With their loss to the Atlanta Hawks Sunday night, the Orlando Magic saw the series score move to 3-1 in favor of the Hawks. Howard and the Magic are the higher seed in the series, although not by much.
Howard has been putting up numbers fitting a winner, but his team continues to fall short of victory. He's averaging stats that big men these days dream of, but his performances aren't rewarded with triumph. Howard is posting 32.3 points and 17.5 rebounds in four playoffs game. He's also adding 1.8 blocks each contest.
So, why aren't the Magic winning?
The rest of the team is ice cold.
Howard has attempted only one three in the series, one that he missed. The rest of the team has hoisted 95 shots from deep, connecting on 21 for a dismal 22.1 percent. Here are the shooting percentages for the Magic, not including Howard, in each game of the series:
Game 1: 18-52 OR 34.6 percent
Game 2: 18-66 OR 27.3 percent (somehow, they won this game)
Game 3: 23-59 OR 39.0 percent
Game 4: 22-65 OR 33.8 percent
If Orlando wants to keep Howard from relocating, they better start shooting better. If not, Howard could make like Shaquille O'Neal and leave the Magic during his prime.
Here are 10 teams that have the potential to acquire Howard. They are listed in alphabetical order by city name.
Atlanta gets: Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and Brandon Bass
Orlando gets: Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Marvin Williams
Why Atlanta would do it: Howard replaces Horford, which is a huge upgrade in the paint. Bass tags along to become the new starting power forward, moving Josh Smith permanently over to the three spot. Smith will succeed as a small forward, where he's more of a matchup problem for opposing defenses.
Nelson takes over the starting point guard role, with Kirk Hinrich becoming his veteran backup. The Hawks should also re-sign Jamal Crawford to become the starting shooting guard. Crawford could provide even more stats than he is now with legitimate starter minutes.
Why Orlando would do it: First, the Magic would have to be fine with trading Howard within their division, which is a huge risk. Joe Johnson could be their new starting shooting guard, as they would choose to part ways with Jason Richardson. Johnson is usually a more consistent shooter from the perimeter, but has been a little off this season.
Horford is a serviceable replacement, although not as dominant. However, Horford is better than someone the Magic would have to find in the free agency when Howard leaves them for nothing after next season. Williams has yet to hit his expected potential in the NBA. The Magic will have to believe that he can become the player he was supposed to be when he was taken second in the 2005 NBA draft.
Why Howard would like it: Howard has watched the Hawks consistently make the playoffs, but not be able to make any noise. He could be the missing piece to success for the Hawks. If he can get Jameer to tag along, he'd have someone he's familiar with on the new squad.
Also, he's from Atlanta. He attended Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. This would be the move to make for Howard if he wanted to be a hometown hero.
Chicago gets: Dwight Howard and Brandon Bass
Orlando gets: Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and a future first-round pick
Why Chicago would do it: This trade has a huge dependence on how the rest of the postseason plays out. It seems like the Bulls are depending too much on Derrick Rose. Boozer has been kind of disappointing thus far, barely scoring 10 points a game.
This would be a trading of frontcourts, with the Bulls getting the better immediate deal. Chicago would be pairing up two superstars that have been the focal point of their teams this season. Each player appears to have too much on their shoulders, with anything short of a scintillating performance ending in defeat.
Why Orlando would do it: If they lose to the Hawks, Dwight Howard will likely leave in 2012 if something drastic doesn't occur next season. They could get two very valuable big men out of Chicago, which is more frontcourt help than almost any team can provide.
Orlando would have to ponder possibly dooming its future title chances by forming another superpower in the East. They have to see some fault in the new Bulls lineup they can exploit in the future.
Why Howard would like it: Howard wouldn't mind being the second option on offense, so he can focus on strong interior defense. Pairing up with Rose, would be comparable to Shaq joining Kobe. I'm not sure it would provide the same results because the level of the other teams has risen since 2000.
If the Magic can come back and defeat the Hawks, they could be playing the Bulls in the second round. The Bulls would be favorites in the series based on each team's performance in the first round.
Dallas gets: Dwight Howard
Orlando gets: Jason Terry, Brendan Haywood, two future first round picks and a future second round pick
Why Dallas would do it: Take a little of the stress off Dirk Nowitzki. Howard could dominate down low and get some points in the paint, while Nowitzki roams around and focuses on offense. This would extend Dirk's career, and give the Mavericks a legitimate shot for the title in the next three or four years.
Why Orlando would do it: Jason Terry could be the consistent scorer from the perimeter they've been looking for. The Magic would not re-sign Jason Richardson, hoping to free up cap space for another trade or a big free agent acquisition in 2012.
The picks would all be good for the team's future, just as this move would. The Magic would be admitting that the team they have now is not good enough to win a title. If they choose to give up on next year, they might be able to get something in return for Howard—rather than letting him choose their fate.
Why Howard would like it: Dwight Howard wants to win a NBA championship. Dirk wouldn't mind winning his first title either. Both players were on the cusp of a win, but finished second in 2009 and 2006, respectively.
Denver gets: Dwight Howard and Chris Duhon
Orlando gets: Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Al Harrington, Timofey Mozgov and a first-round pick
Why Denver would do it: They could virtually turn Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups into Dwight Howard and Wilson Chandler. Howard and Chandler are the two much younger players with more room to grow.
The Nuggets are in the process of being eliminated by the Oklahoma City Thunder. No one expected them to be a No. 5 seed in the West after the Carmelo trade, but the team has meshed well. This trade would enable them to part ways with either Nene or Kenyon Martin. They could definitively give the starting point guard nod to Ty Lawson.
