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Lakers Trade And Free Agent Rumors 2013: Jeremy Lin For Dwight Howard In A Sign And Trade With Rockets On The Table? Lakers Looking To Add LeBron In 2014?

By Staff Reporter, Posted: 05/24/13 04:17PM EDT

Perhaps the two most talked about players of the past two years have been Dwight Howard and Jeremy Lin. According to a report in The Sporting News, the two high-profile players might be swapped in the offseason.

Reporter Sean Deveany wrote that league sources suggested the Los Angeles Lakers may have no choice but to do a sign-and-trade with Howard to the Houston Rockets, and that Lin and Omer Asik would be part of a deal to L.A.

"I don't know if the Lakers can afford to be thinking long-term," one general manager told SN. "They sort of put all their eggs in this one basket, with Dwight, and if he wants to go, can you let him go for nothing in return? I don't think so. You'll be sending a bad message to Kobe Bryant, to (Steve) Nash, to the fans. They are selling championships there. You can't say, 'Trust us, we will have cap space later and maybe we'll sign someone then.'"

While the consensus is that Howard has more trade value than Lin, the Lakers would be able to free up salary cap space with the deal. Howard has consistently been on the fence with signing a maximum deal with his current team in recent seasons with the Orlando Magic and the Lakers, and presumably would see the benefit in playing with young star James Harden.

Texas also does not have state income tax, making Howard's expected maximum deal to be worth more than in California. There has been speculation in recent weeks that Howard was interested in playing for either the Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, or Atlanta Hawks. His lone season in L.A. was marked by supposed clashes with Kobe Bryant and head coach Mike D'Antoni.

Bryant injured his ACL late in the season, and is still months away from activity. The Lakers have never made rebuilding plans with Bryant on the roster, but may decide to avoid major signings this offseason until he is 100 percent healthy. Bryant is a free agent at the end of next season, and may decide to retire.

The Lakers may consider Howard's absence a blessing. He has only reached the NBA Finals once since being drafted in 2004 by the Magic, and has had injury problems in recent months. By not paying Howard, the Lakers could free up the cap space to make a big splash in the summer of 2014 when LeBron James is a free agent.

By adding Lin, the Lakers would have a young and suitable backup to Steve Nash, who is likely to retire when his contract expires at the end of the 2014-2015 season. Lin struggled in the postseason, averaging just four points per game off 29.4 percent shooting, but enjoyed a solid regular season. The 24-year-old averaged 13.4 points per game, and 6.1 assists.

Lin is also signed for just two more seasons. He could be a valuable asset for a team that needs an infusion of youth, and a spark off the bench. Asik proved to be a more than serviceable center, averaging 10.7 points per game, and 11.4 rebounds.

Most importantly, the Lakers would be able to make a more serious run at a title in the 2014-2015 season with their great deal of cap space. Houston would almost certainly have to offer the Lakers draft picks, which L.A. could use to add youth. The Rockets could also surrender some other low-cost players on the roster, while perhaps taking on point guard Steve Blake's contract.

This potential deal may still seem to be a stretch. Lakers' executive Jim Buss has previously stated that he expects Howard to re-sign with the team. The Lakers also have a rich history of centers, and Howard is expected to be better next season after extra time to heal from back and shoulder problems.

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