NBA Trade Rumors: Hawks Should Be Considered Front-Runners for Dwight Howard

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IJuly 3, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 28: Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic looks on against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on March 28, 2012 in New York City. 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 Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Dwight Howard's future is going to dramatically change with one impending stroke of the pen over a trade request in a deal he has nothing to do with. On the other hand, he has everything to do with it. 

Joe Johnson appears to be on his way out of Atlanta and headed to Brooklyn. In return, the cap space that was the Nets is going to the Hawks. 

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported on Monday that this deal is almost done.

The Nets and Hawks have agreed in principle to complete the Joe Johnson trade, league sources tell Y! Sports.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 2, 2012

The hidden factor in this trade very well could end up being that, in essence, the Nets just traded Dwight Howard for Joe Johnson. 

The Nets were set to have a boatload of cap room this coming offseason, and Wojnarowski reported that Howard had narrowed his list of teams he would sign with to those same Nets. 

This was going to make it nearly impossible for the Magic to trade him anywhere but Brooklyn, since no other team would have a hope of signing him. 

The Nets could still work some kind of trade that landed them Howard, either by trading for him or unloading some serious cap room, but this remains unlikely. 

What is far more likely, is that the Hawks could land Howard. Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick passed along that the Hawks are "reportedly in the mix" in regards to the Howard trade talks. And they should be. This makes a ton of sense. 

The Hawks still have valuable pieces to offer the Magic in Al Horford and Jeff Teague. Combine those two with large number of expiring contracts at their disposal, and they can put together a solid offer. 

The other part of this is that Howard could very well force the Magic's hand. With his path to the Nets closing, Howard may decide to add the Hawks to his list. He is from Atlanta, and as ESPN's Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst point out, Howard is good friends with the Hawks Josh Smith and the newly-acquired Anthony Morrow. 

So all of a sudden, here is Dwight Howard with some serious ties to the Hawks and the Hawks have the resources to add him either via a trade or free agency. 

Atlanta may not have been Howard's first choice, but they have quickly emerged as the best and most logical choice.