Dear Dwight Howard – a response to Marc Stein’s Weekend Dime from Ryan Braun:

January 16th, 2012 by Ryan Braun

Hi Dwight:

Let me begin with a preface — if you choose to stay in Orlando, I get it. In fact, as a basketball fan with what I’d like to consider at least a semi-operative conscience, I would have to consider that preferable. I mean, how could anyone in Cleveland ever root for a superstar to leave a small market, right?

Dear Shaquille O'Neal's lawyers: please direct all complaints/legal inquiries to CFAAP.com

Okay, now that that’s out of the way…let’s go ahead and acknowledge your leaving as an inevitability. For the sake of both this article and the potentially delusional presumptions therein. Also, because you kind of reaffirmed the anti-Orlando sentiment with your “nothing has changed” quote relayed via the Sentinel last Sunday.

You still want to be traded, you say, and Dallas, LA, and the Nets are still your preferred destinations.

That’s fine. No judgment here. You’re a 26-year-old man/the heart wants what the heart wants.

But please, allow me the opportunity to pass on a message that my mom gave to me (in writing) when I suggested to her I might major in acting:

“Are you sure you’ve thought this through?”

Now, if you’re reading this (and I soooo hope it gets to you…), you’re probably reading it on a Cavs blog and thus have subsequently assumed where it’s headed.

Don’t stop reading.

I know you’ve already said (with just about zero ambiguity) that you’d rather not be traded to Cleveland.

That’s perfect! I don’t want you traded to Cleveland either.

I want you to sign there.

Trust me, I have definitely thought this through.

Reason # 1 — The Trade Thing is so 2008…

Allow me to open, Dwight, by directing your attention to exhibit A (and/or “Reason #1”)…the trade thing.

It’s en vogue right now, I know, and I’m even a little hypocritical for shunning it as definitively as I’m about to since a year and a half ago I was staying up nights at a time monitoring the Cavs’ progress in luring Amar’e Stoudemire away from Phoenix.

As I often am, I was misguided. (The acting major’s yet to pan out.)

I was misguided, as are many still, because lost in the league-encompassing excitement of a landscape shifting trade is a patently obvious nugget Knick of information regarding these cataclysms…

Take a look at all of the teams for which these deals have gone down in recent seasons.

None of them are winning.

None of them.

In fact, they’re not even close.

New York, New Jersey, the Clippers… not exactly the elite of the league, right? Perhaps even more damning is this… Are these teams even in a position to improve?

The Boston Celtics (the reason this whole “movement” started) are the only team of the modern era that was built via trade, and the only reason it worked (temporarily) was that each (aging) star was sold for pennies on the dollar, thereby allowing the Celtics to retain two players — Rondo and Perkins — who turned out to be better than anyone they’d shipped out. It was enormously lucky in the first place, and any chance of that particular history repeating with these “forced” trades is effectively wiped because A) the motivation behind the F-trades is often a player seeking a specific market/not a team sniffing out a palatable return, and B) everyone involved is a lot less willing to work out an amenable deal when they feel like they’re being jerked around.

So, let the record show us having the following two epiphanies:

1. In today’s NBA, you can still get yourself traded…but you can’t get yourself traded without gutting the team that you’re headed to, thereby nullifying the chance you’re headed to a better situation basketball-wise.

2. Because of this (epiphany 1), if you’re going to go…free agency is the way to go.

I don’t like that last epiphany as a Cavs fan (I wish the new CBA had come equipped with a franchise tag…), but it’s true.  If you’re signing a 5-year extension with a team that’s just traded its best young prospect + multiple first-rounders, rarely will that team still have the means to surround you with talent.

Of the “cataclysm teams,” the Heat are the only group I’d list with even a chance to win a title within the next few years, and it’s because they came together through free agency.

I'm the hater lion.

However awful that was.

Regardless, the point of exhibit A (and/or “Reason # 1”), Dwight?

If you don’t want to get stuck on a bare cupboard of a team subsequently plastered with unreasonable post-trade expectations…you might want to reconsider your route.

Sign with somebody in the offseason.

