Dwight Howard will play for one of five teams next season, and his decision is certain to transform the league.
There are a number of factors for the center to consider before making his choice. With the Atlanta Hawks, he can play near his hometown. The Los Angeles Lakers can offer the most money while also providing a large market to play in.
On each squad, he must consider his potential relationship with teammates, coaches and other personnel to provide the most enjoyable experience possible in the coming years.
It is important not to overlook how he will fit on each team and which teams will lead to the most success on the court. Here is a ranking of the best squads for Howard based on how things should work out once the season starts.
5. Golden State Warriors
Last season, the Warriors finished as the No. 6 seed in the West and eventually reached the second round of the playoffs despite playing very little defense. In theory, adding Howard would instantly improve that end of the court and make the squad contenders.
However, much of the offensive success was based on the fast-paced offense run by Stephen Curry. Instead of producing a great inside-outside combo, Howard would slow down the team on offense.
Additionally, the Warriors would have a hard time signing the free agent due to the fact that they would need to do a sign-and-trade with the Lakers, which Los Angeles does not want to do, according to Dave McMenamin and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
Even if they were able to figure out a trade, it would obviously weaken the Warriors and hurt the team's ability to contend. There are simply too many negative factors for this deal to work out.
4. Atlanta Hawks
Like the Warriors, the Hawks have to feel good after their meeting with Howard, as he came away impressed with the coach, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
The problem is that there would be little help in Atlanta if the center were to join the team.
Josh Smith and Jeff Teague are both free agents, and the team would not likely have the funds to re-sign either if Howard were brought in. This leaves Al Horford as the best returning player, and his style is too similar to the superstar's to expect great things between the two.
While Lou Williams is a solid scoring threat from the perimeter, he would not be enough to help the team contend for a title, and things would end up being worse for Howard than they were with the Orlando Magic.
If he is seriously seeking titles, Atlanta is not the best place to go.
3. Los Angeles Lakers
There are many things the Lakers can offer than no one else can. Besides the extra money for being the current team, the history and tradition of the organization are appealing.
As Steve Nash notes in his tweet to Howard, Los Angeles provides a chance for Howard to obtain immortality as the next big superstar:
However, the worst thing the Lakers have going for them is head coach Mike D'Antoni. The coach's style is based on a spread court that features jump shots as opposed to low-post play. While this helps perimeter players like Nash and Kobe Bryant, it hurts Howard's ability to succeed.
If you ask Amar'e Stoudemire about D'Antoni's contributions to his game, it might get ugly. He has already said he did not learn any post moves under the coach, and he recently claimed he had never been taught how to play defense.
Last year, Howard averaged fewer points per game than he had since his second year in the league. He should go to a place that will be better suited to his game.
2. Dallas Mavericks
With a group of veteran players who could perfectly complement Howard on both ends of the court, Dallas would certainly be a title contender next season if it were able to sign the center.
The Mavericks missed the playoffs last year for the first time in over a decade due to injuries to Dirk Nowitzki and others, as well as the inability to defend the interior. However, the German should be healthy this season and ready to contribute at the high level we are used to seeing.
As for the other issue, adding the three-time Player of the Year would turn things around in the low post. Dallas won a championship in 2011 with Tyson Chandler protecting the rim, and Howard could take that role and be even better down low.
While the squad lacks a true point guard, rookie Shane Larkin certainly has the ability to take over the starting job.
The only downside is the overall age of the roster. Unless there are some dramatic changes, the window of opportunity is small in Dallas, which might not please the 27-year-old Howard looking for long-term success.
1. Houston Rockets
There might not be a better fit in the league for Howard than Houston.
The Rockets have one of the most exciting young rosters in the NBA, as James Harden broke out last season to become a true superstar. Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin also made big leaps last year and helped the team make the postseason.
Considering each of these players is still under 25 years old, you can expect more improvements in the future.
Still, Houston received very little production from the frontcourt last season, especially offensively. Omer Asik was solid on the boards, but replacing him with Howard will make a huge difference.
Not only would the young squad be a top team in the Western Conference in 2014, but it would also become a perennial title contender as long as Howard remains there.
From a basketball perspective, Houston is clearly the best option for the talented player.
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