This is actually a comment I left on an article about Paul/Williams/Howard free agency (because I am a crazy person). It is obviously insanely long for that format and they most likely won't appreciate it anyway so I am including it here for you. Yay!
Very interesting discussion. I'd like to touch on the 2012 free agency topic if I may. (Try and stop me! (Don't really...))
I'm more familiar with the Howard situation so I'll start there.
Most people I talk to have him leaving, and what seems to be a recurring theme is the assumption that he has a significantly better chance of winning a championship on some other team than in Orlando. Which has every reason to be true. It should be true. I'm just not sure it is.
It's the easiest thing in the world to imagine plopping Howard onto any other team's roster and salivating over the possibilities. The reality of getting him there are a little bit trickier.
Any team that wants to acquire Howard must:
A.) Have the cap space to sign him outright or have young intriguing assets to send to Orlando to facilitate rebuilding.
B.) Have an upper tier age appropriate player that would team well enough with Howard that he would want to go to that team over re-signing in Orlando.
Really, that perfect team doesn't exist. Especially in the wake of "The Decision" when the onus is on Howard that if he moves it needs to be in the creation of a super-team to rival Miami.
Let's just take a look at some of the contenders.
L.A. Lakers - All the Lakers have to offer is an injury plagued and aging package of Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum. I mean, the only reason for Orlando to pull the trigger on this deal is if the rumors are true and the Magic are actually just a part of the Lakers big man farm system. Although if Kim Kardashian really did divorce Kris Humphries because she didn't want to move to Minnesota would Kourtney divorce Lamar when he told her they're moving to Orlando? Regardless the look on her face would probably be priceless.
Miami Heat - Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaa
Dallas Mavericks - Too old for Howard to be interested in. Too successful to break it all up chasing Howard. Nothing really to offer in the way of young players.
San Antonio Spurs – (see "Dallas Mavericks")
Boston Celtics - The Celtics actually might have the cap space. But wouldn't going to Boston kind of defeat the purpose? Which is to say that if Howard signs with Boston he would guarantee himself one maybe two chances at a championship and then years and years of mediocrity and the chance to do this all over again when he's 30. If James and Wade and Bosh all arranged to spend their primes together Howard has to end up somewhere with someone his own age. Right?
Clippers/Thunder - Neither the Thunder nor the Clippers have the space to sign Howard outright. But they both do have plenty of interesting young talent. Honestly, I think that both of these teams feel good enough about their positions that I don't think it's likely that they would look to make a move this big.
New Jersey Nets – The Nets have the space. Here's my thing about this idea though. Howard going to the Nets would be kind of like Miami Heat Lite. Deron Williams is a fine player but he is no Dwayne Wade and Williams and Howard have no Bosh tag-along to further legitimize their title aspirations. The Nets team would essentially be Williams and Howard eating all the money, one "Mike Miller" type signing, and Travis Outlaw. That would be different and interesting just as a change of pace but no one is picking that team to win it all.
New York Knicks – No cap room. Nothing to offer. And not a great fit.
Chicago Bulls – Maybe. This one makes the most sense to me. Successful enough that Howard would see it as a greater opportunity to win. Elite player to partner with. Some young pieces that could be sent back that are largely made expendable by acquiring Howard. Chicago has awkward contracts for the deal though. It would have to look something like: Howard for Noah, Gibson, Korver, Asik, Scalabrine
Other Teams – None of the other teams should really be players. Theoretically. None of the other teams allows for a truly significant sustained chance to win championships. And it's about winning right?
Of course the other aspect of this decision is the Orlando Magic and the relative chance to win there versus elsewhere.
Orlando's chances to win it all? Well, they aren't great. But the doom and gloom forecast is actually an extreme overstatement.
The Magic are on the hook for roughly $75 million next year. However the next CBA will very very likely contain an amnesty and a stretch provision. If the Magic amnesty Gilbert Arenas and stretch Chris Duhon they drop about $22 million in payroll and actually end up almost $6 million under last year's cap of $58 million. At this point Orlando actually doesn't have any bad contracts left! I know you're thinking Hedo Turkoglu but you have to remember Hedo is a very effective player in the Orlando system. Evan Dunlap over at OPP actually wrote a very good article (http://www.orlandopinstripedpost.com/2011/10/18/2496609/orlando-magic-salaries-overpaid-players-gilbert-arenas-nba) on this very subject and after running the numbers it turns out the Magic version of Turkoglu is actually UNDERPAID.
That means not only do they lose the "one of the league's highest payroll" tag and get away from luxury territory but they also could be players in the free agent market for mid-level guys. (lol, those silly teams that are paying max salaries to actually useful players that can't be in good conscience cut for nothing. HAH! They obviously weren't planning for the new CBA deal appropriately.)
Now there is also going to be an influx of players joining the free agent pool off the amnesty wire. And Orlando as a perennial playoff team should definitely be able to nab one of these cheap as well.
Okay. So the next part is speculation but very plausible so bear with me.
So what if the Magic use their cap space to sign a Shane Battier/Tayshaun Prince type player and then turn around and grab a waiver guy like saaaay a Rashard Lewis? I mean, there are several quality mid-level guys out there so these are just examples. But how many wins is that? How far into the playoffs? That's probably going to be a pretty good team.
With no Wade, Bosh, James-esque coalition possible for Howard it's going to be hard for most teams to make a strong case that they have a SIGNIFICANTLY better chance at winning than Orlando.
That's if all things were ruled by reason and logic. Mostly these things are ruled by perception. And I think that there's the perception out there that any superstar has a better chance of winning on any team other than the one he is currently on. Since it has been proven that he hasn't won on his current team. But it hasn't been proven conclusively that he won't win on another team. Making changing teams seem like always the right decision.
What will happen? I don't know. Buuuuuuuut
Here's my 37% accurate projection that I estimate to havea 3% chance of actually happening:
New Jersey will sign Marc Gasol this offseason as insurance in case Howard doesn't want to sign there as well as a trading chip for Howard should he want to sign there. (this also improves the team in the short term which might help with Williams)
Memphis now having a hole in the middle signs David West for a more reasonable contract than the one Gasol was after.
With West gone and now having no chance to win Paul demands a trade.
assets with favorable short contracts)