The scenario hinges mostly on whether Howard will decide the Warriors are his desired fit. Also, the Los Angeles Lakers will either need to accept a sign-and-trade deal from Golden State or the Warriors must quickly clear enough salary to sign Howard outright.
Either scenario could conceivably happen.
The Lakers long held that they wouldn’t take part in a sign-and-trade for Howard, an obvious negotiating move in wanting to keep leverage as the only team able to offer him five years and an extra $30 million.
However, if reports are true that Howard is becoming less likely to stay in Los Angeles, it would be imprudent if the Lakers didn’t at least look to receive assets for the center instead of nothing at all.
Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported Friday: "There were indications late Thursday that Lakers officials, already bracing for the worst, had begun to rethink their long-held position of ruling out sign-and-trade options in the event Howard decides to bolt to one of L.A.'s rivals."
The Warriors have the right pieces to send if Howard wants to make his way north.
The Lakers need to look at preserving their clear cap space for the summer of 2014 and a return of bad, long-term contracts won’t make sense. The other issue is the luxury tax, which the Lakers would deeply cross by taking on the salary equivalent to Howard.
In other words, any deal would have to be well worth it for the Lakers to pay a high price this upcoming season. The ticket there could mean that the Lakers would receive a chip like the Warriors' Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes in addition to draft picks.
The Warriors could also look to shed their expiring salaries in the hopes of an outright signing of Howard.
Brian Windhorst and Stein of ESPN wrote Friday that Golden State is so close to a Howard deal that they are "aggressively attempting to trade away players to clear the requisite salary-cap space to sign the All-Star center, according to sources with knowledge of the team's thinking."
The Warriors are looking to ship the expiring contracts of Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Andrew Bogut. If the Warriors did a sign-and-trade with the Lakers, it could include one or more of those contracts.
ESPN’s Bill Simmons tweeted one scenario:
Trade scenarios can be played multiple ways, but if Howard is to come to the Warriors to contend, it only makes sense that the team’s talent would need to stay in place.
The Warriors’ opportunity to land a marquee center is heating up though. Howard should remain an elite superstar through the completion of his next contract, and he pairs well with the league's brightest scorer Stephen Curry.
Howard can earn his money while playing for a growing contender and stay in California. The Bay Area media market would be a softer fit for Howard than Los Angeles.
The other factor here that shouldn’t be overlooked, and it’s something that Bay Area New Group Warriors beat writer Marcus Thompson has written about a couple of times, is that Howard entered the league speaking about the importance of his Christian values.
In speaking with Howard this past season, I learned that his faith remains important. For the Warriors under coach Mark Jackson, who is also a pastor, faith was a centerpiece to last season's team. It may sound like a non-factor, but I truly believe this was part of the pitch and conversation between Howard and Jackson.
All the proper factors seem to add up that Howard could potentially choose the Warriors. Of course, that plays out multiple ways as teams like the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks still remain an equal possibility.
Suddenly though, the Warriors have a legitimate shot.
Whether it’s through a sign-and-trade with the Lakers or an outright signing, Golden State could actually land the biggest free agent of the offseason.
There’s a statement you’ve never heard before.
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