I'm confused why everyone so quickly wants to dump Brook Lopez for Dwight Howard. First and foremost (as Rod loved to say) Brook is 7 feet all day every day. He is also only 22 years old (soon to be 23). Brook is averaging 19.4 and 5.8 this year and is a career 17 and 8; having spent much of his career on a rebuilding team with nobody sure if they were coming or going. Now, with Deron Williams at PG - he is probably good for 24-25 points per game.
As for his rebounding numbers being down this year - I see 2 primary reasons for this:
1) He finally has had a strong rebounding presence at the 4 (Hump, Favors) who are highly gifted rebounders. It is misleading to look at Hump's overall rebounding numbers because of his limited usage earlier in the season - but if you look at him from a rebounds per 40 minutes he is averaging 17.6 which is fifth behind Reggie Evans (who has only played in 15 games so skewed numbers), Kevin Love, Dwight Howard and Marcus Camby. And Favors has contributed with 13.1 rebounds per 40. In contrast last year Yi's rebounds per 40 minutes were 10.8 and the year before they were 11.0 rebounds per 40 minutes (or 7.2 and 5.3 per game respectively). Lopez got more rebounds strictly because more rebounds were available as he did not play alongside a rebounding PF. I think this is the most overlooked aspect of the declining rebounds in his game this season. Hump is routinely getting double digit boards per game - that significantly reduces the number of potential rebounds available to Brook.
2) In this offense, Brook is routinely sealing his man and once he sees Hump or Favors in position to grab the board, he releases and heads upcourt to get himself in position for the offensive set. People tend to forget that he is a cornerstone of the offense and until he is set on the block, the offense is typically stagnant as this is not a high octane fast breaking offense. Therefore, he needs to release and get upcourt once he sees that the rebound will be secured by his PF.
People tend to forget how much better guys become with a true pass first PG. I do not mean to disrespect Devin Harris' game at all - as he was a very good trooper considering all that happened here and all the transition. But Devin is really more of a combo guard or even a straight SG. Deron is a pure PG in the mold of Jason Kidd and Steve Nash. He is a throwback type of player.
I would argue that the Nets will be much more effective WITH Brook at center than they would be with Dwight Howard because it allows Avery to open up the playbook and run various pick and rolls and pick and pops. With Dwight Howard in the middle, you can NOT run any pick and pops as he does not have a mid range jumper. If you notice, Orlando has always tried to employ a true stretch 4 around Dwight in order to create spacing on the floor (and they also have a pass first PG in Jameer Nelson). The Nets do not have to worry as much about spacing in the paint, as they have a Center who oftentimes moves to the 12-16 foot area on the court while the PF is under the hoop.
Deron Williams is going to create easier scoring opportunites for everyone (dump offs to Hump under the hoop, kick outs to the perimeter shooters, pick and rolls/pops with Brook, and transition scoring).
For comparison purposes lets also look at Brook's season stats in year 3 (with constant trade rumors swirling around a team in transition without a true pure PG) vs Dwight's stats from year 3 along with year 5 (as Dwight came straight to the NBA from HS):
As a scorer they are virtually equal in scoring ability, however they have different types of offensive games. Dwight is strictly a low block power scorer who rarely goes more than 5 feet from the basket, and has always played with a pass first PG in Jameer Nelson. Brook scores many of his points from mid-range and is very affective in the pick and pop game. He also has not had the privilege of playing with a pass first PG as typically the offense was run thru Devin on the perimeter, whereas in Orlando the offense is run thru Dwight in the low block. This explains the disparity in the FG% of each guy, however Dwight is a black hole at the FT line and frequently is fouled late in games by teams who dare him to beat them at the line. Brook is a very capable shooter from the stripe, and will rarely be intentionally fouled in close games.
Howard is a dominant rebounder, however much of this comes from playing under the basket and also being paired with a stretch 4 for much of his career. Brook on the other hand, is playing with a dominant rebounding PF (as outlined above -hence there are less rebounding opportunities).
When you factor in the discrepancy in salaries and in what a max deal would be for Dwight vs Brook (due to difference in years of service) - Brook is a much better value for this team and is going to be better suited to playing alongside of Deron Williams than Dwight Howard. Remember a $3m per year difference can be the difference between another star player and a lesser tier player.
The Nets best plan of action should be to hope that Brook continues to develop with Deron Williams at the PG and to focus on finding a top tier SG or SF to pair with a Deron/Brook combo - with a competent bench featuring shooters (like Morrow, Sasha, Farmar, etc). And I can not stress this enough - but the absolute best case scenario for our first round pick (Lakers pick) would be to land Kenny Faried in the draft to provide Brook with what would be the best rebounding PF duo in Hump and Faried.