Where Will Dwight Howard Play in 2013-2014?

Where Will Dwight Howard Play in 2013-2014?

Are the Rockets the front runners to land Dwight Howard?

Are the Rockets the front runners to land Dwight Howard? (Credit Edgars2007)

The race for Dwight Howard is on, and it seems as though the chase for D12′s services has (for now) narrowed to five NBA teams: the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks, and Dallas Mavericks. Each team has its own specific set of perks it can offer Howard that no other team can; similarly, each team has a list of negatives that make it a flawed choice.

As recently as last week, “Where will Dwight Howard play next year?” was a question that was easily answered: “Well, wherever Chris Paul goes, Dwight will follow.”

That response is no longer valid – not with reports that CP3 will take roughly $107 million to stay with the Los Angeles Clippers and play for new head coach Doc Rivers. The Clippers are not seen as viable contenders for Howard, so the oft-rumored partnership of CP3 and Dwight for the 2013-14 NBA season is off the table.

So the question must once again be asked: where is Dwight Howard going to play next year? Will he stay in LA? Will he head home to Atlanta and play for the Hawks? Or will the allure of one of the Texas teams be too great to ignore?

The race to sign Dwight Howard: the favorites

1. Houston Rockets. Unlike most of the other teams in the race for Howard, the Houston Rockets can actually afford to sign him to a max contract without giving up any of their core pieces. What that means is simple: the Rockets can pick up Dwight Howard, add him directly into their starting five, and be considered immediate contenders in the Western Conference.

With Howard, the new Rockets starting five would consist of Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik (or Thomas Robinson), and Dwight. Houston would become players in the race for the NBA’s Southwest Division, and could be major players for an upgrade at PG moving forward when Jeremy Lin’s contract comes off the books in 2014.

2. Los Angeles Lakers. No, it’s not the greatest story ever told. But bringing Dwight Howard back to the Lakers means that the Lake Show gets a second full season with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, and Dwight Howard in town. The interesting scenario in Los Angeles is this: past this season, only one player is under contract – Steve Nash. What this means is simple – after the 2013-14 season, Dwight Howard can basically go to Lakers management and tell them who he wants on the Lakers going forward.

In other words, after the 2013-14 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers may quickly transition from “Kobe’s team” to being “Dwight’s team”. Lakers fans, hold your breath.

The race to sign Dwight Howard: the contenders

3. Golden State Warriors. It’d be a really nice story if the Warriors could land Dwight Howard, and casual NBA fans may salivate over adding Howard to Golden State’s current starting lineup. The only problem is, that wouldn’t exactly be how this deal would happen.

In order to land Dwight Howard and stay under the salary cap, Golden State would have to give up Andrew Bogut, as well as a player like Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson. That, and Dwight Howard would be paired on the inside with David Lee – a hard-nosed scorer, but a defensive liability. If D12 leaves the Lakers, it will be (in part) to get away from a defensive liability at PF in Pau Gasol – will Howard really leave one “soft” scoring PF just to run with another?

4. Dallas Mavericks. The only way that Dallas gets this deal done is if Mark Cuban can entice another nice free agent (or two) into town to play with Dwight Howard. Otherwise, Mark Cuban’s basically offering Dwight the chance to play with Dirk Nowitzki for two years, while the pair of talented 7-footers try to compensate for the glorified D-leaguers playing at the other positions.

In order to get Dwight Howard into town, Mark Cuban will likely have to sign 2 of the following players: Brandon Jennings, Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, J.R. Smith and/or Andre Iguodala. With Shane Larkin coming aboard in the 2013 NBA Draft, the PG position may be handled. So if Cuban can construct a Dallas Mavericks starting five that boasts Shane Larkin, J.R. Smith, Andre Iguodala and Dirk Nowitzki, that may persuade D12 to join Dallas.

The race to sign Dwight Howard: the longshots

5. Atlanta Hawks. “If he signs with Atlanta, Dwight gets to play at home!” Oh, great. Because we all know that NBA stars love the distractions and pressure of playing in their hometowns. Ah, that’s right – they don’t. Atlanta will probably lose Josh Smith and Jeff Teague in free agency, Al Horford isn’t quite the running mate that Dwight Howard has in mind, and there’s something else… oh yes. Atlanta’s home crowd sucks. (Don’t get mad, Hawks fans. Instead, try buying tickets to some games.)

6. Cleveland Cavaliers. Just hear the logic out. The Cavaliers already have the best point guard under 25 in the NBA in Kyrie Irving. They drafted two solid forwards in the 2013 NBA Draft, in #1 overall pick Anthony Bennett and Russian SF Sergey Karasev. Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao are solid, serviceable players.

As of this moment, Cleveland has no money guaranteed to any player on its roster – all its contracts are team options or qualifying offers. In other words, the Cavaliers could basically let go of anyone they wanted to clear room for Dwight Howard. For Howard, the move would present an opportunity to play with Kyrie Irving – and in 2014, would provide a very, very intriguing opportunity for LeBron James to come back to Cleveland and play with Kyrie and Dwight.

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