Dwight Howard and Shaquille O'Neal have a lot in common: both centers, both No. 1 overall picks by the Orlando Magic, and both physically dominant and athletically superior.
There's another important thing they have in common.
They will have both left the Magic entering their prime after losing in the NBA Finals.
Howard, 25 and in his seventh season, is apparently ready to leave the Magic. He is owed just over $34 million through next season, after which, he has a player option worth $19.2 million to stay with Orlando or sign elsewhere as a free agent.
Howard is so physically dominant and impactful, that half of the league will come running once a serious announcement about his availability comes out of Orlando.
Not everyone has the means or clout to woo him; however, as only several teams would truly be threats to land him.
It is very early in the game, too early to handicap odds or pick favorites. It is not too early to conjecture the several possibilities for a Howard signing, though. I won't bother with fanciful stretched out ideas about where Howard could go; these are ones that are the most likely in the real world of the NBA.
Here are five favorites to land Howard, provided that he opts for free agency in the summer of 2012 or gets traded before then.