NBA Free Agency: Dwight Howard Should Avoid LA If He Wants to Win

Michael SpringerContributor IJanuary 17, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - DECEMBER 25:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic looks to have a foul called during the NBA season opening game against the Oklahoma City Thunder December 25, 2011 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Oklahoma City defeated Orlando 97-89. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Brett Deering/Getty Images

At this point, it doesn't look as if Orlando Magic GM Otis Smith is going to deal Dwight Howard—his best player and biggest headache—before the All-Star Game in Orlando on February 24...

But that's not going to stop speculation on where Howard will eventually end up.

Especially not when he adds the Los Angeles Clippers to the short list of where he would consider playing.

That's right people.  Dwight Howard could possibly land in L.A., and it's not with the Lakers.

That now brings the short list of teams that Howard would consider signing an extension with to both of the L.A. teams, the New Jersey Nets and the Dallas Mavericks

From a basketball standpoint, it would be quite a thing to see Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard running the break in the Staples Center and possibly challenging the Oklahoma City Thunder as the most exciting young team in the NBA

In reality, I can't see this happening for the simple reason that the Clippers don't have the pieces to make an attractive offer. 

In other words, Otis Smith doesn't want to exchange the best center in the NBA—despite what Shaquille O'Neal thinks—for the likes of DeAndre Jordan, Mo Williams and Ryan Gomes. 

Any serious trade discussions between the Clippers and Magic would have to involve Jordan, who is a great complementary player to Blake Griffin in L.A. 

After that, do the Magic really want more of what they already have in mediocre perimeter players? 

Couldn't you picture Stan Van Gundy having a stroke when he finds out that he's lost his best player for someone like Randy Foye, or Trey Thompkins?

All of this ignores the fact that the Clippers would have to find a way to pay these guys—Donald Sterling is notoriously stingy in the way he runs the team and has been known to sacrifice talent in favor of profits. 

At this point, the Lakers appear to be the team with the best asset to offer for Howard, as Andrew Bynum could be the piece Otis Smith is looking for in a trade, especially if he continues to play at the level he has this season

At the same time, Kobe Bryant seems to be devolving from The Black Mamba into The Black Hole.  Every night he looks more like the player who took the second-most field-goal attempts in the history of the NBA in 2006-07, when the Lakers lost to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

And if you're Dwight Howard, with your affable, fun-loving personality, do you really want to go play with the scowling, fist-clenching perfectionist that is Kobe Bryant, and the shallow talent pool that is the rest of the Lakers' roster?

Maybe he does.  Who knows?  It's hard to say what Superman's camp is thinking at this point. 

And with the Magic standing atop the Southeast Division at 9-3, it's not beyond the realm of possibility to think Smith will decide not to trade Howard and try to make a run at the title this season—hoping that if they win it all, Dwight may consider staying. 

But at this point it seems as if Howard already has his mind set on leaving Orlando.  And if he's really trying to go somewhere and win, he should look at Dallas as the top destination.

The Mavericks have the pieces to make a realistic offer for Howard, and enough talent in place to make a run at the championship this year if things come together quickly enough. 

And that's a big if, considering the offense in Dallas flows through another seven-footer with a completely different skill set than Howard. 

Ultimately it will be up to Rick Carlisle to figure out that problem, but it's a good problem to have.  You have to think that Mark Cuban would pull the trigger on a trade for Howard if it presents itself, and he'll worry about the chemistry of the deal later.

Dwight would also make a tremendous difference for Dallas defensively, giving them the inside presence they lost when Tyson Chandler left for the Big Apple. 

With big men like Brandan Wright, Yi Jianlian and Brendan Haywood to compensate the Magic for the loss of their anchor inside the paint, I would be surprised if talks don't heat up between these organizations after the All-Star Game.

And if Dwight Howard is serious about winning a title, he'll get his people to do everything they can to make sure he ends up in Dallas. 


Follow Mike Springer on Twitter @springtime151