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Howard mega-deal reshapes fantasy landscape
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's been a busy week in the world of sports. The Olympics are going on in London, the PGA Championship is being played in South Carolina and NFL preseason action is finally underway.

Yet somehow Dwight Howard was able to overshadow all of these events, and he didn't even need to lace up a pair of basketball shoes to do it.

I guess that's why they call him "Superman."

The Los Angeles Lakers, already equipped with the impressive trio of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, got even better Friday by acquiring Howard in a monumental four-team, 12-player deal.

Howard, a six-time All-Star during his tenure with Orlando, wasn't the only big name to switch cities. Center Andrew Bynum and swingman Andre Iguodala were also dealt on Friday. Both players made the All-Star team for their respective conferences in 2011-12.

With so many valuable pieces in motion, Friday's mega-deal is sure to produce far-reaching fantasy consequences.

Let's start in Los Angeles where Howard joins a star-studded cast comprised of five All-Stars, two MVPs and a former defensive player of the year.

Bynum rarely exhibited maximum effort during his seven-year stint in Los Angeles, so Howard already represents a major defensive upgrade for the Lakers. Howard's offensive game might be a little less polished than Bynum's but he is still a safe bet for 18-20 points per contest, especially with Nash anchoring the Lakers' attack.

Speaking of Nash, because the 16-year veteran now has Bryant, Gasol, Antawn Jamison and Howard to pass to, you wouldn't expect him to take many shots next season, right?

Think again. With defenses double-teaming Howard in the low post and Bryant on the perimeter, Nash should get plenty of open looks next season. Even at age 38, Nash was able to knock down a career-high 53.2 percent of his field goal attempts in 2011-12, so he's still very capable of putting the ball in the hoop when given the opportunity. That's why I'm predicting that Nash will at least equal his ppg average from a season ago (12.5 ppg).

Nash and Howard should thrive in their new homes, but the change of scenery may not be as kind to incumbents Bryant and Gasol. Bryant chucked up a league- leading 23 shots per game in 2011-12 and it's hard to imagine he'll repeat that feat now that he'll be sharing touches with Nash and Howard on a regular basis.

With that said, Bryant is still this team's best player and the one Los Angeles will rely on in crunch time. I believe Kobe's scoring average will only be about two or three points below the 27.9 he tallied last season.

With Bynum's emergence last season, Gasol went from the Lakers' second-best scoring option to their third-best. Now with Howard and Nash on the scene, Gasol should carry even less weight in Mike Brown's offense next season. Expect Gasol, who averaged a career-low in points a season ago, to be a fantasy disappointment in 2012-13.

While Gasol faces a gloomy fantasy outlook heading into next season, the future couldn't be brighter for Bynum, who will be playing only 45 miles away from his hometown of Plainsboro, New Jersey when he suits up for the 76ers in 2012-13.

For the first time in his career, Bynum will be the focal point of an NBA offense as Philadelphia point guard Jrue Holiday (4.5 apg) will look to feed the 24-year-old in the low post early and often.

Sure Bynum carries some baggage but head coach Doug Collins has always had a knack for reeling in egos and getting the most out of his young talent. It's not a stretch to believe that Bynum could be the highest scoring center in professional hoops next season.

As for Iguodala, the situation he'll enter in Denver next season is very similar to the one he just came from in Philadelphia. While the Nuggets lack the superstar talent that Miami and other teams might have, they still enjoyed a reasonable amount of success last season because of their commitment to balance. That same approach was what led the 76ers to within one game of the Eastern Conference Finals last May. My guess is that Iguodala won't have any trouble fitting into Denver's system and that his stat line (12.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 5.5 apg, 1.7 spg) from last season should remain pretty much intact.

The fantasy ramifications of Friday's trade aren't as clear for the Magic, who acquired mostly spare parts in exchange for their franchise center. Of the four players Orlando collected in the deal, Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington should carry the most fantasy relevance.

Harrington was a very serviceable sixth man in Denver, notching 14.2 ppg and 6.1 rpg in 64 games last season. He should have a chance to be an even bigger contributor in his new home. Harrington is likely to fill the hole at power forward left by Ryan Anderson, who departed via a sign and trade earlier in the offseason.

Afflalo reached a new career-high in scoring with 15.2 ppg with the Nuggets last season and appears to be entering the prime of his career. Given the Magic's lack of depth, Afflalo could be a candidate for a breakout season. Look for the 26-year-old to get plenty of run as Orlando's new starting shooting guard in 2012-13.

The player who could see the most dramatic rise in fantasy ownership as a result of this trade might be Orlando forward/center Glen Davis. Big Baby blew up for 16.4 ppg and 8.8 rpg filling in for Howard at center over the final month of last season (Howard was out with an injured back), so he'll already be heading into next season with plenty of momentum. The 8.8 rpg he averaged during that stretch probably isn't sustainable considering Davis' lack of height (6-foot-9) and his nonexistent leaping ability. But even if he doesn't grab as many boards, Big Baby's fluid shooting stroke should still propel him to a respectable 14-15 ppg average.

The fantasy implications of the Howard trade are fascinating but more than anything, the swap should come as a giant relief to all involved.

Rest easy folks. The eight-month Dwightmare is finally over.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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