After an impressive 2012-13 season for the Golden State Warriors, one which saw them win 47 games and advance to the Western Conference semifinals, the team might be making even more moves. Instead of a playoff push, however, the Warriors could now be making a push for a particular player: free agent center Dwight Howard. Rumors have circulated that Golden State may now very well be the preferred destination for the consensus best center in the league, and ESPN's Chris Broussard confirms that the team certainly has interest:
The new developments come as a bit of a shock to some other teams around the league, especially the Houston Rockets. As ESPN reports, Houston general manager Daryl Morey just met with Howard today, in a conference which included coach Kevin McHale, current team stars James Harden and Chandler Parsons, as well as all-time Rockets great Hakeem Olajuwon. Even former global superstar and, like Dwight, top overall draft pick Yao Ming joined the conference via Skype.
For a player whose main concern seems to be having others like him and appear to be affable, Howard is ruffling the feathers of more than a few organizations and their fans, who would like the fanfare over D12 to end and for the enigmatic center to finally pick a destination. There is a large contingent, including the Rockets themselves, who thought that Howard may have already made up his mind, according to sources which include the well-known basketball publication SLAM Magazine.
There are five teams which legitimately have the means and need to make a serious push for Dwight: the Lakers, of course, the Rockets, the Warriors, the Dallas Mavericks and the Atlanta Hawks. Given that the theory with the Hawks was that if Atlanta could nab All-Star point guard Chris Paul, Howard might follow. The "ATL" now appears to be somewhat out of the running.
Although the Mavericks are a quality organization, Howard's desire to contend for a ring now may not mesh with Dallas' situation. All the Mavs have to offer Dwight are aging superstars, including Dirk Nowitzki (who has already reached the pinnacle once himself) and the mercurial Vince Carter, now 36. Considering that Dallas was unable to make the playoffs last season, it is not likely that Dallas will be Dwight's destination.
This leaves the Rockets, Warriors and Lakers. Although any of these teams could use a top-flight All-Star center, there are some pitfalls which go along with the positive qualities that Howard offers. For starters, Howard, fairly or not, has gotten a reputation for being somewhat of a "coach killer." Howard's well-publicized battles with his coach in Orlando, Stan Van Gundy, led to Van Gundy's firing before Dwight's inevitable split for brighter lights in the City of Angels with the Lakers. Howard's first coach in L.A., Mike Brown, didn't fare much better, as he lasted less than 20 games with the team before Mike D'Antoni stepped in. All the while, Howard's displeasure with the team's struggles and how he was being used within D'Antoni's offense gave the West Coast press fodder for the entire season.
The fact that the Lakers didn't perform nearly as high as their preseason expectations suggested could mean that Dwight, who was "the guy" in Orlando ever since he was drafted in 2004, doesn't function as well when surrounded by other players who want more shots (Kobe Bryant). L.A.'s struggles last season, and the constant criticism directed at Howard, could mean it's time for a change for "Superman." But will Dwight be okay with splitting shots with the likes of burgeoning superstars such as Houston's James Harden or Golden State's Stephen Curry? This isn't to say that Dwight isn't worth the risk, but further analysis should still be made as teams decide what they may be willing to give up in order to get the center.
Houston will need to clear cap space, and will likely do so by parting ways with current starting center Omer Asik, and possibly others. Golden State, meanwhile, may need to work a sign and trade with the Lakers, since they're not as flush with cap space as the Hawks and Mavs are. This could end up with the Warriors needing to part ways with center Andrew Bogut and young standout Klay Thompson, or even possibly last year's Rookie of the Year candidate Harrison Barnes.
According to most sources, Howard is still leaning towards the Rockets at this moment in time. That said, there are still plenty of teams to meet with, and plenty of scenarios to consider (could a Howard/Josh Smith frontcourt in Houston be in play?). There is still a lot of time for the Dwight Howard sweepstakes to be decided. Stay tuned.