Dwight Howard is about to hit the free-agent market for the first time in his career, and his desire to win a championship will limit the number of teams he will look at.
Dave McMenamin and Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com reported that the center wants to win titles. That desire will eliminate all but a couple of teams on his radar.
Not many of those teams are legitimate title contenders right now, so the list will be narrowed down if that's truly what the free agent is chasing.
Of those five teams, how many can realistically compete for a championship next season?
The Mavericks have Dirk Nowitzki, who is 35 years old, but not much else. Rookie Shane Larkin may be a good player, but the Mavericks lack anyone around Nowitzki. A duo of Nowitzki and Howard would provide good size. However, there wouldn't be enough scoring on the perimeter to win a title.
Atlanta benefits from playing in a weak division—outside of the Miami Heat. With the Washington Wizards, Charlotte Bobcats and Orlando Magic all in the Hawks' division, Atlanta would have a good shot of making the playoffs every year. That's about all the Hawks would do. They wouldn't be serious title contenders.
Those two teams are out, so the other three teams are the only ones left in play.
Golden State had a strong showing in the postseason, but the Warriors aren't likely to land Howard.
It looks like Howard's best suitors are the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Houston had a good season and almost upset the Oklahoma City Thunder in the postseason. It was a tougher series than anyone expected, and it has been a likely landing spot for a while.
James Harden and Jeremy Lin provide scoring on the outside. Omer Asik was a productive player last year. The Rockets have good pieces in place to be a contender every year, and adding Howard would put them right with the rest of the contenders.
San Antonio is nearing the end of its run, and Houston could step up to challenge the Thunder in the Western Conference.
Houston looks like the favorite to land Howard.
The Lakers can offer the free agent a lot of different things.
First, they can offer him a five-year deal worth $118 million. Houston and other teams can only offer him a four-year deal worth $88 million.
Los Angeles can also offer him the chance to play with some of the greatest players of this generation. Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are all under contract.
Those players are still talented enough to compete for a championship, especially with Howard. Last year showed that teams still have to perform well on the floor no matter what names they have on the roster.
The Lakers will be able to contend for a few more years with their current roster. Los Angeles is a city that can attract premier free agents, which means they can restock after Bryant is done.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, Chris Broussard of ESPN The Magazine reported that Howard is unlikely to re-sign with the team.
The Lakers can offer more money and are one of the only teams that will be able to compete for a championship.
Everyone wants Howard, but he will ultimately make the decision. He will do what he thinks is best for himself.
If Howard is looking to go somewhere and win a championship, the options are limited to Houston and Los Angeles.
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