Josh Howard available? Let's talk, Mr. Cuban

Now that we've laid out your summer NBA plans , what's a Bucks fan to do in the meantime? Well, aside from the whole "watching good teams play basketball" option and dreaming of Derrick Rose, there's plenty of time to speculate about trade possibilities. Honestly, I'm not usually big on manufacturing trade ideas--it's easy to get caught up in grass-is-greener speculation and 99% of the time there's nothing to it.  And especially during the season there's almost always something "real" going on which deserves more attention.  Plus, I'm lazy.

But while Alex will be talking a bit more about the Bucks' small forward options in the next day, excuse my offseason boredom for a second and humor me as I discuss my favorite fan-inspired trade of the moment: Josh Howard/Jerry Stackhouse for Mike Redd. The prevailing wisdom is that Redd's contract ($51 million over the next three years) mostly precludes the possibility of getting anything aside from draft picks, middling talent, and expiring contracts back, but the Mavericks could represent the perfect trade partner.  They've been thrown into chaos by their stumbling finish and first round playoff exit, they have an owner who doesn't care about the luxury tax, and Howard has taken a flying leap onto the trade block with his playoff no-show and dubious off-the-court antics.  In other words, we just might have the perfect storm needed to trade Redd for something of value.

 

A year removed from signing a shiny new four year, $40 million contract, Howard has spent the past week combining a miserable playoff series against the Hornets with some ill-timed and controversial statements about his offseason marijuana use. If that wasn't enough, he then got into further trouble by throwing himself a birthday party after the Maverick's game four loss. Given Mark Cuban's notoriously itchy trigger finger, it's not inconceivable that the Mavs could go for broke by adding a proven scorer like Redd to take some of the pressure off Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd.  And considering Dallas' lack of affordably-priced assets, it's obvious that the 28-year old Howard (owed $22 million over the next two seasons) is the team's most obvious trade bait, though a deal would most likely have to wait until July when Howard is no longer a base year player.

To the casual observer, Howard might not exactly be the ideal target for a Bucks team looking to remake itself with a disciplined, hard-working coach. Does John Hammond want to start his tenure by acquiring a guy the Dallas media is branding a "stupid weasel"? Well, perhaps not. But look a little deeper and it's clear Howard also isn't your stereotypical NBA pothead. More importantly, he's a player.  Standing 6'7" with a freakish 7'2" wingspan, Howard's a capable defender and rebounder  from the small forward position who would provide a massive upgrade to the current platoon of Desmond Mason and Bobby Simmons. And while he's not in Redd's class as a pure scorer, he's proven he can more than hold his own in that regard as well (19.9 ppg), having upped his scoring average every season. Like Redd, he's never going to be the alpha dog of a 50-win team, but both guys probably need a change of scenery to get back to their best.

Just as importantly, a Howard/Stackhouse deal would go a long way towards alleviating the luxury tax concerns the Bucks are currently headed towards in the 09/10 season. Check out The Bratwurst's terrific breakdown here. As it stands, Bogut (likely earning $10-12 million in the first year of his extension), Redd ($17 million), Simmons ($10.6), Mo ($8.9) and Gadzuric ($6.7) will by themselves cost upwards of $53-55 million. Add in Charlie Bell, ($3.6), Yi Jianlian ($3.2), first round picks this year and next year, the first year of Ramon Sessions' presumed extension and some lukewarm bodies to fill out the roster, and you're looking at something around $70 million, which should be in the ballpark of the luxury tax (currently $67.8 million).  Combine that with the fact that the current roster has shown no ability to win games, and it's clear that significant changes are in store, which John Hammond has already warned might not be pretty.

The key financial aspect of the Dallas trade is that while Redd has $51 million left on his deal (logically assuming he doesn't opt out of his $18 million 10/11 salary), Howard/Stackhouse have just $29 million owed to them (with team options for more). Stackhouse will make $7 million next year, and there's no team that would bite on his non-guaranteed $7.25 million for 09/10, so he's effectively an expiring contract. He might also simply be bought out if he's traded, which would make sense given that he nearly killed the Kidd to Dallas deal with comments to that effect.  Howard meanwhile has a team option of $12.3 million for the 10/11 season, a reasonable figure for a very good-but-not-great player.  So effectively, swapping Howard for Redd clears $5.65 million off the Bucks' 09/10 cap number and even more the following year.

From a PR perspective, Herb Kohl might have some hesitation trading his choir boy leading scorer for a player who will no doubt be dogged by pothead jokes for the rest of the summer and probably longer (at least we know Howard is willing to play for Herb...ha!).  But the reality is that anyone acquired in a Redd deal will be flawed in some respect, and buying low is generally the only way to get a guy like Howard at a reasonable price. Overall, the chance to add a player of Howard's abilities while also helping mitigate future luxury tax concerns would seem hard to beat at this point, unless Hammond and Skiles think they can get more out of Redd by keeping him. Unfortunately, Redd's legacy in Milwaukee might make that difficult. While there's no doubt that Redd's scoring would be missed, at $17 million per season he simply isn't good enough to carry a franchise, a burden he wouldn't have in Dallas.  Howard would by no means be a miracle cure for the Bucks, who would still be lacking the sort of franchise player that you need to win a championship. Still, for a team looking to turn the page and go in a new direction it would represent an important first step.

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