Last week, Chicago Sun Times report Rick Telander made the case that the Bulls should not break up their core in an attempt to acquire Howard.
But the desperation talk about the Bulls needing to break everything up and deal for disgruntled and possibly available Magic center Dwight Howard — shedding Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, C.J. Watson and/or Omer Asik or Taj Gibson in the process — is scary chatter, no matter how you frame it….So add Dwight Howard? I wouldn’t mess with that.
Telander points to recent history of star big men not bolstering their team’s title chances, most notably the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2009 acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal to try to give LeBron James another weapon on the floor.
There is a big difference though. O’Neal was a shell of his former self at that point. The comparison is just not sound.
The Bulls are in a position to potentially acquiring a 26-year-old Howard who is entering his prime. Additionally, Howard is the best center in the NBA right now. Shaq was nowhere near that level in 2009.
Despite Telander’s concerns or the concerns and pleas from the Bulls fan base to maintain the core of this Bulls team, acquiring Howard should be a no-brainer.
While Telander unfairly looked at the 2009 O’Neal for his history reference, there is a strong correlation to teams trading for the best center in the NBA and winning a title soon after.
A situation where the best center is available does not come up frequently, but when it does, the team that is able to snag him has had profound success.
In 1968, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired superstar center Wilt Chamberlin. Although Chamberlin was no longer the dominant scorer (24.3 points per game in 1967-68) he was in his earlier years, he was still the best center in the NBA.
The Lakers had lost in the NBA Finals the year before falling to the Sam Jones and John Havlicek-led Boston Celtics, 4-2; they needed some extra firepower alongside Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.
While it took three years (and two additional NBA Finals appearances) Chamberlin eventually led the Lakers to the NBA championship in 1971-72.
A few years after Chamberlin departed, another heralded big man found his way in Los Angeles, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar moved from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Abdul-Jabbar was still in the prime of his career at this time holding averages of 30 points per game and 14 rebounds per game.
The year before acquiring Abdul-Jabbar the Lakers had missed the playoffs with a sub-.500 record. In Abdul-Jabbar’s first year with the Lakers, he helped them reach a more respectable 40-42 record. After three consecutive playoff appearances, Abdul-Jabbar and the Lakers were able to break through winning the NBA championship in 1980.
Abdul-Jabbar went on to play a key role in four additional championships through the ’80s.
Moses Malone brought a championship to the 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers after being acquired from the Houston Rockets. The 76ers were a great team the year before led by Maurice Cheeks and “Dr. J” Julius Erving. They had reached the NBA Finals before losing 4-2 to the Abdul-Jabbar-led Lakers.
It certainly was not a panic move, but the Sixers acquired the best center in the NBA in Malone, and wound up winning the championship in Malone’s first season largely on the efforts of Malone.
Telander’s example of O’Neal to the Cleveland Cavaliers is interesting is Shaq has to precedent of going to teams and bringing them championships.
The first, a move from the Orlando Magic to the Lakers saw O’Neal alongside Kobe Bryant grab three additional championships for Los Angeles.
Later in his career, but still at a dominant point, O’Neal teamed with a young Dwyane Wade to bring the Miami Heat franchise its first NBA championship.
Again, the NBA’s best center is typically not on the trade block. This year, that is the case. The Bulls would be crazy to pass up the opportunity.
Howard is still only 26 years old and is undoubtedly a dominant scorer, rebounder and defensive presence. Like Chamberlin, Abdul-Jabbar, O’Neal and Malone before him, Howard is the best center in the NBA today.
NBA history has taught us the impact of acquiring a center the caliber of Howard has on a team’s championship aspirations. Each of the five teams mentioned eventually won a title.
The Bulls should not ignore history.