Dwight Howard for Brook Lopez

Director of Research and Analytics, John Ewing, takes a look at what a Howard for Lopez trade would look like and the impact it would have on each team through 50,000 simulations of the remainder of the NBA season. Follow John on Twitter @JohnEwing for more notes from his analysis and to let him know what other trades you may like to see with projections.

Recent reports have claimed that the Brooklyn Nets General Manager Billy King planned to contact the Minnesota Timberwolves about a three-team trade that would send Minnesota forward Kevin Love to the Los Angeles Lakers, Nets center Brook Lopez to Minnesota and Lakers center Dwight Howard to the Nets. However, after Love broke a bone in his right hand in early January, requiring surgery and a recovery of 8 to 10 weeks, talks broke down. King has denied these reports.

Nonetheless, Howard for Lopez rumors have been circulating since December 2011. Last July, the Orlando Magic reportedly said no to a deal involving Lopez and Kris Humphries for Howard. The Howard experiment in La-La Land has proven unfruitful, as the Lakers are 17-25. Dwight is averaging 16.7 points and 12 rebounds per game; both figures are below his career average. Going deeper, Howard is ranked 33rd overall in PER, Player Efficiency Rating, with 19.84. The league average in PER each year is 15. Last year Howard had a PER of 26.26 which was good for 6th overall. Looking at Value Added, Howard ranks 19th in the NBA with 187.9, 6th among all centers.

On the other hand, Brook Lopez is having a career year. After missing most of last season with a broken bone in his right foot Lopez is averaging 18.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Lopez's PER is 25.45, 4th overall in the NBA and #1 among centers. Lopez's Value Added rank is 11th overall and #1 among centers with 227.8. With the February 21st trade deadline quickly approaching, what would a Howard for Lopez trade do for each team?

Currently the Lakers are 17-25, good for 12th in the Western Conference. Over the last five full seasons the 8th seed in the West has averaged 47 wins. The Lakers would need to go 30-10 the rest of the way to get to 47 wins and have a shot at making the playoffs. Brooklyn is currently third in the Eastern Conference with a 26-16 record. After simulating the rest of the season here are the most likely playoff teams:

Eastern Conference
Team Wins Losses Win Pct
Miami Heat 55 27 67.4%
New York Knicks 52 30 63.4%
Indiana Pacers 49 33 59.8%
Chicago Bulls 48 34 58.5%
Brooklyn Nets 48 34 58.6%
Atlanta Hawks 45 37 54.9%
Milwaukee Bucks 43 39 52.0%
Boston Celtics 39 43 47.6%
       
Western Conference
Team Wins Losses Win Pct
San Antonio Spurs 60 22 73.2%
Oklahoma City Thunder 59 23 72.0%
Los Angeles Clippers 58 24 70.7%
Memphis Grizzlies 51 31 62.2%
Golden State Warriors 49 33 59.8%
Denver Nuggets 48 34 58.5%
Utah Jazz 43 39 52.4%
Houston Rockets 42 40 51.2%
       
Los Angeles Lakers 39 43 47.6%

From the simulation one can see that the Lakers, while we project them to finish stronger than they started, still do not make the playoffs. The Lakers are projected to finish as the 9th best team in the West; over the next forty games the Lakers are projected to go 22-18. The Nets, currently third in the Eastern Conference are projected to finish in a tie for fourth with the Chicago Bulls.

Assuming a trade did occur that sent Howard to the Nets and Lopez to the Lakers, based purely on what each player has done this year, we can expect each team to finish as follows: 

Eastern Conference
Team Wins Losses Win Pct
Miami Heat 56 26 68.3%
New York Knicks 53 29 64.6%
Indiana Pacers 49 33 59.8%
Chicago Bulls 48 34 58.5%
Atlanta Hawks 45 37 54.9%
Milwaukee Bucks 43 39 52.4%
Brooklyn Nets 41 41 50.0%
Boston Celtics 39 43 47.6%
       
Western Conference
Team Wins Losses Win Pct
San Antonio Spurs 60 22 73.2%
Oklahoma City Thunder 59 23 72.0%
Los Angeles Clippers 58 24 70.7%
Memphis Grizzlies 52 30 63.4%
Golden State Warriors 49 33 59.8%
Denver Nuggets 49 33 59.8%
Los Angeles Lakers 43 39 52.4%
Utah Jazz 43 39 52.4%

For this simulation we compared Howard and Lopez using On Court/Off Court statistics. Specifically, offensive points per 100 possession and defensive points per 100 possessions. What is interesting to note is that Lopez not only would improve the Lakers offensively but also defensively. 

After the simulation the Lakers move from finishing 9th overall in the Western Conference to a tie for 7th with the Utah Jazz. The Nets drop from a tie for fourth in the Eastern Conference to 7th; setting up a Knicks/Nets first round series. A Howard for Lopez trade would make sense for the Lakers this year as we project that it would propel them into the playoffs. Conversely, such a strategy (especially facing injury and contract concerns) could be horribly shortsighted on Los Angeles' part. The Lakers would be buying Lopez while his value is the highest it has ever been and in turn dropping Howard before he has had a chance to work back fully from his back surgery. 

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