By Ray Monell
The Brook Lopez-for-Dwight Howard trade rumors resurfaced Monday, forcing Brooklyn Nets GM Billy King, according to a New York Daily News report, to tell Lopez that the organization isn’t interested in swapping him for Howard, who was shipped from Orlando to the Los Angeles Lakers last summer.
While the 6-foot-11 Howard, 27, has struggled in L.A. and reportedly been clashing with Lakers co-captain Kobe Bryant, the 7-foot Lopez, 24, could become a first-time NBA All-Star in 2013, having averaged 18.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game.
Howard, currently out indefinitely with an injured right shoulder, has performed below his personal standards this season. The Lakers center is averaging 17.3 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. Over 53 games last season for the Orlando Magic, Howard averaged 20.6 points and 14.5 rebounds.
Howard’s dip in production and struggles with injuries (he also underwent back surgery last spring) have lowered his trade value, so if L.A. is indeed shopping him, it’s a buyer’s market in comparison to what teams would’ve had to give up to Orlando last year. But in the case of Brooklyn, parting ways with Lopez, an offensively-gifted big man who has yet to reach his potential, to get a finished product in Howard in return isn’t necessary.
Lopez, whose dad hails from Cuba, isn’t nearly the rebounder or defender that Howard—a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year—is, but he’s clearly more versatile on offense. He possesses an effective mid-range jumper and swiftness near the basket, and is a career 79 percent free throw shooter.
Howard has displayed great athleticism and strength in the paint, scoring most of his points on dunks and layups. However, the nine-year veteran doesn’t have a jump shot and has converted merely 58 percent of his free throw attempts. Howard’s weak free throw shooting, in particular, is a serious liability in late-game situations.
The Nets re-signed Lopez to a four-year, $61 million contract last July, shortly after negotiations to swing a deal with Orlando for Howard fell through. Considering what’s happened since, Brooklyn’s failure to get Howard isn’t such a bad thing.