If only someone had concocted an elaborate yet grounded presentation to give your options via that route some clarity…

Reason # 2 — The Cavs from a Basketball Perspective:

This was the most enjoyable segment for me to write, and I’m 99% sure the reason for that is a legitimate belief in the following… (I’m so good an actor now, I can never be 100% sure I’m not fooling myself…)

The Cavs are on the verge of being really, really good.

Not this year, mind you…but soon. (And very soon if you heed my letter, DH.)

If Oklahoma City is the model for small-market rebuilding (Durant, Westbrook, Harden — add water), we’re one elite draft pick away from following suit. Through a stroke of remarkable good fortune (and by “good fortune,” I mean $30 million from Dan Gilbert), the Cavs were able to restock this year with both Tristan Thompson (who I pray to the basketball gods will be a smart Josh Smith) and Kyrie Irving (who I pray to the basketball gods will be a healthy Chris Paul). They’re 20 and 19, respectively. Provided they don’t propel us too far forward before their bodies fill out (and it might be close), we’ll probably end up landing one additional high lottery pick this year. Which again, provided these guys pan out, is the Thunder model. A potentially elite foundation.

And the rest of the roster?

That’s where things get really interesting.

In fact, to show just how interesting… I’d like to welcome the Dallas Mavericks to the article. Being the only team on your trade list with considerable cap space forthcoming, they seem to have become the assumed favorites to land your services via the free market.

Found this picture on Mark Cuban's nightstand...

Let’s say Dallas hits the jackpot this summer (that would be you and Deron Williams), thereby amassing what would probably be considered the second true “super-team” in the league. My grandma would be happy (she went to high school with Jason Kidd), but that’s not what this article’s about.

What is best for you, Dwight?

The following is the absolute best case scenario 2012-13 Dallas lineup, in which I assume the Mavs’ ability to dump Shawn Marion by the trade deadline (which is the only way they’d have  enough cap space to sign both you and Deron):

PG – Deron Williams (28), Jason Kidd (39!), Roddy Beaubois (24)

SG – Vince Carter (35), Jason Terry (35), Delonte West (29), Dominque Jones (24)

SF – Shawn Marion (34) ( presumptive salary dump)

PF – Dirk Nowitzki (34), Lamar Odom (32), Brian Cardinal (35), Yi Jianlian (25), Sean Williams (26), Brandan Wright (25)

C – Dwight Howard (26), Brendan Haywood (32), Ian Mahinmi (25)

Dallas has $41.4 million on the books for 2012-13, again, predicated solely on their ability to let everyone crossed out leave and/or pass away from age-related illness. With the salary cap projected at around $60-61 million next year, it’ll take a suitor for Shawn Marion’s $8.6 million guaranteed, plus ALL of their resulting free-agent money to sign you and Deron Williams.

Thus, this would be your team for the foreseeable future — exactly as listed above, minus Shawn Marion/plus league minimum filler. (And Dirk is 34, Deron Williams can’t stay healthy, yada, yada, yada…)

Now, contrast that with Cleveland’s potential 2012-13 lineup:

PG – Kyrie Irving (20), Ramon Sessions (26)

SG – Anthony Parker (306), Boobie Gibson (26), Mychel Thompson (24)

SF – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (19), Alonzo Gee (25), Omri Casspi (24), Christian Eyenga (23)

PF – Tristan Thompson (21), Antawn Jamison (35), Samardo Samuels (23), Luke Harangody (24)

C – Dwight Howard (26), Anderson Varejao (30), Semih Erden (26), Ryan Hollins (28)

There’s just under $41 million on the books here (only $9 million in 2013-14!) with all the notable pillars locked up. That means Kyrie, Tristan and Andy (seriously, you’ll love this guy…), plus “unnamed 2012 lottery pick,” plus Dan Gilbert’s willingness to lock-up our keepers for the long-term (Sessions and Boobie, perhaps?) or swing them as the rarest of expiring contracts (those belonging to good players) for dollars on the dollar.

The point of all this being, in Cleveland, you’re looking at a team with potentially four All-NBA caliber players, a team with insane roster flexibility, and a team with an owner more willing to dole out cash than Pacman Jones at 2am.

