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Insider

The case for Lakers keeping D12

It's hard to keep track of all the myriad issues the Los Angeles Lakers have to deal with at the moment, but with the trade deadline less than a month away, deciding what to do with Dwight Howard will be front and, ahem, center. D12 is set to become an unrestricted free agent during the offseason, so he holds all of the cards. There has been chatter of late that they could trade the big man, but presumably they would only get legitimate value in return if Howard is committed to signing long term with the team to which he is dealt.

While teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, and even the Miami Heat, could make fair offers to the Lakers, ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton considers the case for the Lakers holding onto Howard as the trade deadline passes:

Kevin Pelton

Should the Lakers trade Howard?

"The last scenario is, of course, no trade at all. There are two possible paths here. If the Lakers re-sign Howard, his projection (factoring in his relatively poor play this year) calls for 44.5 WARP over the next three-plus seasons -- better than any of the packages the Lakers could get. The alternative is the Lakers get nothing. Because they're over the tax, the Lakers can't sign-and-trade Howard, and they wouldn't get any cap benefit until the summer of 2014. In general, the best Howard offers replace about three-quarters of his value, so the Lakers should not make a trade if they think their chances of re-signing Howard are better than 75 percent. Add in the value of cap space in 2014, when Bryant and Gasol both will come off the books, and realistically the Lakers would have to feel there's at least a one in three shot of Howard changing teams to justify a trade. If the Lakers do start shopping Howard, you'll know they believe he's serious about leaving L.A. to sign with a team under the cap like Atlanta or Dallas."