All is quiet and seems well at the moment. The Los Angeles Lakers (after a horrible start to the season) are fighting for the 8th spot in the playoffs despite the many injuries the team has faced. Dwight Howard was one of the players who missed some time due to injuries, but he’s played most of the season through his injuries. His injuries could have been one of the factors in his play or he could have still been bitter about being traded to LA and not Brooklyn. This summer he’ll have a chance to go where he “wants” and it could get ugly again.
Many people, including Shaquille O’Neal, are doing a form of recruiting to keep Howard in LA. Howard seems to have taken note and is starting to come around to the idea, plus the money that comes with signing with them. Yet, I think he’s going to do a 180, 360 and another 180 before he decides where he goes.
The major factors that will go into Howard’s decision come down to having the best chance to win a championship, money and marketability, in my opinion of course. Maybe it’s exactly what he’s looking for, but in a different order or maybe it’s not even on his mind that way at all. Who knows?!
Here are my top 5 choices for Dwight Howard based on what pieces the teams have and available money to spend:
1. Houston Rockets – The Rockets have the money to pay Howard a max deal without the need of a sign-and-trade with the Lakers. At the moment they have a top 5 scorer in the NBA in James Harden and the 2nd leading rebounder in the NBA in Omer Asik (3rd after Nikola Vucevic’s big night) behind Howard. Those two players alone are great to build a team around. Howard would only help the team with the scoring load as well as defense and rebounding.
Add players like Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons who have proven to be great role players in the league and have the ability to go off for 30 points any given night. You also have guys like Thomas Robinson, Donatas Motiejunas, Greg Smith and Terrence Jones who appear to have bright futures makes them an attractive option.
Playing on the Rockets with their present players I think coach Kevin McHale would make them the twin towers starting both Howard and Asik together. A starting lineup of Lin, Harden, Parsons, Howard and Asik would contend immediately in the Western Conference and for a title.
On the other hand, Howard may want the amount of money the Lakers can give him and that would force the Rockets to have to make a sign-and-trade. Under those circumstances, Asik and young player might have to be given up to make the deal, but Harden and Lin will still be there.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers – The Cavaliers have Kyrie Irving aka Uncle Drew….need I say more? When healthy, Irving has one of the brightest futures in the NBA. Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters have shown enough that you can consider solid players moving forward. Add the fact that the Cavs will most likely end up with a top 5 draft pick and a top talent to add to the mix.
They have quite a few players that could be headed out through free agency, including Daniel Gibson, Luke Walton, Shaun Livingston, Omri Casspi, Wayne Ellington and Marreese Speights. Some may be retained, some may not. Anderson Varejao was drafted by the Magic to be Howard’s backup, but was traded. He may finally get that official job (whether he wants it or not) or he may be traded in a package to the Lakers.
You also have guys who can be solid role players in Tyler Zeller and Alonzo Gee. Can you say Irving, Waiters, SF, Thompson, Howard and TREY BURKE coming off the bench? I smell success.
3. Los Angeles Lakers – Howard can stay, play out Kobe Bryant’s final days of his career and be the future of the Lakers. He can be apart of the Lakers legacy of centers being mentioned with Shaq, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and George Mikan. He can also get paid more money than any other team can pay him. He’s also next door to Hollywood and could pursue off the court endeavors.
On the other hand, Kobe said he’s probably only going to play 1 more season (I think he’s staying to break the scoring record honestly) and without Kobe they are not title contenders. Everyone can make the argument that the Lakers find ways to make dynasties, which has proven to be true, but it’s going to take time to recover from the loss of Kobe Bryant. That’s just a fact.
I don’t see any present player that can have his type of impact ( and you better not say LeBron James ). Personally I’m inclined to make this #5 on the list, because I don’t think he’s coming back. I understand the Lakers have had many injuries this season, but with their “Dream Team” of two definite Hall of Fame players (Kobe Bryant & Steve Nash), 1 possible Hall of Fame player (Pau Gasol), Howard and 2 very good NBA players (Ron Artest aka Metta World Peace & Antawn Jamison) and struggling to make the playoffs bodes horribly for Howard’s future decision.
At the end of the day, his time with Kobe has probably made him a better player moving forward, I just don’t think he wants to play with him.
4. Milwaukee Bucks – The Bucks have money to spend and their top players are headed into free agency. Brandon Jennings is restricted and wants a max deal (which he WON’T get no matter the team, IMO), Monta Ellis has a player option and it’s a fact he will not receive the same money in the open market and recently acquired J.J. Redick (Howard’s former teammate). They need at least 2 of those guys to return, maybe only one though.
Larry Sanders has improved his game and does what’s needed at his position, rebound and block shots. Ersan Ilyasova is a very underrated forward who can play both positions well. He has a nice post game and can stretch the floor to 3-point range. Samuel Dalembert, Mike Dunleavy and Marquis Daniels are also headed to free agency, but I think one of the swing men will be retained.
Making the playoffs is a good thing for any team, but missing out and having a chance at better talent in the draft could be better. They could find a steal in the draft and just run with that. Howard, Ilyasova, Jennings/Ellis/Redick, Sanders and John Henson have a young core group of players that could have a bright future.
5. Dallas Mavericks – The Mavericks have an owner in Mark Cuban that will happily open up his wallet and throw money at a chance to win a championship. Dirk Nowitzki is one of the best PF’s ever to play the game of basketball. He’s nearing the end of his career just as Kobe Bryant is, but paired with Howard would make the team much better. O.J. Mayo has a player option of returning and I think he’ll stay, because he most likely will not get more yearly from another team. He may opt out and re-sign with the Mavs for more money as well.
The Mavs have a lot of players going into free agency, including Brandon Wright, Anthony Morrow, Mike James, Elton Brand and Chris Kaman while Darren Collison and Rodrigue Beaubois are restricted. I think Jae Crowder is a great piece to build around and Cuban will spend some money this off-season. He opened up a lot of in hopes of landing Howard and/or Chris Paul. The Mavs have a great chance.