NBA Free Agency will begin at 12:01am Eastern Time on July 1st. The most sought after player in this year’s free agent class will be Lakers center Dwight Howard who will meet with five teams this week in Los Angeles to decide his future. Here is a breakdown of each of those teams chances in the D12 sweepstakes.
There has been a lot of speculation for the last several months about Dwight Howard and Chris Paul coming to Atlanta to form a big three with Al Horford. Those chances are all but gone now that CP3’s representatives are telling other teams that he is a lock to resign with the Los Angeles Clippers. Howard will still meet with Danny Ferry and Hawks management this week in Los Angeles, but its hard to imagine him returning to his hometown now that Paul is staying on the West Coast. The Hawks Plan B could include resigning Josh Smith and pursuing Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson.
Mark Cuban will have the chance for a second straight summer to bring a superstar to the Metroplex. He wasn’t able to convince Deron Williams to return to his hometown a year ago, but he will be in Los Angeles this week with Dirk Nowitzki making a pitch to Dwight Howard. He and Nowitzki (who just turned 35) would form arguably the best center/power forward duo in the NBA. If the Mavericks are able to get Howard, the biggest question remaining is who else would be signed (for likely league minimum deals) to join the core of an aging team. Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, and Vince Carter would have been an upcoming trio to team up with in 2003, not so much in 2013.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors were the breakout team of this year’s NBA season. Stephen Curry reached superstar status and helped Golden State win their first playoff series in six years. Curry along with Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes is part of one of the league’s upcoming teams, however the Warriors are a long shot to sign Dwight Howard this summer, with the team well over the salary cap. Any chance that they have to get him would have to be through a sign and trade agreement, something the Lakers would be hesitant about doing with a team in their own division. Golden State may be entering the Dwight Howard sweepstakes a year too early with the combined $34 million+ salaries of Andrew Bogut, Richard Jefferson, and Andris Biedrins not coming off the books until next summer. The Warriors will be in a better position to sign a top free agent next summer.
The Rockets were unsuccessful in their attempts to trade for Dwight Howard last year, but are now in a much better position to get him this summer. Sometimes one year makes all the difference. 12 months ago, the Rockets were in the midst of a three season playoff drought and were a young team that lacked a superstar presence. 12 months later, the acquisition of James Harden has transformed the Association’s youngest team in to quite an intriguing option for the Howard to consider. Unlike the Mavericks and Hawks, the Rockets would not have to fill out their roster with ancillary players if they can get Howard. James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik, and Jeremy Lin is a better group of core players that what he would be joining in Dallas or Atlanta. The Rockets will also be the first team to meet with him once free agency begins.
Los Angeles Lakers
The 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers looked like a team for the ages and a championship contender, after pulling off deals for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash last summer. This past season was a complete bust for a team with such expectations beginning when Mike Brown got fired after five games, continuing with Kobe Bryant’s season ending injury, and concluding with getting swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. While there is a lot of speculation and rumors that Dwight Howard will sign with one of the teams in Texas, its hard to completely rule out the possibility of him staying with Los Angeles. The Lakers can offer him a guaranteed $118 million contract for five years, while the other teams can offer him up to $88 million over four years. That alone is 30 million reasons why he could decide to play with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol again.