Also, a team that has no true center.

From a basketball perspective, only Chicago makes more sense (why they’re not on your trade list, I have no idea…), and even then, only in the immediate.

From a basketball perspective, it’s the perfect situation.

And, while I realize much of the preceding’s accuracy depends on your evaluations of the players involved — i.e. How good are the young Cavs, really? — I’d like you to know this: Because of my briefly aforementioned conscience/an overwhelming fear of failure stemming perhaps from graduating college with an acting degree, publishing on an ESPN subsidiary at least forces me to temper my enthusiasm for all things Cleveland somewhat in the hope that I can write reasonably informative articles/maintain my current state of employment. For periods of time, I can be a semi-responsible faux-journalist.

Along those lines…

Kyrie Irving, while just 19, might be the best pick-and-roll prospect to enter the league since you, Dwight Howard (pandering just a touch there…). I don’t believe I’m overstating that. KI comes off the screen at such a funky pace that he can almost walk a guy right to the rim, and he’s already exceedingly comfortable with his midrange jumper. This was a major strength at Duke, and he’s been re-getting the hang of it pretty early at the NBA level. And Dwight, what Kyrie’s doing now, he’s doing while working with Andy Varejao (who, again, you’re going to love and is actually a remarkably effective P&R partner…but also operates about 3-4 feet lower than you do). Remember when everyone thought it would be awesome to team you up with Chris Paul? Well, I’m thinking of something similar but with healthier knees. Kyrie is good, and by this time next year, Kyrie’s going to be better.

And Kidd-Gilchrist (listed above on my projected roster) is a conservative addition. He could be Brad Beal, he could be Harrison Barnes. I like MKG because he was Kyrie’s teammate in high school and is tenacious enough to have a relatively high floor…but he’s also probably the 7th pick in the upcoming draft. Imagine if that’s Anthony Davis. Imagine if it’s Drummond.

Regardless Dwight, you’re getting the Cavs’ foundation as is, plus either a top-tier wing prospect or the best big in the draft. And the oodles of cap space.

Imagine you’d had an opportunity to head to OKC right after they landed James Harden.

Would you have done it?

Really, the only possible reason this isn’t a no-brainer is that you’d have to live in Cleveland, which, don’t worry…I’ve figured out too.

Reason # 2B — Cleveland is a burgeoning entertainment mecca/end of hardcore analysis:

I know you have media ambitions, Dwight.

You know who else had media ambitions?

Steven Spielberg. (Ever heard of him?)

#movielinefirstdrafts

Yes D-12, Steven Spielberg was born in Ohio, and you won’t find someone who’s made good on “media ambitions” more successfully than him.

Need more?

Paul Newman’s from the area as well, Ohio is the country’s leading producer of greenhouse and nursery plants, and if you’re concerned about unwanted pregnancy — we’re the rubber capital of the world.

(Ed. Note: This is harder than the basketball section. I’ve been digging around for like an hour and that was the best I could do.)

Let’s close the “Cleveland as entertainment mecca” section with the following…

Consider A: Cleveland was a bustling metropolis in the 50s and 60s (even the Rockefellers lived there!).

And…

Consider B: There are two schools of thought re: the nature of the world’s social history. Ancient cultures believed in cyclical nature (that Dark and Golden Ages would forever alternate), while more recent sentiment assumes the world is on a linear path.

So, if we deduce the actuality as a perfectly reasonable combination of theories — after all, history is linear in that technology is advancing more rapidly than human nature, but cyclical in that I’m wearing my grandfather’s polyester pants right now and feeling particularly stylish — the conclusion would have to be that by the end of your 5-year max contract, Cleveland will again be an Eden on Earth…only with robots.

Okay, done.

Ps- You can’t spell “The Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg” without OHIO.

Now done.

Reason 3a — The Cavalier bump:

The theory goes that being in Cleveland helps promote athlete likeability (ATTN: Adidas: AL is very important for market share capitalization), and I constructed the following chart to demonstrate it visually.

I'm not very good at charts.

So. Definitively established. Cleveland = likeability.

ATTN: Adidas.

Reason 3b — How better to one-up LeBron?

