Editor's Note: Front-paged because andytobo LOVES Dwight Howard
Adrian Wojnarowski, a basketball writer who hasn't been kind in his predictions or statements regarding the Mavericks recently, just offered up this little nugget:
"Overwhelming favorite." I don't know whether to sing Kumbaya and dance around in glee or just say "Tsk, tsk, there goes silly Adrian Wojnarowski again."
The reality is that the Dwight saga could take any number of turns before his free agency period begins in July 2013.
The Magic could opt to keep him, after all this, and gamble on the hope that he re-signs for 5 years and $100 million, a year's extra security that other teams can't offer. That seems highly unlikely now with reports that Howard has re-told Rob Hennigan he won't re-sign with Orlando and wants to be traded. In that event, Orlando could just say "screw it, we're not sending him to the Lakers or New Jersey to build a superteam" and take the cap space. They'd still have the contracts of Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu to get rid of, though, so that might not seem like their best option (though, incidentally, Orlando just signed Jameer Nelson to an outrageous deal on the level of what Goran Dragic and Jeremy Lin are getting paid).
Orlando could choose to deal him to a team like the Rockets, who could offer tons of young, talented, cheap pieces, draft picks galore, and the ability to take back the Magic's bad contracts. Daryl Morey has never had any qualms about trading for Howard without assurances that he will re-sign in 2013; his amnestying of Luis Scola, a very quality starting power forward, no doubt proved that. But perhaps he will change his stance if Howard continues to adamantly state he has no interest in Houston, even with it's newfound sexiness and global marketability in the wake of Lin's arrival.
The Lakers, an aging team pretty much all around with the exception of Andrew Bynum, have long been interested in Howard as their potential superstar to help transition away from, and eventually replace, the Kobe Bryant era. Last year, media coverage of the trade framed it as a "Gasol and Bynum for Howard" sort of deal, which didn't really make much sense. Gasol alone earns $19 million, a figure far too high given his production, even though he remains a fantastically skilled low-post player. And Bynum, at this point, possesses a lot of the same intangible deficiencies that Howard has shown over the last year -- immaturity, selfishness, etc. He also is an unrestricted free agent next summer, meaning he has crucial leverage over trades. Beyond these two, even, the Lakers would have great difficulty accumulating the little lubricating pieces that ease through a massive deal -- their draft picks were traded away for Steve Nash and they have few talented youngsters and close to no roster flexibility to absorb contracts. No doubt, their interest will still remain as Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss would love to snare a star of Howard's caliber -- especially to pair with Nash, Gasol, and Bryant -- but you have to wonder what Orlando would possibly get out of such a deal other than maybe Howard's satisfaction.
The last team, and most hyped of late, is the Brooklyn Nets. They've made no secret of their desires to bring Howard to Brooklyn, and it seems like he was all set to pack earlier in the month. Unfortunately for them, the trade fell through at the last minute and the Nets were forced to re-sign Brook Lopez or risk another team sending him an offer sheet. In a trade for Howard, Nets GM Billy King can offer a package of cheap talent surrounding Lopez, a gifted young offensive center who struggles with most everything else. Kris Humphries was re-signed this summer at the insane cost of two years, $12 million, presumably as a throw-in to another team that would help facilitate the trade. The trade would have to take place after January 15, the date when all offseason signees are allowed to be traded. That's far on down the line and both Howard and the Magic would probably like to part ways sooner, but the Nets can't be counted out. Of all the teams trading for Howard, the Nets are the only one with a shot at convincing him to sign a long-term extension.
And yet. Dwight's agent, Dan Fegan, publicly said four days ago that Howard "fully intends to explore free agency at the end of next season, regardless of what team trades for him, including Brooklyn."
That is excellent news for the Mavericks. Now, if Howard does get traded to Brooklyn, it's still pretty much all over. He might technically make it to the free agency period, but that would only be a formality. His commitment would be clear and he would only delay to sign a 5-year extension that they could then offer him. But if Howard is traded to any other team in the league, maybe even the Lakers, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson have got to feel pretty good about their chances. Dallas has the roster flexibility that would allow them to execute sign-and-trades for Howard and the Magic's other bad contracts, a few young players that could develop into valuable contributors, and Howard's stated interest (they appeared on his original three-team list which also included the Nets and Lakers). These are all very important factors that could position the Mavs to swoop in and land Howard should the opportunity arise.
Cuban and Nelson were lambasted this summer for not closing the deal with Deron Williams, a guy who, according to all sources, really liked the Mavericks and even admitted he was leaning our way until the one-on-one meetings. Suffice it to say that if they reel in Dwight Howard, all the criticism directed their way will vanish. Williams is an excellent talent and one of the top five point guards in the game, but Howard is simply on another level -- the biggest of all the "big fish" and the most dominant center since Shaquille O'Neal in his prime.
Some will question whether we should even want Dwight Howard after all this nonsense he's put us through. He has gone from feigning ignorance to trade rumors to asking for his coach's firing to outright demanding a trade to rescinding his early termination option and proclaiming "I'm too loyal" to repeating the same cycle with the Magic's new front office. His (and his agent's) handling of the situation has been very poor to say the least. But these types of ugly passive-aggressive squabbles and dramas are inevitable in business, especially one as public and messy and ego-driven as professional basketball. The Dwightmare as a whole won't be totally forgotten, but it will hardly overshadow Howard's worth as a player or come to define his image in a few years, just the same as it was for Carmelo Anthony in his trade saga with the Nuggets. Howard's talent and consistent production are just too much to pass up and pursuing him is absolutely a no-brainer, no matter what image problems or personal issues he may have had.
So for the first time maybe ever, let's hope Adrian Wojnarowski is right and we see a new top-flight defensive center sign with the Dallas Mavericks. We know what followed the last time that happened.