Should Lakers take Jason Richardson’s salary to get Dwight Howard?

You’ve met the person of your dreams. You enjoy every moment around this person. And after a bit of chasing, you’ve received assurances the feeling remains mutual.

But there’s a catch in diving into such a relationship. You’re going to have to cough up a lot of money. You’re going to have to tolerate your beloved’s annoying friends. You’ll have to deal with intimidating parents.

Do the consequences still make it worth it?

To some degree, the Lakers are facing the same issues with Dwight Howard. They obviously covet him because he’s still the league’s best center. Despite Andrew Bynum’s growth, his exit meeting with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Coach Mike Brown lasted nearly an hour and a half, partly because they continuously emphasized that Bynum needs to mature. Meanwhile, the disgruntled Magic center, according to various reports, has finally indicated he’s open to being traded to the Lakers.


But there still are things holding up a deal. The Magic is taking its time trading Howard in hopes of maximizing what it receives. Orlando reportedly feels unsure Bynum would commit to the team long-term. The Magic also wants its trading partner to take on unattractive contracts.

So as Orlando mulls over whether it will actually ship Howard, the Lakers have to consider which players, if any, they’d take on in additional salary just to secure him. One of those possibilities is Jason Richardson, who has three years worth $18.6 million on his contract. Here are pros and cons of the Lakers’ accepting those terms.

Why the Lakers should take on Richardson’s contract to get Howard: I’ve already analyzed how Howard is a definitive upgrade over Bynum. I’ve already explained why the Lakers don’t lose anything by waiting to see what Orlando does with Howard. So this analysis strictly hinges on whether the Lakers should make such a move with Richardson involved in the deal.

Richardson, a career 37.2% shooter, isn’t necessarily a significant upgrade. Lakers forward Troy Murphy averaged 41.8% from three-point range, while rookie guard Andrew Goudelock shot 37.3% from outside. But Murphy’s shot fluctuated from January (50%) to February (38.7%), March (33%) and April (50%). Goudelock also committed defensive and ballhandling mistakes because of his inexperience.

Considering that backdrop, Richardson would still help the Lakers in that area. Richardson has been a versatile scorer who can create his own shot, score off pick-and-roll and catch-and-shoot opportunities. Since the remaining free-agent market remains so dire, it’s possible Richardson would be a better alternative anyway. After starting his whole career, he would assume an off-the-bench role, which could indirectly give him a larger responsibility with that unit. His arrival would cost the Lakers more than just signing someone at the veteran’s minimum, but that’s a necessary price to ensure the Lakers have their next franchise player.

Why the Lakers shouldn’t accept a Howard trade involving Richardson: Richardson’s skills are declining. His 11.6 points on 40.8% shooting last season marked his career low after he averaged 17.5 points points his whole career. It’s inevitable those numbers will drop with the Lakers because he’d have to play at backup shooting guard for the first time in his career. But it’s possible that a drop in minutes would inhibit Richardson’s play even more.

Verdict: It doesn’t matter which player it is. The Lakers have to make the necessary sacrifices to secure Howard. He’s in much better position to be the team’s next franchise player than Bynum ever will be. Still, the Lakers must hold firm in negotiations and see if the Magic will crack. But when the final hour hits, the Lakers should express willingness to take on Richardson’s contract in order to secure Howard.


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