By: Prad and Jon
It looks like Dwight Howard’s stay in Hollywood is nearing its end as sources report that he is attempting to sign a max deal with another team. Howard had a difficult time this season with the Lakers. Part of the problem was being able to coexist with a star- studded roster. He also blames his ability to work within Mike D’Antoni’s system. Whatever the reason may be that Howard wasn’t a good fit in LA, he averaged some pretty bad numbers by his standards. He had his lowest scoring output since his sophomore season (17.1 PPG) and averaged the worst boards per game since his third season in the league (12.4 RPG). Howard will be at the forefront of the free agency period, which begins on July 1. It was previously reported that Chris Paul and him would want to team up and play together next season, but it is confirmed that Paul will remain in Los Angeles and re-sign with the Clippers. Howard’s potential spots for next season include Dallas, Atlanta, and Houston. The latter of which is the biggest possibility.
The Rockets will be the first to meet with the center on Sunday night. They will most probably be offering a four year max deal worth $88 million. Although this offer could be surpassed by the Lakers, Texas doesn’t incur an income tax. Also, the Rockets are one of the most international teams in terms of broadcasting because of former talent, Yao Ming and current point guard, Jermey Lin. His brand will become very marketable in Asia. Houston already has a strong team with a star in James Harden, who averaged 25.9 points a game this past season which accounted for 5th in the league. He led the Rockets to the playoffs and a tough fought series with the previous Western Conference Champs, OKC Thunder. The Rockets only have young big men (Thomas Robinson, Donatas Motiejuanas, Tim Ohlbrecht, and Greg Smith) with the exception of Omer Asik who’s going to turn 27 next week. Dwight Howard could serve as a possible mentor to all of this young talent. If he decides to team up with Harden, this core could stay together for at least another five years since Howard is relatively young, 27 and Harden is only 23. The only problem seems to be that Dwight Howard doesn’t necessarily exist well with other talented players, which was exemplified this year with Kobe and Pau Gasol. But, all the pros in this scenario are irresistible for D12 to pass up.
Atlanta is in a good position because they have a lot of cap space and a solid power forward/center in Al Horford. Horford is a star and borderline superstar, averaging 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds. Atlanta, unlike other teams, has the ability to sign two stars. However, with the latest news about Paul, it is very unlikely that Howard will sign with his hometown team. If Atlanta could have teamed Howard with Paul and Horford, they would probably be the favorites in the NBA. However, Atlanta can still field a capable team that can compete with Miami and the other east powers. If Atlanta re-signed Josh Smith and signed another star like Andre Iguodala or Brandon Jennings, Atlanta would have a dangerous starting five and at least have a chance at winning the Eastern Conference. Although Dwight Howard grew up in Atlanta, he has never expressed interest in returning. The Hawks have the worst odds of obtaining Howard, which should not come as a surprise.
Although the Mavericks have little chance of winning the championship next season if they sign Howard, they will have a chance the following season because of the financial sacrifice that Dirk Nowitzki is willing to undertake. Currently, Dirk Nowitzki is in the last year of his contract, making over $20 million. Dirk and Dwight would be making over half of the Mavericks’ salary cap. However, Dirk has stated that he would be willing to take a major pay cut to sign another superstar in the 2014 offseason. In 2014, there could be a lot of good free agents that can propel Dallas to the championship. If Nowitzki takes a pay cut, Dallas will be able to sign a big name free agent as well as a number of quality pieces for their bench. Unlike the Rockets, the Mavericks have a championship winning coach, player, and owner. With the help of Mark Cuban, Dwight can become a bigger name and sign more lucrative endorsement deals. Since people close to Dwight are saying that he does not like the Lakers’ situation, Dallas will be a very attactive option becomes Nowitzki and their ability to sign another high priced free agent as well as a deep bench.
His current team can offer Howard a max deal approximately five years $118 million. Yet the money might not be everything for Howard, because his main concern may be where he’s the main figure on his team or where he has the best chance to win an NBA title. The aforementioned reasons about Mike D’Antoni and the roster filled with stars made it difficult for Howard to work and it will stay that way as long as D’Antoni stays in Los Angeles. But, Howard doesn’t want to go to LA after D’Antoni is fired because that will arouse suspicion about the correlation between D’Antoni’s firing and Howard’s signing. He already caused a stir when Howard forced the Orlando Magic organization to fire their head coach, Stan Van Gundy. Wherever Howard lands, one aspect is clear: he wants to be competitive and be in an environment where he can win a championship. Ultimately, I predict that Howard will end up playing in Houston alongside James Harden.
All Pictures and Stats from ESPN.com