Dwight Howard Trade Rumors and Possible Free Agency Options

Jason WaltnerContributor IJanuary 23, 2012

Dwight Howard Trade Rumors and Possible Free Agency Options

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    Decisions, decisions: That is what life is all about.  Dwight Howard has made it clear he would like to be traded out of Orlando.  Otis Smith, Magic General Manager, has the task of trying to find a trade that is of value for a talent, such as Howard. 

    One would think it would be fairly easy, but when a physical phenom is involved, it is much harder than it seems.

    The drop off from the best point guard to the second best is typically not much at all.  Not for the center position.  There is only one Dwight Howard in the NBA, and no other player comes close. 

    That is why a deal has not been made, and Howard knows this.

    Let's just say, for arguments sake, that Smith decides to play some poker and allows for Howard to walk as an unrestricted free agent. If Howard were to re-sign with the Magic, he can sign a five-year contract for $110 million.  If he signs elsewhere, he can ink a four year deal for $80.5 million. 

    Howard would leave $30 million on the table. 

    If Smith does roll the dice and lets Howard test the free agency waters, he would eliminate quite a number of teams from offering a max deal. Not every team out there can offer a max deal.   

    Here is a salary cap breakdown of which teams can financially sign a max deal.

Eastern Conference: Atlantic Division

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    Boston Celtics

    With the expiring contracts of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnet at the end of the season, the Celtics would have approximately $24.5 million available.  Could playing with Rondo and Pierce entice Dwight?

    Pierce is almost on the wrong side of 30, and the Celtics reportedly attempted to ship Rondo out of Boston (via ESPN). 

     

    Brooklyn Nets

    The Nets will have the space to sign Dwight, with Deron Williams most likely opting out at the end of the season.  If there is no Deron Williams, Dwight would be much better off staying in Orlando, if winning a title is the true motivation. 

     

    Out

    Philadelphia 76ers: The only way Howard goes to Philly is if he plays for approximately $10-12 million a year.

    New York Knicks: With the contracts of Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, they will not be players for any top tier free agents anytime soon.

    Toronto Raptors: Similar to the situation in Philly, Howard would only be able to sign for about $12 million a year.

Eastern Conference: Central Division

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    Indiana Pacers

    With Danny Granger having the highest contract at $13 million annually, the Pacers would have the ability to sign a max contract.  If Howard was looking for a bigger market than Orlando, then Indiana is not the place he wants to be.  

     

    Detroit Pistons

    Ben Gordon is the only player above the $8 million salary next season at $12 million.  Both Greg Monroe and Austin Daye have team options totaling approximately $6 million.

     

    Cleveland Cavaliers

    By using the amnesty clause on Baron Davis, the Cavs could sign Howard.  It could be an intriguing match, with the extremely young and talented rookie point guard, Kyrie Irving.

    However, LeBron left Cleveland and he was a two-time MVP there. 

     

    OUT

    Chicago Bulls: They will be tapped out next season and will not be players in free agency.

    Milwaukee Bucks: They only have about $12-13 million available

Eastern Conference: Southeast Division

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    Orlando Magic

    Orlando can offer $30 million more than any other team, since they currently hold Howard's rights.  According to Forbes.com richest athletes of 2011, Howard came in 19th overall, bringing in about $27.6 million.  The only NBA players ahead of him where Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Yao Ming

    Mickey Mouse money is not that bad. 

     

    OUT

    Atlanta Hawks: They maxed out without any team options or upcoming qualifiers.

    Miami Heat: With LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh, the draft is their best option. 

    Charlotte Bobcats: Unless the two player options available are not exercised, Gerald Henderson is not re-signed and no qualifiers are not offered, then Charlotte could potentially have the cap space. 

    That is taking a ton of risks for a highly unlikely situation.

    Washington Wizards: If the Wizards do not offer a qualifier to JaVale McGee, they could have the space.  Matching up with a talent like John Wall could certainly make it something to think about. 

Western Conference: Northwest

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    Minnesota Timberwolves

    The T'wolves have a handful of qualifying offers and team options next season.  According to ESPN, Kevin Love is looking for a max deal.  Even if Love were to sign a max deal, Minnesota creates enough space to sign Howard, as well.  The question would be could Howard and Love co-exist?

     

    Denver Nuggets

    With Danilo Gallinari, Rudy Fernandez and Kosta Koufos all up for qualifying offers, the Nuggets could make the space to obtain a max contract.  All three players would free up an approximate $11 million.

     

    Portland Trailblazers

    By applying the amnesty clause to Brandon Roy's contract, the Trailblazers were able to get rid of their biggest contract from the salary books.  They have a qualifying offer for Nicolas Batum of approximately $3 million. 

    Gerald Wallace and Jamal Crawford have player options next year totaling around $16.5 million.  The Trailblazers could essentially free up about $32 million in cap space.  This could be an intriguing location for Dwight, with some cap space to sign some big talent(s).  

     

    OUT

    Oklahoma City: It does not have any qualifying offers or team options.  With the recent deal handed to Russel Westbrook, the Thunder are tight against the cap.

    Utah Jazz: The Jazz have no qualifiers or any type of options upcoming.  Utah only has about $10 million for free agency next year.

Western Conference: Pacific Division

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    Phoenix Suns

    The Suns will have about $30 million to play with next season.

     

    Sacramento Kings

    Sacramento will have about $18 million of cap space for next season.  Would Dwight consider going to Sacramento? They have a great, young talent in Tyreke Evans.  

     

    OUT

    Golden State Warriors: Unless they were to make some trades for expiring contracts, they will not have the space to sign a max deal.

    LA Clippers: They are in the same situation as Golden State. 

    LA Lakers: The only option for the Lakers to land the big man is a trade.  With the highest salary in the NBA, and the only feasible cap relief will still leave them in the luxury tax, there is just no other way. 

Western Conference: Southwest Division

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    Dallas Mavericks

    The Mavs will have quite an amount of cap space next season.  With Jason Terry and Jason Kidd coming off the books—and having an $8.2 million team option in Lamar Odom—the Mavs can open up a total of approximately $23-25 million in free cash to spend.

    According to ESPN, owner Mark Cuban is creatively trying to get both Dwight and Deron Williams.

     

    Houston Rockets

    The Rockets have several team options coming up.  They can have an estimated $28 million in cap space.

     

    New Orleans Hornets

    There will certainly be plenty of cap space, but with CP3 just leaving, would Dwight want to go? 

     

    OUT

    Memphis Grizzlies: Only trades for expiring contracts can put them in the position to have enough cap space. 

    San Antonio Spurs: Unless Dwight is willing to play for less, he would be the replacement for Tim Duncan, whose contract will expire this year. 

    Dwight Howard has a very big decision to make.  One can only hope all options have been truly weighed out—even ones that do not seem that plausible, such as hitting free agency and what teams could realistically sign him.   

    As mother used to say, "the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence."