Well, this was unexpected. After a summer of rumors that went nowhere, the Magic have finally agreed to trade Dwight Howard  in a four-team deal that only became public Thursday morning.
The trade, as reported by numerous national outlets  and which is expected to be finalized on Friday, will send Howard to the Lakers continuing a long legacy of disaffected big men that have made their way to Los Angeles. Howard joins Wilt Chamberlain , Kareem Abdul-Jabbar  and Shaquille O’Neal as All-Star centers who joined the Lakers after beginning their careers elsewhere.
In exchange for Howard, the Lakers sent Andrew Bynum  to the 76ers but held on to Pau Gasol . That gives them a starting lineup of Steve Nash , Kobe Bryant , Metta World Peace, Gasol and Howard.
The Sixers also absorbed the contract of Jason Richardson , who has three years left at over $18 million. Richardson is still an effective player whose perimeter shooting helps shore up their biggest weakness, but he’s already beginning to decline and will be 32 in January. The cost was Andre Iguodala , who will go to the Nuggets, along with Nicola Vucecic and Moe Harkless, who will go to the Magic.
It’s a weird mix for the Sixers, who also amnesty’d Elton Brand and replaced him with Nick Young  and Kwame Brown  earlier this offseason. They dropped Brand, Iguodala and Lou Williams from the team that took the Celtics to seven games, and while Bynum is immediately the best center in the Eastern Conference, it remains to be seen if they got better after all their offseason moves. Bynum also has one year left on his contract.
The Magic received a smorgasbord of players, but not a franchise player, and three first round picks, reportedly one from each team that will carry protection. From the Nuggets, they will get Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington  and from the Sixers they will receive Vucecic and Harkless, Philly’s last two first-round selections. There were indications that they also grabbed Christian Eyenga from the Lakers and traded off Chris Duhon and Earl Clark to Los Angeles.
Dumping Duhon and Richardson will help the Magic get under the cap next season, but the other returns are not as favorable.
Harrington is coming off a solid season in which he finished fourth in the NBA’s Sixth Man voting, but he also has a favorable contract. The final two years after this season are only 50 percent guaranteed. Afflalo has four years left on his $39 million deal, but he’s a keeper. Vucecic flashed some skill as a rookie, but fell out of Doug Collins ‘ rotation when Spencer Hawes  returned and Harkless is an intriguing talent, but still raw. Eyenga has two years in the league but he’s played in just 51 games.
It’s fair to ask if this is the best the Magic and new GM Rob Hennigan could do. Earlier reports had the Nets  offering Brook Lopez  and picks, or the Rockets with their abundance of draft picks and power forwards. But the Nets dropped out in July and it’s unclear whether the rumored Houston deal was still viable.
The real winner may be Denver who snagged an All-Star forward in his prime and one of the best defenders in the league. Iguodala was miscast as a franchise player in Philadelphia, but with only two years left on his contract, the Nuggets get a 28-year-old wing who held opposing small forward to an 8.7 PER last season. A Denver lineup of Ty Lawson , Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee is one of the most intriguing in the NBA.
Yet, it’s the Lakers who once again get the prize. For all the low comedy about Howard’s trade saga, he’s still the best center in the league and he won’t turn 27 until December.
The caveat with Howard is his back issues that caused him to miss a chunk of the season, the playoffs and the Olympics. Howard was noticeably not himself in his final season in Orlando. Assuming he can recapture his form, the Lakers got one of the top three players in the league and didn’t have to surrender Gasol to make it happen.
Their window may be short — Bryant and Gasol each have two years left on their contract — and there will undoubtedly be issues of hierarchy on such a star-driven team, but the Lakers have re-established themselves as a top contender in the loaded Western Conference and Howard is young enough to anchor a team for the next five years.
Even with Howard lining up for their eternal rivals in Los Angeles, the Celtics have to be pleased to get Howard out of their conference. However, adding Bynum to the Atlantic Division is a four-time a year headache.