Dwight Howard will soon ask the Orlando Magic to trade him to the New Jersey Nets, Chris Broussard of ESPN reports, citing "sources close to the situation." Though Howard has yet to formally request the trade, his representatives have told the Nets he prefers to play there, and Howard could inform Orlando of his plans as soon as Friday. There's even a chance he won't be at Amway Center for the Magic's first practice of training camp, according to Broussard's report.
In this scenario, Howard holds all the cards, as he can become an unrestricted free agent in 2012 and New Jersey will have the cap space necessary to sign him outright. He can thus tell Orlando its options are to trade him there now or lose him to New Jersey this summer.
New Jersey will reportedly offer Brook Lopez and two future first-round draft picks to the Magic for Howard and Hedo Turkoglu, whose onerous contract has three years and roughly $34 million remaining. Such an offer relieves Orlando of its obligation to Turkoglu and gives it a solid center prospect around whom to rebuild. It also frees the Magic to use the amnesty clause in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement on Gilbert Arenas; with one move, Orlando could begin its rebuilding process, add a talented youngster, and clear over $48 million in salary off this season's books, according to ShamSports' salary figures. Its highest paid remaining player would be veteran point guard Jameer Nelson at $7.8 million.
Lopez, a seven-footer, has averaged 17.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in his three-year career to go wth 50.4 percent shooting and 1.7 blocks. He's also an uncommonly good free throw shooter for a big man, sinking 80.1 percent of his career free throw attempts. However, he struggled in 2010/11, averaging just six rebounds in 35.2 minutes per game and shooting 49.2 percent from the floor despite his size and strength. Still, he's just 23, plays a position where talent is scarce, and clearly has his best years ahead of him. He might be the best the Magic could hope to get in return for Howard.
Orlando made clear in recent days that it wants to keep Howard in Magic pinstripes for the rest of his career, and recent reports indicated Howard is open to that idea provided the Magic acquire more talented teammates for him. Perhaps something has changed in the interim, but according to Broussard, it's only a matter of time before the Dwight Howard Era ends in Orlando.