decade, and perhaps longer if they decide to remain in Chicago. The NBA is a stars league, and with multiple teams stacking stars around the league, having Rose and Howard together would put the Bulls in a major position of power.
Delving further into the debate, there are many who would be willing to make a deal as long asLuol Deng is not involved. Joakim Noah? Sure. Carlos Boozer? Most fans would pack his bags for him (of course, the Magic would want absolutely no part of Boozer). But under no circumstances, they say, can Deng be traded.
It is important to note that Deng’s left wrist injury may torpedo any chance of him being dealt. And I would obviously love if the Bulls were able to get Howard without giving up Deng (good luck with that). But if Magic general manager Otis Smith told the Bulls he would only be willing to make the trade if Deng was involved, I’m certainly not saying no if I’m Gar Forman.
Deng is an excellent player. He really is the “glue” of the Bulls. We have seen how much the defense has struggled in the past few weeks with him out of the lineup. But it’s freaking Dwight Howard. Because of what’s happening right now in Orlando, I think too many people are diminishing the type of impact Howard would make. If motivated and engaged, Howard is perhaps the most dominant player in the league. He’s a once-in-a-generation big man. A game-changing player. Luol Deng is not.
Some say getting rid of Deng would just hurt the Bulls’ chances against the Heat because then nobody would be able to guard LeBron James. And while it’s true Deng does as good a job as any challenging the league’s best player and making him earn his points, I have a dirty little secret to share regarding that situation.
Per NBA.com’s StatsCube, in the two regular season games LeBron played against the Bulls last year, he averaged 25.4 points per 36 minutes and shot 57 percent while Deng was on the court (when Deng was likely the primary defender on him). Overall last season, LeBron averaged 24.8 points per 36 and shot 51 percent.
I will admit that’s a pretty small sample size. So let’s take a look at those numbers during the postseason. In the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron averaged 19.8 points per 36 and shot 49 percent with Deng on the court. Throughout the entire postseason? LeBron averaged 19.4 points per 36 and shot 47 percent.
What does this mean? Well, Deng is not exactly a LeBron stopper (you can go back to previous years as well and see that LeBron has excelled against the Bulls). Sure Deng makes LeBron work hard for his points, but for the most part, LeBron still gets his. If the Bulls used Ronnie Brewer as the primary defender on LeBron with Howard protecting the basket, I imagine the results would be pretty similar if not better for Chicago.
I’m not trying to diminish Deng’s importance to the Bulls, but I’m not going to lie, I would feel a lot more confident going into a series with the Heat if the Bulls’ core was Rose, Howard and Boozer rather than Rose, Deng, Boozer and Noah. With Rose and Howard, there are two clear cut go-to guys with a solid third option in Boozer.
And honestly, Boozer would probably look a lot better playing next to Howard. With Howard scoring down low, I would have no problem with Boozer keeping to the perimeter and knocking down jump shots. Defensively, Howard can cover Boozer’s badness even more than Noah already does.
So just for fun, let’s put a little scenario on the table. In any trade, the Magic would probably insist on dumping Hedo Turkoglu’s god awful contract on the other team. So here’s a somewhat realistic proposal:
Bulls trade: Noah, Deng, Taj Gibson/Omer Asik, Nikola Mirotic, picks and cash.
Magic trade: Howard and Turkoglu.
As a Bulls fan, I would much rather part with Asik than Gibson, but if the Magic insisted on Gibson, I would still be willing to do it. And perhaps the Magic also insist on either Kyle Korver or Ronnie Brewer. But for now, we will stick to this proposal.
If this trade somehow happened, the Bulls would be left with: Rose, Howard, Boozer, Hedo, Brewer, Korver, Gibson/Asik, Rip Hamilton, C.J. Watson and Jimmy Butler. Nobody can tell me that team would not be a legitimate title contender.
The bottom line is this: The Bulls may not need Dwight Howard to win a title, but pairing him with Rose sets the Bulls up for years. While landing Howard is a long shot, it would be a mistake for the Bulls to not give it their best shot.