With several NBA teams tossing their hats into the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, the AFRO Sports Desk wondered: should the Washington Wizards make a move on the current Orlando Magic center?

Howard recently said he plans to enter free agency in the summer of 2012 should the Magic not win a title next year. The Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls and New Jersey Nets have all been rumored to be in the chase for the 25-year-old perennial All Star. If the Wizards sign him a year from now, or land him via a trade next season, they would place the NBA’s best big man alongside John Wall, the next big thing at point guard. It’s a scenario that Perry Green loves, but one that Stephen Riley fears.

Green: Off the top, any trade scenario involving a move for Howard would probably have to include some combination of JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche, Jordan Crawford and perhaps Nick Young, if he remains with the team. Orlando would probably ask for all four; a fire sale move similar to the Carmelo Anthony deal between the Knicks and Nuggets. And like that Knicks deal, I’m all for it. Howard is a once-in-a-lifetime type center and the two-man game between him and Wall would without a doubt be the best point guard/center combination in the league, possibly the best we’ve seen since Shaq and Penny Hardaway. Depth would be a concern with the loss of that many players, but I’d let them all go for Howard and use the next couple of drafts to build around my new star-studded duo.

Riley: Depth in the NBA is very important; the Dallas Mavericks’ championship win showed us that. The Wizards, in my opinion, are only one or two players away from being a very deep and dangerous team. Wall and Howard would be lights-out, but my fear is injuries. When you look at the Anthony deal and what happened to the Knicks in the playoffs against Boston, when one of your stars goes down and you have absolutely no depth behind them, you’ve pigeon-holed yourself. Multiple stars will sell tickets and get you on ESPN, but depth wins in the NBA and gutting your roster for one mega-star and a few throw-ins is fool’s gold. Blatche and Young had career seasons last year and Crawford and McGee have insane potential. I’ll keep my quartet along with my star point guard and position myself to add a star through free agency or the draft. You can keep Howard.

Green: Both Young and Blatche are too inconsistent for my liking and while I do like McGee and Crawford’s potential, we’re talking about the most dominant player in the league here. A three-time defensive player of the year, four-time All NBA First Teamer and five-time All Star; these guys just aren’t falling out of the sky, you know. All four of those players we’re talking about are replaceable, but there’s only one Dwight Howard.

He’ll be your centerpiece for at least another 10 years and you’ll never have to worry about not being in contention in the Eastern Conference with Wall and Howard as your cornerstones.

Think about it: you would have the prototype athlete at both point guard and center and you can rebuild your depth through the draft. And with that pair running the court, free agents would have to strongly consider Washington as a landing point. Wall and Howard? Come on now; get the deal done, Washington, please!

Riley: To me, Wall and Howard doesn’t sound any better than LeBron James and Dwyane Wade or Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, and look how those duos ended up this season. I’ll say it again: depth is everything in the NBA. The last two title holders, Dallas and Los Angeles, didn’t have dynamic duos, and they didn’t need them. All they needed was one star player and a bunch of role players to fuel their championship campaigns. You also have to consider the position that Howard plays. While he’s been an iron man in his short career, centers are prone to injuries. When you’re that tall, knee issues and other leg problems are bound to arise.

By the time Washington assembled enough depth for contention, who knows where Howard might be health-wise. I’m a planner; I like to have a plan B in case plan A falters. What’s here in Washington from a talent perspective is fine. The Wizards only need a piece or two more, and some better coaching, but that’s beside the point. This team is closer to contention now then they would be if they gutted their roster.

Green: One thing about those other duos is that neither of them involves a point guard or a center, the two most important positions in the league. You would have the best center and a top-flight lead man running the show. I don’t know how that duo wouldn’t be successful, even if you had me and Jackie Moon starting. The so-called “depth” on the team now couldn’t win Washington even 25 games last year. What are you seeing that I’m not? You put Howard on this team right now, subtract those other four guys and I’m willing to bet money that this team makes the playoffs next year.

Riley: Washington was horrible last year but that was due to several factors: injuries, trades, a rookie point guard, etc… The talent on the team is obvious; look how they played towards the last portion of the season. If Howard wanted to join the club as a free agent in 2012, great, because you have to keep in mind that there’s absolutely no way Orland trades Howard to a team within their division anyway. This isn’t the Philadelphia Eagles giving Donovan McNabb to the Redskins, and Howard isn’t on his last legs. On the surface, trading for Howard seems like a no brainer but everything thing that glistens isn’t gold. Would they make the playoffs next year with just Howard, Wall and a bunch of garbage? I don’t know. Could they make the playoffs next year with this same roster, a few additions and a better scheme? I’m certain they could.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO