According to ESPN sources in Los Angeles, Dwight Howard is unlikely to re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers this summer and will most likely opt to try out free agency starting July 1. The Lakers can offer Howard a five year deal worth $118 million while other teams are only able to offer him a four year deal worth $88. Despite potentially being able to earn $30 million more, Howard doesn’t look to be staying in Laker Land next season even though the franchise is desperately trying to convince him otherwise.
With Chris Paul almost guaranteed to resign with the Los Angeles Clippers next season, Howard becomes the most high profile and coveted free agent this off-season. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year is clearly unhappy playing in Mike D’Antoni’s system and alongside Kobe Bryant, and wants a fresh start elsewhere. As of now, the three teams in the running for signing Dwight Howard are the Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks, and Houston Rockets. Howard has already indicated that he will meet with representatives of all three teams.
Let’s analyze each option that Dwight Howard has:
In the past, Howard has expressed interesting in returning to his hometown to play for the Hawks. However, Dwight in Atlanta only seemed like a plausible scenario if Chris Paul had joined him in Atlanta, but with Paul a lock to return for the Clippers next year, it’s unlikely that Howard plays for the Hawks next year. Atlanta has plenty of cap space to offer him a maximum contract, but it’s still a long shot. Since Atlanta is the most unlikely destination, Dallas and Houston seem more enticing for the big man. Plus, Texas has no income tax.
It’s no secret Mark Cuban badly wants to see Dwight Howard playing for the Mavs next year. The Mavs traded multiple draft picks this year and signed a lot of their current players to one-year deals last year with the hopes of going after a superstar this summer. Dirk Nowitski has also reached out to Dwight to persuade him to come to Dallas and has even agreed to take a significant pay cut this coming season to clear some extra cap space. If the Mavs can get rid of Shawn Marion’s $9 million contract, that should give them enough space to sign Howard to a max deal. On a team with an aging superstar, Howard would instantly become the franchise player, which is a status he enjoyed for some time with the Orlando Magic.
The Rockets are one of a few franchises that are financially flexible and capable of acquiring Howard’s services for a high cost. A lot of Houston’s players are on non-guaranteed deals, which gives the Rockets the opportunity to clear space for Howard to join a young team with a bright future. James Harden would still be the franchise player, but Howard would have less pressure on his shoulders than he did in Los Angeles. Harden and Chandler Parsons have actively tried to recruit Howard ever since word of his indecision to stay in LA came out. Although the Rockets are known for playing an up-tempo perimeter shooting style, Kevin McHale is certainly capable of adjusting his system to fit Howard’s needs.
It will definitely be an interesting off-season for Dwight Howard, and after long hard thought, I predict that Howard will play for….a Texas team. But, really, the Mavs and Rockets are both suitable landing spots for someone of Howard’s skill set.