Dwight Howard Free Agency Props and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 5/8/2013
The Dodgers stink. So do the Angels. Southern Cal football seems to be taking a step back. UCLA football appears to be improving but still doesn't have the buzz of the Trojans. I mention all this because even though the Los Angeles Lakers' season ended on April 28 with an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers will dominate the L.A. sports scene all summer because of Dwight Howard.
Actually, writing a Dwight Howard summer props story is getting to be an annual affair. I did so last year right after he was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Lakers in a four-team deal. For what it's worth, I then recommended Howard “over” 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds for L.A. He finished at 17.1 and 12.4 because: 1) he clearly didn't fit in well in Mike D'Antoni's offense (who would have thought a year ago that Mike D'Antoni would be the Lakers' coach?); 2) Howard never was 100 percent healthy off his back problems and also had a severe shoulder injury. The good news is that he won't need offseason surgery on the torn labrum. The Lakers' win total was originally projected at 58.5, and I strongly recommended “under” there. It wasn't close.
Now the focus shifts to Howard's impending free agency. Despite the fact he's a bit of a whiner and has all of a sudden been injury-prone, he's going to get a max deal from some team. The Lakers can offer him one more year (five) and nearly $30 million more than any club. However, Howard didn't like playing in Kobe Bryant's shadow as well as under D'Antoni.
Howard could have put all this to rest and just signed an extension, but he obviously likes the attention. Here's what he said about his future plans: "For me, I'm going to do what's best for myself, what's going to make me happy. At the end of the day, I can't control who likes me and who dislikes me but I have the right to be happy. That's what I'm going to do. That's the biggest thing right there."
Would Howard really love the celebrity scene of Los Angeles and give up the chance to be the Lakers' latest franchise center? Money doesn't buy everything. Kobe thinks he will be back, and Bryant's injury could be a blessing in disguise as he's not likely to return for at least the first few months of the 2013-14 season. That would make the Lakers Howard's team, unquestionably.
Sportsbook.ag lists a few options on where Howard will play his first regular-season game next year. Let's look at all of them.
--Lakers (-300): The Lakers should be a favorite as they have everything in their favor -- I believe it would be a lock that Howard would be back if D'Antoni was let go and Phil Jackson was hired. But unless Jeanie Buss is able to wrestle control of basketball operations from brother Jim, that's not going to happen. Jeanie's in charge of the business side and is Phil's fiance. GM Mitch Kupchak said he was "hopeful" and "optimistic" Howard would return.
--Rockets (+250): If you ask me, this would be Howard's best landing spot, and Houston has the cap room. For one, Texas has no state income tax, so that's worth a few million dollars over California's high tax. Plus, Houston has a built-in superstar in James Harden who is young and has several years ahead of him. Kobe says he's going to retire after next year and already is dealing with a very severe injury. Could you imagine a frontcourt of Howard and Omer Asik on Houston? I think the Rockets would be West favorites along with Oklahoma City if Howard goes there. But is Houston "big" enough to satisfy Howard's star power? It's the fourth-largest city in America, but it's not L.A.
--Mavericks (+350): Back when Howard was still with Orlando he listed Dallas among the few teams he would agree to be traded to. Mavs owner Mark Cuban didn't re-sign key parts of his 2011 championship so he would have cap room to add a superstar like Howard or Deron Williams to play alongside Dirk Nowitzki in the German's final few years. Dallas is certainly more cosmopolitan than Houston, but the Mavs don't have as bright of a future. Never count out Cuban when he wants something, though.
--Hawks (+1000): Atlanta could offer Howard the chance to play alongside Chris Paul if somehow the Hawks could lure Paul, also a free agent, away from the Clippers. L.A.'s disappointing playoff effort could be enough to make Paul think twice. The Hawks will have tons of cap room this offseason, and Howard is from Atlanta (Paul is from nearby North Carolina). In addition, Hawks free agent Josh Smith is a buddy of Howard's, so maybe Atlanta re-signs him as part of a package deal to lure Dwight.
--Nets (+1500): Brooklyn owner Mikhail Prokhorov could care less about the luxury tax -- it's like tip money to him -- and would unquestionably pay whatever it took to get Howard. But it's not that easy. The Nets are over the cap as it is and lack the assets to potentially do a sign-and-trade with the Lakers. Brook Lopez is a fine player, but that's not going to cut it. Brooklyn has always been Howard's first choice, but that option looks shut.
--Field (+350): I don't really see any other options out there because few teams have the cap room and/or tradable assets. I don't know, would the Clippers trade Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan for Howard? That would probably entice the Lakers, but there's no way they would trade Howard to their Staples Center co-tenants. The Cavaliers have cap room and have a young star in Kyrie Irving, but if Howard didn't like Orlando he'd think Cleveland would be Siberia.
I think Howard stays put because his image already is in tatters and moving on again would make things worse. Free agency begins July 1.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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