Jae C. Hong, AP
The Dwight Howard sweepstakes has officially begun with four teams and the incumbent Lakers making their pitches. It's anyones guess where Howard will end up, and Howard's history of waffling on big decisions only adds more intrigue. Here is a run down of the potenial landing spots for Howard:
Los Angeles Lakers
Howard has stated his ultimate goal is to win rings, and what franchise can make a better pitch in that department than the Lakers?
Last season, the Lakers had a midseason coaching change, Howard was coming off back surgery and was admittedly not 100 percent for the opener, Steve Nash was out for a large part of the season, and the team had injuries to Pau Gasol and a season-ending injury to Kobe Bryant. Yet they still were able to squeak into the playoffs with a higher seed than Houston.
Next season will surely be more consistent, and with the contracts of Bryant and Gasol and all of the team's role players expiring at the end of next season, the Lakers will have some serious cash to spend on players to build around Howard. Speaking of cash, not only can the Lakers offer Howard $30 million more than any other team, but the Los Angeles market could be a cash cow as far as endorsements are concerned.
This choice seems the most likely should Howard decide to leave Los Angeles. Howard had a meeting with the Rockets shortly after the free agency period opened Sunday night.
Hakeem Olajuwan, Clyde Drexler, James Harden and Chandler Parsons, along with Rockets executives, made the trip to pitch Howard, and Yao Ming talked to Howard from China via Skype.
From a team perspective, this situation seems the most ideal fit for Howard. The Rockets have a core of young talent to build around and already have a playoff-caliber roster without Howard.
In his meeting with the Rockets, Howard reportedly asked them to add a third superstar, which may be hard for Houston to do given the money they would spend on Howard.
From a team-building perspective, Dallas does not offer much more than the Lakers. The Mavericks' big contracts won't expire until the end of next season, making any immediate free-agency acquisition with Howard improbable.
However, given their styles of play, Dirk Nowitzki and Howard could form quite a compelling duo. The addition of Howard would all but solidify a post-season spot for Dallas, and, unlike in Los Angeles, the Mavericks would be definitively Howard's team.
Also helping the cause is owner Mark Cuban, who has shown no hesitation in the past to throw down the money necessary to lure big-name free agents.
After Chris Paul announced he was re-signing with the Clippers, the Hawks' stock quickly plummeted. Atlanta was hoping to lure both Paul and Howard, who had expressed mutual interest in playing together.
Atlanta has the most cap space of any team heading into free agency, and, should Howard sign, the team would have the ability to potentially bring in some other high-priced free agents.
While the Hawks could go on an offseason spending spree, it seems likely that the team would not be contenders for at least a couple of seasons, which goes against Howard's stated goal of wanting to win championships.
Golden State Warriors
Perhaps the surprise of the bunch, the Golden State Warriors were not on the radar until the team expressed interest in Howard and requested a meeting last week.
The Warriors have no cap space to sign Howard and would have to complete a sign-and-trade with the Lakers, which seems very unlikely. Because of the sign-and-trade scenario, it is hard to know what players would be on the roster should they acquire Howard.
Golden State did make an impressive playoff run last season and is the only team courting Howard that finished with a better record than the Lakers.
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