What Do You Do With Dwight Howard?
With the NBA’s March 15th trade deadline looming, the Orlando Magic have a tough decision to make – do they trade their franchise cornerstone in Dwight Howard or do they risk losing him for nothing by hanging on to him after the deadline?
Alex Kennedy covers the NBA from Orlando, while Alex Raskin does the same from New Jersey, so we asked them both – What do you do with Dwight Howard?
Are Deron Williams and Dwight Howard’s free agent prospects inextricably linked? Are they a package deal? Wade and LeBron?
Well, like anything involving a complex collective bargaining agreement, competing interests and a convoluted salary cap, nothing is ever that simple.
Yes, the two are friends. They see each other socially, eat together, etc. Yes, it’s more than speculation that the pair would welcome the opportunity to play with one another. These aren’t just educated guesses. This much is obvious.
What isn’t obvious is the pair’s willingness to accept less money to play with each other and that’s where things get tricky.
The Dallas Mavericks believe they can sign Williams next season (some sources outside of the organization going as far as to say it’s a “done deal”), but in order for both Williams and Howard to sign there, they’d have to do so for far below market value.
And even if Mavericks G.M. Donnie Nelson could pull off that miracle, he’d still have to shed all of the team’s bad money, which is a herculean task in itself. Center Brendan Haywood will make $9.798 million guaranteed in 2014-2015 while Shawn Marion and Roddy Beaubois represent a combined $10.5 million hurdle for next season.
However the Mavericks can still affect where Howard signs.
The NBA’s best defensive player won’t come to the Nets without Williams, who wasn’t shy about expressing his admiration for his hometown of Dallas on Monday.
“I always like playing here,” said Williams, whose Nets face the Mavericks tonight. “It’s probably my favorite (arena) to play in. I just enjoy playing here—I enjoy playing in front of my friends, family. It’s always good (when) they get the chance to come and see me play.”
Even Nets coach Avery Johnson—the former Mavericks coach—admitted that team owner Mark Cuban is “a threat” to sign Williams this summer.
But even the defending champion Dallas Mavericks can’t offer a package quite like the Nets, which is why Howard would do best to sign as a free agent this summer as opposed to signing an extension with the Magic or whoever acquires him before the end of this season.
First, even NBA players can live somewhat anonymously in New York. Williams lives in SoHo, and while he isn’t seven-feet tall like Howard, he goes about his business without having to gate himself off from the public like players have to in other communities.
Furthermore, Brooklyn’s new arena is tapping into a young, professional market with a propensity toward leisure spending. The borough has 2.5 million people (Dallas has 1.9 million and Orlando has 238,000 people), not to mention all of the wealthy Long Islanders that can conveniently take a train directly to the Barclays Center from their hometowns. The bottom line is, the Barclays Center isn’t Newark’s Prudential Center. The building, which is breathtaking, will have fans, advertising opportunities and, depending on the success of the Nets, lots of energy.
The Nets can also offer more in terms of talent than the Mavericks or the Magic, as odd as that sounds. If Dallas gutted its roster to sign Williams and Howard, the team would be left with Dirk Nowitzki and nothing else. Orlando can only offer more of the same (Hedo Turkoglu and his bloated contract, Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis, Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon, etc.).
The Nets, however, could have not one, but two players Howard expressed interest in playing with (he told a Russian TV station in June that he’d like to play with Williams AND Anthony Morrow). On top of that, there’s still an outside chance the team could re-sign center Brook Lopez in the offseason (Johnson has repeatedly said that Lopez can play forward on offense because of his ability to shoot a 17-foot jumper, which would give Howard room to operate in the paint) and then there’s the Nets’ draft situation, which includes their own first-round pick (which should be toward the top of the lottery) as well as the lottery protected pick of the Houston Rockets. The Nets also have rookie MarShon Brooks, who ranks second among rookies in scoring (14.6 PPG).
And then there are the peripheral benefits of playing with the Nets. GM Billy King already gives Williams input in personnel decisions and would undoubtedly do the same for Howard. Playing in New York gives Howard significantly more marketing opportunities, and working for Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov (perhaps Russia’s next president) gives the big man international appeal.
The Lakers might present the biggest hurdle in the Nets’ bid for Howard. If the Magic decide they don’t want to risk losing Howard in free agency, then taking the Lakers’ package of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol might be best (although it’s anyone’s guess if Howard would sign an extension in LA). According to Sports Illustrated’s Sam Amick, the Nets remain Howard’s preferred destination, and if that’s the case, there’s a very good chance Williams sticks around.
– Alex Raskin
Entering All-Star Weekend in Orlando, all eyes were on Dwight Howard. Fans and media alike wanted to know what the future holds for Howard and how much longer he’d be donning a Magic jersey. Would he be traded on March 15? Will he end up in New Jersey, Dallas or Los Angeles? Does Orlando have any chance to keep him?
Amid all of the tough questions, Howard kept his poise and deflected attention away from his situation. He gave unusable, one-word answers when talking about his future and made sure that it wasn’t the topic that dominated the weekend.
While there’s a possibility that Howard ends up on the Nets, there’s a growing belief that he’ll remain in Orlando for at least one more season. He recently asked the Magic’s front office to pursue Steve Nash, which indicates that he expects to finish the season in Orlando. Also, sources close to Howard have said that if Nash is acquired, the big man won’t exercise his early termination option this summer. This would be a smart decision for Howard, assuming Nash is acquired and re-signed by the Magic offseason. It gives him a chance to compete for a championship next season and more time to decide what he wants to do in the long run.
By putting off free agency for one year, he gives teams more time to clear cap room and opens up many new potential destinations. Also, if things don’t work out with Deron Williams, he’ll be in a loaded 2014 free agent class that could include Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Dirk Nowitzki. Howard won’t have any trouble finding another star to team up with out of that group.
Howard’s camp insists that signing a long-term deal in Orlando is still a possibility as well. If the team makes some changes this summer, it’s possible that Howard stays. One source close to Howard admitted that threatening to leave is the only way that Howard can truly get what he wants in Orlando.
One of Howard’s biggest problems with the front office was that they refused to make him part of the decision-making process in recent years. Now, the team has made several personnel decisions based on Howard’s input, including signing Glen Davis and “aggressively” pursuing Steve Nash. Howard appreciates that his opinions are being considered.
Howard and Williams teaming up in Brooklyn has been deemed the most likely scenario for months, but it could fall apart if either player decides to weigh other options. Howard won’t go to the Nets without Williams and vice versa. If the two players don’t land in Brooklyn together, league sources expect Williams to sign with the Dallas Mavericks and Howard to opt-in to the final year of his contract.
The Magic likely won’t trade Howard before the March 15 deadline, which means this saga won’t reach a conclusion for another five months. A lot can change between now and then.
– Alex Kennedy
What would you do with Dwight Howard? Drop your comments below.