The NBA trade rumor mill is swirling as free agency gets underway on Monday, and one marquee superstar is having a direct effect on the latest chatter surrounding the futures of David Lee, Jeremy Lin and others.
Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard has officially hit the open market. In addition to his meeting with the Houston Rockets early Monday, he'll sit down with the Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks, according to Yahoo! insider Adrian Wojnarowski.
They're all making their best efforts to land Howard, and it may come at the cost of some members key to their current cores.
Below is an overview of what is being discussed around the league as the long-awaited beginning of the NBA open market has finally arrived.
Warriors Testing David Lee's Worth
Wojnarowski is reporting that the All-Star power forward is on the trading block and has in fact been offered up in two separate trades that didn't go through.
Golden State attempted to ship Lee to the Toronto Raptors as part of a deal that would have sent Andrea Bargnani to Oakland, but it fell through, and now Bargnani is on the New York Knicks, per Howard Beck of the New York Times.
Another reported offer involved Lee and Brandon Rush for Portland Trail Blazers star LaMarcus Aldridge, but the Blazers rebuffed the motion in favor of superior prospective deals.
The following tweet by Wojnarowski suggests that perhaps the Warriors are simply gauging the possible interest in Lee, and that the team isn't particularly adamant on trading him:
Golden State does value David Lee, had a terrific season for them, but they've simply tested his worth on the market.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 1, 2013
Lee averaged 18.5 points and 11.2 rebounds this past season and is a key presence on the inside for Golden State.
Even without him in the opening playoff game due to a torn hip flexor, the Warriors advanced in Round 1 and pushed the San Antonio Spurs to six games in the Western Conference Semifinals.
The franchise should at least give Lee a chance to compete in an entire postseason with the still maturing squad at full strength. It could result in NBA title contention.
Jeremy Lin's Slimming Chances of Remaining a Rocket
Despite signing a lucrative free-agent contract last offseason in Houston, part of the Rockets' scheme to snag Howard could include Lin as part of a sign-and-trade transaction.
Which point guard projects better as a long-term starter?
CBS Sports' Ken Berger reports that the Rockets are feeling confident about their chances to acquire Howard, and thus are looking to deal Lin and center Omer Asik.
Sources told Berger that Lin was not invited to the Rockets' recruiting meeting with Howard.
Rival teams say that while Lin is available, Houston is seeking a starting point guard in the exchange, per Berger. It's also worth noting that the Rockets have Patrick Beverley, who played well in the playoffs in place of an injured Lin.
How Howard is affecting the Rockets is interesting, because the team is attempting to assemble a supporting cast around him to his liking. Part of that cast seemingly won't include Lin if free agency goes as planned for GM Daryl Morey.
Clippers' Asking Price Is High for Eric Bledsoe
Amid all the hype surrounding Howard and where he might land, the suspense has officially died involving another huge name in the City of Angels.
What this means is that the Clippers can continue to explore the massive trade value that rests in Eric Bledsoe, Paul's backup.
DeMar DeRozan has also been part of the discussions, and he would be a nice 2-guard for the future in Los Angeles. The question remains what else the Raptors could possibly offer other than DeRozan to net Bledsoe.
The 23-year-old Bledsoe has huge upside and far more room to grow—feasibly in a starting role as soon as this coming season. Stein also cites the Detroit Pistons as a team seriously pursuing the talented young point guard.
Paul's extension enhances the chances of Bledsoe being dealt exponentially, but new head coach and senior VP of basketball operations Doc Rivers is asking a high price to deal such a prized commodity.
Rajon Rondo: Celtics Cornerstone or Further Means to Rebuild?
As originally reported by Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com, the Dallas Mavericks are seriously looking at the Boston Celtics stud point guard in a possible trade.
The move would not only solidify the position in Dallas, but it would also be utilized to lure Howard to the Mavs.
But that was followed by Stein's tweet, which implies the Celtics' interest in Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki as part of the package:
Mavs: We're interested in Rondo. Celts: We want Dirk. So: More teams gotta jump in or Boston gotta budge for meaningful talks to take place— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 29, 2013
Such a stipulation is almost certain to cause gridlock between both sides.
Nowitzki has never played for another NBA team and is approaching the age of 36. For the Mavs to part ways with him at this point to lock Rondo down would be a big shock, even though Nowitzki is a free agent next summer.
General manager Danny Ainge is definitely in rebuilding mode, but booting Rondo out of Beantown seems a little extreme in that regard.
However, if the Mavs deliver the right compensation and believe it will ultimately allow them to sign Howard, it can't be ruled out. That is in spite of Mark Murphy's Boston Herald report, where he cites sources that say the deal between the two teams is ridiculous to even consider possible.
This rumored development and the others show how significant of an impact Howard and other top free agents can have on players who would otherwise not seem expendable.
The drama should only increase in the coming days, but what's currently bouncing around the Association is setting up a captivating beginning to the free-agency period.