Michigan beats Ohio State and I agree with a "trade for this superstar" column from Jeff Schultz. In this case, he wants the Hawks to acquire Dwight Howard. His reasoning is that Howard is not going to re-sign with the Magic, so the Hawks should offer that the Magic pick any two players for Howard. Schultz suggests scenarios that would involve Joe Johnson, which made me laugh out loud. Otis Smith may not be the GM in the NBA, but having signed one of the worst deals in the league to acquire Rashard Lewis and then having to trade that stinker of a deal for the disaster that is the Gilbert Arenas contract, I seriously doubt that he is going to give a second thought to acquiring a similarly terrible deal. The Joe Johnson contract was a terrible idea when it was signed and only looked worse last year as Johnson's scoring regressed (although John Hollinger points out that Johnson's reduced numbers were the result of fewer minutes and a slump shooting threes that does not seem repeatable($)).
Thorpe would be committing GM malpractice if he touched Johnson's deal, so the trade would almost have to be Howard for Al Horford and Josh Smith. Rick Sund could only make the deal if he had the assurance that Howard is going to sign a long-term contract, but if Howard expresses interest in coming home and staying, then the trade makes sense. It solves the eternal issue for the Hawks, which is that their two best front-court players are both natural power forwards. (Hopefully, Thorpe won't notice that he's trading for that problem, or at a minimum, Smith and Horford - overlapping skills and all - are the best he can do in terms of a return for Howard. Wouldn't he prefer that deal to one centered around Andrew Bynum and his various ailments?) It also reboots the team, which is a major need right now. Atlanta Spirit is in desperate need of something to change the narrative. They are selling a team that has reached its absolute apex: the second round of the playoffs. They are also the group that killed hockey in Atlanta. Faced with the prospect of trotting out the same product to lukewarm response, they would love an energizing, marketable star. There's one in Orlando.
The big question is whether Howard wants to come and stay. To make his case, Schultz cites a New York Times piece on Atlanta's increasing prominence as a center of Black culture as a reason why Howard might come here as opposed to New York or Los Angeles. I hope that Schultz is right about this, but Atlanta has had the Black Hollywood nickname for a long time without becoming a preferred destination for NBA players. We have neither a winning tradition, nor a respected ownership group. Additionally, Howard has played against the Hawks in the playoffs in front of less-than-full houses. If fan intensity matters to him, then he isn't coming.
Additionally, Howard has to be thinking that the biggest obstacle to gaining a higher Q-rating is that he hasn't won a championship and has only made the Finals once. He needs to go somewhere where he will win. His issue in Orlando is the supporting cast. Will it make sense for him to come here to play with Jeff Teague (a player whose promise is based on a six-game series against the Bulls last year), Joe Johnson (holder of one of the worst contracts in the NBA), Marvin Williams (average small forward who escapes being non-descript only because of his Draft position and the careers of the players taken after him), and a power forward to be named later? And then you add in the fact that Atlanta Spirit has expressed an aversion to paying the luxury tax and in light of the team's revenues, they can't really be blamed, can they? The end game could well be that Thorpe wants to send Howard to Atlanta, but can't make the trade happen because Howard refuses to agree to a potential extension with the Hawks.
In sum, I agree with Schultz's position, but the more I think about it, the more unrealistic it looks.