Dwight Howard Trade Rumors: The Contenders and Pretenders
The biggest name on the NBA trade market is also the biggest man on the NBA trade market.
Dwight Howard, the 26-year-old center for the Orlando Magic, has been linked to numerous NBA destinations.
He's wanted by many, needed by almost everyone and, in the end, only one team will acquire him.
Or maybe no one will at all?
If this sounds like the build-up to a movie it's not a coincidence.
The NBA Trade Deadline has a very dedicated following amongst fans and they'll all be tuning in to see where, if at all, Howard lands when the deadline comes Thursday, March 15th.
Los Angeles Lakers: Pretender
Regardless of whether or not you want the Lakers to acquire Dwight Howard, the simple fact is that they don't need him enough to make a deal and then spend mega bucks to keep him in Los Angeles.
Andrew Bynum is already one of the best big men in the league. He's younger than Howard and he's already currently playing center in Los Angeles.
The team does have other needs.
The Lakers could use another scoring threat, preferably one that can play the small forward position where Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace split most of the minutes.
Los Angeles also has a serious need to address at point guard.
Derek Fisher is too slow on defense and not versatile enough of offense. His points come primarily off of defensive breakdowns, resulting in Fisher getting wide-open shots.
The NBA has never had a better crop of point guards then it does right now.
The Lakers showed their cards before this season began when they tried to acquire Chris Paul. Commissioner David Stern may have nixed the deal, but that doesn't mean he nixed the Lakers' intentions of getting an upgrade at the point guard position.
Golden State Warriors: Contender
Any trade comes with the risk it won't work out as planned.
If the Golden State Warriors were to acquire the services of Dwight Howard, they'd be taking on an enormous risk—the kind that could eventually cost people their jobs if Howard doesn't work out.
How could Howard "not work out?"
He could play for Golden State through the end of this season and then leave them as a free agent this summer.
That's not just a small risk, it's a very plausible scenario to envision.
If you're under the assumption that Orlando would accept less in exchange for Howard given Golden State's level of risk, you're probably incorrect.
Even with all those factors, reports are still surfacing that Golden State has had continued dialogue with Orlando about acquiring Howard.
The issue seems to be that the Warriors' best asset is Monta Ellis and that's not going to be enough to get Howard. The Warriors will have to really get creative to pull this off.
It's possible Golden State gets a trade done, but that doesn't mean it's a great idea.
New Jersey Nets: Contender
Before Brook Lopez sustained an injury to his ankle two Sundays ago, the Nets were arguably the most frequently mentioned team when it came to Dwight Howard's eventual destination.
Even with the injury, the Nets are still going to be in the mix.
The ankle injury may make a deal for Howard a little less appealing to Orlando, but trading Howard is not about making Orlando better for this season—it's about maintaining a level of competitiveness in the future.
When Shaquille O'Neal bolted Orlando via free agency back in the summer of 1996, Orlando received nothing in return and the team was set back several years.
Magic general manager Otis Smith does not want to repeat history.
Lopez being hurt for two more weeks won't prevent Smith from making a trade to keep the Orlando competitive for three of four more years after Howard is dealt.
Chicago Bulls: Pretender
Derrick Rose might be sick of the trade talk, but that doesn't mean it's going to stop.
If Dwight Howard were added to the team with the reigning MVP, it would be hard to see that as a bad thing.
Unless of course Howard doesn't want to stay in Chicago.
The Bulls have a good enough team right now to not make a deal for Howard and still contend for an NBA Title this year.
Chicago is not going to trade for Howard and then watch him walk this summer.
Instead, they'll wait and see if he's willing to sign an extension and then make their move. If Howard isn't keen on playing in Chicago long-term, the Bulls are under no pressure to make a deal.
Chicago is too good a team to take on the enormous risk incurred by gutting a team that has the league's best record.
There will be chatter but little action.
Houston Rockets: Contender
The Rockets are one of those teams that don't seem as concerned by the potential for Dwight Howard not signing an extension with them as teams like the Bulls do.
That makes sense since the Bulls may already be good enough to win a NBA Championship without Howard.
The Rockets are not.
Houston is a team rumored to be very interested in making a move for an impact player.
No player in the NBA would make a bigger impact than Howard, making the Rockets interested by default for the Magic's superstar center.
Whether or not Orlando wants to grab anyone off the Rockets' roster is another question.
New York Knicks: Pretender
Could the New York Knicks make the biggest trade deadline deal two years in a row?
Last season, the Knicks completed a blockbuster deal for star forward Carmelo Anthony with the hope that Anthony would change the fortunes of the long-suffering New York Knicks and their rabid fan base.
Sadly, the Knicks fortunes haven't changed all that much this season.
Currently mired in a five game losing streak and sporting an 18-23 record, the Knicks are a team with a lot of pieces that don't seem to fit together.
The solution to that problem may or may not be a massive trade—that's what it would take for New York to acquire Dwight Howard.
The Knicks would most likely have to part with some serious pieces such as Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, and even that might not be enough for the Magic.
That's before the team even knows for certain that Howard will stay in New York once this season concludes.
The struggling Knicks may need to shake things up, but after spending so much to acquire Carmelo last season, it seems shortsighted to ship him out of town after only one year on the team.
The Knicks might make some drastic moves this week, but a deal for Dwight Howard seems like a bit of a stretch.
Dallas Mavericks: Pretender
If Dwight Howard ends up hitting the open market, the Mavericks will be a major contender for his services.
In terms of a trade, though, it seems unlikely.
The Mavericks are a team that Howard wants to play for, but that knowledge has hurt the Magic in trade talks.
Dallas knows that if Howard enters the free agent market, they'll be able to sign him without giving up valuable assets that they would in a trade.
Owner Mark Cuban would absolutely kick the tires on a trade, but seems content in waiting for Howard to hit free agency.
Orlando Magic: Contender
Which team has the best chance of fielding a starting five with Dwight Howard at center after this Thursday's trade deadline?
The Orlando Magic.
People seem to be under the impression that the Magic only have two options in regards to Howard: Trade him this week, or lose him to free agency this summer.
There are other options to consider.
The team could convince him to sign a long-term extension and remain in Orlando through the prime of his career. They could also convince him to sign his one-year option through the end of next season, increasing their leverage to make a deal while maintaining the team's current level of competitiveness.
The Magic might end up finding that the teams with the best packages for Howard won't make the deal because they fear losing Howard to free agency this summer. Or, the teams that Howard wants to play for don't have the necessary assets the Magic want in a trade.
It won't shock a lot of NBA observers if, after all the chatter, Howard remains in a Magic uniform through the end of this season at the very least.