Do the Dallas Mavericks or Houston Rockets have the upper hand in the chase for Dwight Howard's services?
According to ESPN's Chris Broussard, Dwight Howard is unlikely to re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, and will instead look to sign with the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets or Atlanta Hawks this summer.
Both the Rockets and Mavericks are intriguing fits for Howard in that they possess established stars and ample cap space. In Houston, you've got James Harden and a bright young cast that's led by Chandler Parsons.
The dynamic in Dallas, however, is a tad different. Dirk Nowitzki is the Mavs' pitchman when it comes to signing Howard, but is already 35 years old. Dirk's lore and accompanying skills make Dallas an intriguing destination for Howard, but for how long?
The Mavericks don't possess a young core the way Houston does, and will need to be built from the ground up in a hurry should they want to contend for a title anytime soon.
What shouldn't come as a surprise is that Nowitzki has wasted no time getting to work on his recruiting pitch for Howard.
According to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News, Nowitzki reached out to Howard prior to Thursday's draft:
Nowitzki said Thursday before the NBA draft that he did call Howard recently to talk up life with the Mavericks.
“I reached out to him, but that’s probably as far as I would go,” Nowitzki said. “I told him we’d love to have him and that’s really about it. It’s not like we call each other every day. I didn’t write him a letter. I just had a little phone contact and that was about it.”
While Houston may not have anyone of Nowitzki's caliber to sell Dwight on Houston, the reasons he should bolt for H-Town are rather obvious.
The Rockets possess one of the game's best shooting guards in James Harden, an up-and-coming small forward in Parsons and, for the time being, have a serviceable Jeremy Lin running the point.
Houston also has a persistent recruiter of their own in Parsons.
According to the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen, Parsons has been relentless in his pursuit of Howard:
“I talk to Dwight every day,” Parsons said. “I’ve created a relationship with him, where I feel like we’re very close. He hits me up about everything. I’ve covered pretty much every question he’s had. I basically tell him, ‘We have a chance to be really good without you next year. We’re going to have a good season. Why not come and join us, join our core guys who are for sure to be here and make us great, make us contend for a championship?’
“That’s the main point I’ve gotten from talking to him. He wants to win. He wants to win rings. It’s obvious there is no better fit, no better team or opportunity to do that than with us.”
If you ask me, the Rockets have a far more convincing argument. Not only is their team better positioned to win now, but they're far more likely to win in the future.
And if you ask Parsons, he'll tell you that he's got the edge on Dirk in the recruiting department.
“I’m confident I’m a better recruiter than (Dirk),” Parsons said.
Parsons said he’s known Howard for a long time and he talks with him regularly. Despite the relationship, Parsons has no idea (or won’t say) where Howard will land.
“It’s honestly not up to us,” Parsons said. “Obviously we’re key pieces to our team that we currently play on, but it’s really his decision where he thinks he’s the best fit.”
For a 24-year-old, Parsons sure does exude plenty of confidence. But you know what? In order to acquire a player of Howard's caliber, Parsons may have to be brash and cocky. It's that sort of attitude that could attract Howard to Houston and put the Rockets in the elite conversation out West.
Rockets can forget about Chris Paul but Harden/Howard/Parsons would be the NBA's best trio.— chris palmer (@ESPNChrisPalmer) June 26, 2013
The Mavericks undoubtedly have a plan to sign a number of assets to complement Howard this summer, but it's hard to imagine Mark Cuban finding ones that compare to Harden, Parsons and company.
It's also imperative that Howard consider the makeup of his suitors' respective offenses should he narrow his choice down to the Mavs and Rockets.
Considering Dallas would likely build around Howard, the big man's desire to be the center of all things offense would more easily be appeased upon joining Dirk and the Mavericks. In Houston, the story's a bit different.
According to Broussard, Howard's displeasure with the Lakers has as much to do with Mike D'Antoni's offensive system as anything else. While Kevin McHale prefers to run a similar up-tempo system, the Rockets were far better at maximizing their looks at the rim last season than the Lakers were.
Sources: Dwight Howard unlikely to re-sign with the Lakers. Dallas and Houston the favorites. Main issue w/Lakers is Mike D'Antoni's system— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) June 27, 2013
According to HoopData, the Rockets finished third in the NBA last season in field-goal attempts per game at the rim, averaging 30.2 per contest. Conversely, the Lakers averaged 24.7 attempts per game at the rim. And although it would perhaps mean fewer touches for Harden and the Rockets' wings, opposing defenses would have to direct a sizable portion of their attention to Howard.
Ultimately, it's not hard to imagine Howard's presence opening up the floor, leading to open looks for Harden and Parsons. For a team that finished second in the NBA in made threes (867) and ninth in three-point field-goal percentage (36.6 percent) last season, that's a scary proposition.
However, if there's one thing working in the Mavericks' favor, it's that Howard rarely makes decisions that are guided by logic.