3 Ways the Philadelphia 76ers Could Land Dwight Howard

Roy Burton@thebslineContributor IMarch 6, 2012

3 Ways the Philadelphia 76ers Could Land Dwight Howard

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    The possibility of Dwight Howard landing in Philadelphia has led 76ers fans to light up the switchboards of the local sports talk radio stations. But the probability of that happening is another matter entirely.

    76ers forward Andre Iguodala spent a good portion of All-Star Weekend trying to recruit Howard to Philadelphia. Ironically enough, shipping Iguodala to Orlando may be the best way for the Sixers to land the Orlando Magic center.

    But it isn't necessarily the only option. And more importantly, for Howard to even consider coming to Philadelphia, the 76ers would need to regain the magic (pun intended) that sparked them to a 18-7 start this season.

    So while the prospects may be slim, let's take a look a three possible ways that the Philadelphia 76ers could swing a deal for Dwight Howard.

1) Deal for Howard Before March 15 Trade Deadline

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    Howard has yet to mention Philadelphia as a future landing place, but the 76ers are one of the few teams with assets that could entice the Magic in a possible trade. And since Orlando isn't going to simply give Howard away, 76ers fans should dismiss any thoughts of including Elton Brand in a potential deal. 

    Realistically, any trade between Philadelphia and Orlando will revolve around swingman Andre Iguodala. Salary-wise, a package of Iguodala, Jrue Holiday and Andres Nocioni would work in exchange for Howard and Jameer Nelson, though the 76ers might have to add a draft pick or two as a sweetener.

    In exchange for a player whose days in central Florida appear to be numbered, the Magic would get an All-Star (Iguodala), a potential star (Holiday), an expiring contract (Nocioni) and possibly some additional assets. The 76ers, meanwhile, would acquire an all-NBA talent in Howard—one of the few bonafide superstars in the entire league. 

    The trio of Howard, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young would be a solid nucleus to build around, and a potential starting lineup of Nelson/Turner/Young/Brand/Howard immediately vaults the 76ers into contender status in the Eastern Conference.

2) Sign Howard as a Free Agent This Summer

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    If Howard isn't traded this season and decides to just walk away from the Magic, Philadelphia could be a player in the inevitable free-agent frenzy.

    Since the 76ers are flirting with the salary cap ceiling as is, the only way to fit Howard in would be to use the NBA's new amnesty clause on Elton Brand. Doing so would free up an additional $18.2 million in cap room for 2012-13, enough to potentially sign Howard to a maximum four-year, $80 million deal.

    Philadelphia appears willing to do whatever it takes in order to improve the team, even if it means buying out the last year of Brand's deal.

    "It's not something we're afraid of," said 76ers owner Joshua Harris when asked about using the amnesty clause. "It would have to be for someone really good."

    This is the avenue that makes the most sense for Howard if he were to decide that Philadelphia is his best option. Doug Collins could theoretically roll out a starting lineup of Holiday/Turner/Iguodala/Young/Howard. Those five—in addition to a reserve unit that includes Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks, Lavoy Allen and Nikola Vucevic—would anchor a rotation that could win the 76ers 50-plus games next season.

3) Acquire Howard in a Sign-and-Trade Deal This Summer

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    The Magic may choose to ride out the season with Howard in the hopes that he'll re-sign with the team after a solid playoff run. That logic has its merits, especially since Orlando can offer him more than any other team.

    As a result of the new CBA, if Howard left Orlando, he would only be eligible for maximum raises of 4.5 percent annually (as opposed to 7.5 percent under the league's Bird Exception). Furthermore, the maximum length of a contract that he could sign with another team is only four years, whereas he could re-up with Orlando for five seasons.

    However, under the new sign-and-trade rules, Howard can't sign a max deal with the Magic and then be traded to the destination of his choice. So the only reason that Howard would agree to a sign-and-trade with Orlando is if his future team lacks the cap space to merely sign him outright.

    And for that reason, that makes this the least likely scenario for the 76ers to land the coveted 7-foot center. Since the 76ers could easily free up the necessary room by amnestying Brand, it doesn't make sense for Howard to agree to a proposal that would weaken his future team.