Get ready for Part 2 of the Dwight Howard saga.
Dwight Howard is a free agent in 2013, in case you haven't heard. And the Los Angeles Lakers aren't the only team that should realistically be going all-in for the big man's services.
Purple and gold didn't suit Howard so well during the 2012-13 season, but there were quite a few mitigating circumstances. Injuries, coaching changes and the overall makeup of the team factored into his less-than-stellar season.
Round 2 in Hollywood would almost certainly go better, but there are four other teams that would love to get their own Round 1s. Well, there are more than that, but there are really only four realistic suitors.
I, for one, can't wait to see how it plays out.
By every metric, Al Horford has performed better at center than he has at power forward. Just take a look at his PERs while playing each position (courtesy of 82games.com).
During the 2012-13 season, Horford put up PERs of 17.9 and 21.9 at the 4 and 5, respectively. Meanwhile, he allowed opposing players at those positions to post 19.0 and 16.6 PERs.
The Florida product may have come into the NBA as a power forward, but he's converted into a center rather nicely. Plus, the Eastern Conference doesn't feature all that many teams with dominant true centers, so the lack of size isn't that impactful.
However, Dwight Howard would be one hell of a reason to switch Al down a spot in the lineup.
When Danny Ferry first stepped into his role as general manager of the Atlanta Hawks, the first thing he did was create a roster with plenty of expiring contracts. He shipped Joe Johnson off to the Brooklyn Nets and Marvin Williams to the Utah Jazz, leaving the team with only Horford, Lou Williams, DeShawn Stevenson, John Jenkins and Mike Scott on the roster for the 2013-14 season.
The master plan is to lure a megastar to Philips Arena, and no player would fit the billing better than D12, who grew up in Atlanta.
Of all the teams competing for the services of Dwight Howard, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the biggest long shots. That shouldn't prevent them from engaging in the competition, though.
Howard might not have much of an interest in playing for Cleveland, despite the obvious greatness of Kyrie Irving. Even with Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters' stocks rising, there isn't enough to lure him into the Midwest.
There's also the problem of Anderson Varejao, as the floppy-haired center was quickly proving to be one of the best big men in the league before injuries knocked him out for the rest of the 2012-13 campaign. Trading Varejao and signing Howard sounds pretty great, and that trade would be necessary to make everything work.
Cleveland has under $33 million committed for the next season (per Hoopshype.com), so the Cavs certainly have the financial means necessary to land another star.
It's a route worth pursuing, even if there's a minuscule chance of reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.
The Dallas Mavericks are yet another team that has positioned itself to fight for some of the top free agents during the 2013 offseason. As soon as the NBA Finals are over, this roster will be plunged into turmoil.
Darren Collison is a restricted free agent. O.J. Mayo has a player option. Shawn Marion has an early termination option. Brandan Wright, Mike James, Elton Brand and Chris Kaman are all unrestricted free agents.
Notice how every quality big man on the roster is up for grabs in the offseason? Notice how we're talking about another center with no technical ties to any team?
Mark Cuban knows what he's doing, and we all know how much he loves to chase the big fish over the little ones. He'll certainly be trying to land both Howard and a certain point guard named Chris Paul over the offseason, and we'll hear about it a lot.
A frontcourt led by Dirk Nowitzki and Dwight Howard would be an absolutely terrifying one.
If the Houston Rockets managed to sign Dwight Howard, a whole bunch of questions would suddenly arise, and all of them center around Omer Asik.
Would Kevin McHale move Asik to a bench role? Would the Turkish big man be traded? Could Houston somehow manage to use an Asik-Howard frontcourt?
The answer to the first is almost certainly no. Throughout the 2012-13 campaign, Asik proved his value. He's an incredible rim-protector, and the rest of his game is developing. No sane management team would allow him to rot away on the pine at this point.
However, the second and third questions are much more intriguing.
I'm not going to get into trade scenarios here, but it seems to be the most appealing hypothetical option. Playing Howard and Asik together would lead to far too little spacing and far too many missed shots from the charity stripe.
It's no secret that Daryl Morey likes chasing stars. Even with James Harden in a uniform that reveals a secret and nascent desire to work at McDonald's, Morey isn't done looking to land the big names in the free-agency pool.
Despite a relatively full roster under contract for the 2013-14 season, Houston still only has $38,063,852 committed (per HoopsHype.com). Raising that number by signing D12 would certainly be worth it.
Los Angeles Lakers fans might not want to think about it after getting knocked out of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs in rather emphatic fashion, but next year's roster isn't looking so hot.
Of course, we're talking about the Lakers, so that could change in a heartbeat. They're never far away from a huge free-agent signing.
But at the moment, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill, Chris Duhon, Steve Blake and Kobe Bryant are the only players under contract for the 2013-14 season, and we have no idea when the Mamba will be back to full health.
Jodie Meeks has a team option. Metta World Peace has an early termination option. Andrew Goudelock, Darius Morris and Robert Sacre are restricted free agents. Antawn Jamison, Earl Clark and Dwight Howard are unrestricted free agents.
Things are just messy right now, and the No. 1 priority has to be bringing back the final player I mentioned. Howard's first go-around in Tinseltown wasn't a fun one, as it was plagued by injuries, turmoil and negative portrayals in the media.
If he re-signed, though, this becomes his team (until Kobe is back to take over). As soon as the Lakers are reminded of just how dominant he can be, they'll fall in love once more.