NBA Rumors: Power Ranking Dwight Howard's Best Options

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistJuly 13, 2012

NBA Rumors: Power Ranking Dwight Howard's Best Options

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    New Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan has made it clear that he only wants players who are, "invested in the organization."

    According to ESPN's Ric Bucher, Hennigan gave Dwight Howard one last chance to amend his decision:

    After several months of trying to trade Dwight HowardOrlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan called the All-Star center Wednesday night to see if he'd reconsider giving Hennigan and the Magic's new regime a chance to keep Howard in Orlando, a source close to Howard said.

    It's still unclear what will become of Howard, but the last-ditch effort to convince the franchise player to stay with the team that drafted him in 2004 did make one thing abundantly clear: Howard is anything but "invested" in the Orlando Magic.

    That leaves the Magic with the one and only option they've had along. They either trade Howard for the best-available package or lose him to free agency in the summer of 2013, a scenario in which the organization would leave empty-handed.

    With that kind of failure out of the question, what are Orlando's best remaining options?

5. Dallas Mavericks

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    The Dallas Mavericks aren't in a strong position to trade for Dwight Howard right now, but a lot can happen between now and the trade deadline.

    If the Orlando Magic are willing to wait things out a bit, Mark Cuban might just have enough time to collect the assets needed to make a serious pitch.

    After all, the Mavs are one of the very few teams Howard appears willing to join for the long haul according to ESPN's Ric Bucher's Twitter

    Source: With Nets out of equation, Mavs go to top of Dwight Howard's wish list. No other teams - Lakers included - on it. For now.

    — Ric Bucher (@RicBucher) July 2, 2012

    As we know well by now, Howard's wishes won't change the realities associated with making a difficult trade. Dallas has neither the young assets nor a stash of draft picks to entice Orlando. Any chance of a move would require the organization to spend the rest of its summer situating itself in much the same way the Houston Rockets have done.

    There's always the chance Howard will again be on the move next summer when he's scheduled to be a free agent. If he doesn't land in a spot where he's willing to sign an extension before then, the Mavericks could reemerge as a legitimate opportunity so long as they have the available cap space. 

4. Houston Rockets

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    Head coach Kevin McHale is stuck in limbo as he plans for the upcoming season. He could either find himself coaching arguably the game's best big man or a platoon of young prospects.

    Needless to say, he'll need to develop some contingency plans.

    The Houston Rockets are probably in the best position to offer the Orlando Magic a long list of assets including future draft picks, three first-round selections from this June's draft and young players like Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris and Chandler Parsons.

    There's a lot for Orlando to like about coming away with any significant portion of those things.

    More importantly, Houston could offer the Magic cap relief by taking on contracts belonging to Jason Richardson, Glen Davis and Chris Duhon. The combination of young pieces and the addition by subtraction would put GM Rob Hennigan in an ideal position to rebuild.

    But, what could Houston offer Dwight Howard?

    Ultimately, there's no telling, but the decision to amnesty Luis Scola means that the Rockets could become players in the 2013 free-agent market and potentially attempt to pair Howard with the likes of Chris Paul or another premium star.

    If all goes according to plan, Howard may have good reason to sign an extension with Houston after all.

    If not, this would be a short stay for the fickle phenom.

3. Atlanta Hawks

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    The Atlanta Hawks have at least one thing going for them.

    Dwight Howard is from the area and would have the opportunity to form a dangerous frontcourt tandem with friend Josh Smith. The opportunity to assemble such a pairing hasn't been lost on the Hawks and new general manager Danny Ferry, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Michael Cunningham:

    The Hawks have engaged the Magic in trade talks involving Howard, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions. That person did not want to be identified because the teams involved have not discussed the negotiations publicly.

    Atlanta has some proven young talent that could intrigue the Orlando Magic, including center Al Horford and point guard Jeff Teague.

    The roster would be somewhat depleted after acquiring Howard, but that's something that the superstar will have to accept with just about any destination.

    At the very least, the departures of Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams put the organization in a position to surround Howard with talent at the first available opportunity. The cap flexibility would also make it easier for Atlanta to take on Orlando's more unpleasant contracts in order to sweeten the deal.

    If Howard expands his shortlist of desired destinations, the Hawks could make a strong case.

2. Brooklyn Nets

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    It may seem like the Brooklyn Nets are out of the running for Dwight Howard's services at the moment, but don't rule them out entirely.

    If there's one thing GM Rob Hennigan should learn from the Denver Nuggets' attempts to trade Carmelo Anthony to the highest bidder, it's that patience is a virtue.

    The only way Brooklyn can re-enter the equation is when recently-signed Brook Lopez is eligible to be traded, and that won't be until January 15. The 24-year-old center would be the centerpiece of any deal with the Magic, so making something happen before January is out of the question.

    While waiting that long might improve Orlando's negotiating leverage, it also makes life somewhat risky given that the trade deadline is in February. Hennigan would need to have a sure-fire backup plan if he intended to wait that long, but don't expect other clubs to wait around indefinitely as the Plan B.

    Despite the logistical difficulties, the Nets remain an attractive destination on account of the Brooklyn market and the talented starting lineup.

    Forget that the bench is underwhelming for the moment.

    A combination of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace would instantly form one of the league's most dangerous cores were Howard to join the fray. It's no mystery why this is the No. 1 choice—it's an organization most definitely in win-now mode.

1. Los Angeles Lakers

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    It only seems fated that Dwight Howard should somehow find a way to the promised land that is the Los Angeles Lakers.

    His over-hyped, larger-than-life celebrity is better suited there than even in Brooklyn.

    Though a direct swap of Howard for Andrew Bynum probably isn't in the cards, that doesn't mean there's no chance. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Rockets could facilitate a deal if they don't themselves ultimately land Howard:

    Sources told that the Rockets are discussing a multitude of trade scenarios with the Magic, offering to serve both as the team that would acquire Howard in a direct trade between the clubs and also as a third team that would participate in a trade that lands Howard with the Lakers and brings All-Star center Andrew Bynum to Houston.

    There's no question the Lakers would give Howard an opportunity to win big, at least in the short term.

    An argument could be made that the Nets offer a better long-term opportunity, but neither club has an especially young core or an impressive bench. At the very least, Los Angeles would provide Howard the ability to contend alongside Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol.

    It's hard to imagine a more star-studded situation than that.