Okay, it’s 1AM now and I want to close with some semblance of legitimacy.

Here goes…

You don’t have to admit to this, Dwight…but I know.  Truth be told, I think a lot of people do…

We here in Cleveland have always felt the lack of a Dwight puppet egregious.

The LeBron James show, which debuted a year before you entered the league and has subsequently amassed the gravitational pull of an imploding galaxy, has kind of relegated you to the backburner in terms of the national consciousness.

I’m writing to you on behalf of Cleveland (as a city, I think we can sympathize).

I began by laying out all the basketball reasons that the Cavaliers make sense…and now here is the vindictive one.

You want to pull ahead of LeBron James, and we want that for you…but to do it, you have to start heading in the opposite direction.

If you go to Dallas, to LA, and maybe even in Chicago (although again, if you want to be traded, reconsider the Bulls…), you will forever be lumped in with LeBron. And as much as it probably sucks to hear, and as much as you may consider it unjustified…you’ll never be at the forefront of things when you’re standing right next to him. You’ll always be a supporting character in the LeBron James drama.

So take an alternate path.

Be the small-market superstar.

Make a small-market super-team.

I realize it’s self-serving (hugely) that I want the small-market super-team in Cleveland…but honestly, I’d support the idea anywhere.

You’re not going to outscore LeBron James.

So outsmart him. Call Adidas and tell them we have a banner open.

Also, I’ll draw you pictures.

Again, letters to CFAAP.

The World is Yours.

TWIsM,

Ryan Braun (CFAAP, Cavs: the Blog, Studio Yogurt)

Ps- Dwight, the Browns are going to be awesome next year.

…………………………….

AWARD WATCH (16.5% of the way through the season):

NBA MVP – Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder (25.8 ppg, 6.8 reb, 3.4 ast). Kobe is scoring like he hasn’t in 6 years, but I can’t say it’s helping the Lakers. LeBron is playing better than anyone in the league, but the Heat have lost 3 in a row. Meanwhile, the Thunder are 11-2 and Durant is just plugging along, shooting less and scoring more efficiently than he ever has.

CAVALIER MVP – Andy Varejao, PF/C (9.5 ppg, 11.2 reb, 1.5 ast). Kyrie’s not far off from having a chance at this spot, but to date, still, there’s not a player on the Cavs more important than Anderson Varejao. He’s consistent, the perfect role-model for a lot of the younger guys on the team, and almost as much of a pillar offensively as he is on the other side of the ball. I’d put Andy’s pick & roll competency up there with many of the elite bigs in the league.

NBA COY– Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls. Derrick Rose’s team is 12-2 (tied for the best record in the league), and Thibodeau has, in my estimation, done very well to proactively extend support to a struggling Noah and Boozer (and/or protect their trade value). I thought they overachieved last year, but the Bulls seem to be locking themselves in as a perennial top seed.

CAVALIER COY – Byron Scott. Really, a competitor’s yet to emerge.

NBA ROY – Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers (17.0 ppg, 3.1 reb, 5 ast). Ricky’s coming on strong too (and each side seems to have its fervent advocates), but after watching Kyrie improve the past couple of weeks…I’m f’ing giddy. The kid can get to the rim at will, IS getting progressively more comfortable with NBA length, and looks more and more confident in his ability to dictate the flow of a game every time out. Rubio is at 10.4, 4.1, and 8.0 while playing a completely different floor game for a completely different team…which is what I’ve used to decide this argument for the week. The team. At current, I think Rubio struggles more on the Cavs than Kyrie does in Minnesota.

CAVALIER ROY – Kyrie Irving, PG. But let’s talk about the other guy… As a 21-year-old sophomore NBAer (essentially Tristan Thompson’s age, but with a year more experience), Josh Smith averaged 11.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks in about 32 minutes a game. Tristan can’t handle the ball like Josh (not a good thing), nor can he shoot like him (maybe a good thing?), but the point I’m trying to make is that he’s not far off and I have to believe he’s being steeped in the type of discipline that Josh Smith never was. In four years, TT’s an energy guy or an All-Star, and his development might well determine the ceiling of this team.

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