This is all in addition to getting much better in the paint. The biggest thing the Nuggets would be sacrificing is depth.
Why Orlando would do it: Look at all the talent they'd be bringing in. They could slide Jameer Nelson over to shooting guard and wait out Gilbert Arenas' contract. Mozgov would be a project, but the team would be good enough to hold up while he grows.
If Danilo Gallinari continues to improve, this trade could turn out to have the most player value for the Magic.
Why Howard would like it: The Nuggets proved they have very versatile coaching and strategy after the Carmelo trade. They have actually shown the true potential of many team members in the absence of their former star.
Los Angeles gets: Dwight Howard
Orlando gets: Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and two future first-round picks
Why Los Angeles would do it: Does anything sound more appealing than a combination of Howard and Blake Griffin? This would easily be the most athletic and feared frontcourt in the NBA. The Clippers would be losing a fantastic scorer in Gordon, but what they would receive is too enticing to pass up.
These two would be the big man version of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. This move wouldn't instantly pay off unless more acquisitions were made, similar to the Carmelo trade. The Clippers would be forming a foundation to build upon, not trying to win the whole thing in 2011-12.
Why Orlando would do it: Chris Kaman is probably the most under-appreciated big man in the league today. His output reminds me of Vlade Divac, minus the premier passing. Kaman can step in and be a solid starter for the Magic.
Acquiring Gordon would be huge for the Magic. As I've said before, this would mean the Magic wouldn't re-sign J-Rich. The Magic would have a more consistent option at shooting guard, with so much potential to get better. Also, it's always nice to pick up draft picks—especially from a team that could struggle the next season.
Why Howard would like it: Howard would surely love pairing up with someone that could clear some space for him in the paint. He's never had that in Orlando, but Griffin could give him that luxury.
Los Angeles gets: Dwight Howard
Orlando gets: Andrew Bynum, Devin Ebanks and a future first- and second-round pick
Why Los Angeles would do it: Kobe Bryant is on the downslope of his career, and the Lakers should notice by now that Bynum is not the next big thing in LA. Yes, Bynum is a defensive force with a rapidly developing offensive game, but he's not even in the same league as Howard.
For the first few years, the trio of Bryant, Howard and Pau Gasol would be absolutely ludicrous. Teams with mediocre frontcourts would struggle to even remain close with the Lakers. After Kobe retires, the Lakers would have the new face of their franchise.
Why Orlando would do it: Bynum may be the next best defensive big man in the league. He changes so many shots and gets endless defensive rebounds. The only concern the Magic would have is the knee problems Bynum has endured. They want to be sure the person they get back can stay relatively healthy.
Ebanks hasn't seen much of the court as a rookie, but the versatile forward out of West Virginia would love to prove he's worthy of more minutes. Given the chance, I think Ebanks is the type of player that will be tough for any individual to guard—kind of like Lamar Odom.
Why Howard would like it: Talk about exposure. Los Angeles is up there with New York and Boston for the most marketable location for a sports team in the U.S. Howard could potentially become the face of the NBA in a few years if he gets a title or two with Kobe still around.
New Jersey gets: Dwight Howard
Orlando gets: Brook Lopez, Travis Outlaw, Anthony Morrow, and a first- and second-round pick
Why New Jersey would do it: Surprising as it may seem, the Nets still have to try and convince Deron Williams to stay. Bringing Howard in as a teammate is one way to make any player in the league more apt to stay.
The Nets would have to fill in some of the gaps made by this trade, but it would be worth it in the end. They could dip their hands in the free agent pool and woo some players looking for a new home. This is a monumental offseason for New Jersey in its attempt to turn the franchise around.
Why Orlando would do it: They could do much worse than Brook Lopez as their next center. Two additional swingmen and a pair of picks could put them over the edge in terms of accepting this deal. Parting with Howard will be rough, but a deal like this would ease the pain a bit.
Why Howard would like it: Williams is one of the most unselfish point guards in the leagues. The thing that makes him great, however, is that he can score when called upon. He's not a one-dimensional ball-handler, which allows Howard to have some off games.
It's between this deal and the one with the Lakers for the two that I think are most likely to happen. If Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov pulls something off to land Superman, Nets fans may finally believe this guy can get the job done.
New Orleans gets: Dwight Howard
Orlando gets: Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, two future first-round picks and a future second-round pick
Why New Orleans would do it: The Hornets' main goal is to try and maintain Chris Paul. There may not be another team in the NBA with a player that means more to the franchise. With rumors about Paul heading to New York to join Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo, the Hornets have to pull out all the stops to keep their star.
Howard may see some appeal in moving to the West, where teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Mavericks and Lakers are starting to age. The Hornets have a decently young core, and the addition of Howard, along with the re-signing of David West, would make them a long-shot title contender.
Why Orlando would do it: Okafor is a tremendous post defender. During the playoffs, he's been keeping Bynum and Gasol out of their comfort zones. He won't let them set up in the paint, making their go-to moves less effective.
Ariza is also a lock-down defender, with a hit or miss offensive game. He can help the Magic slow down LeBron James or Paul Pierce with his suffocating defense. The picks are the cherry on top for this deal.
Why Howard would like it: Everything I said about Deron Williams applies to CP3, and I think Paul does it all a little better. The only edge Williams has on Paul is strength, but Paul closes the gap with toughness. As he said last night, "I don't care if it's my momma out there on the court, I'd hit her too."
Philadelphia gets: Dwight Howard
Orlando gets: Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights, two future first-round picks and a future second-round pick
Why Philadelphia would do it: Andre Iguodala hasn't become the player that Philadelphia expected him to. He's still a better than average player in the league, but he's not the star the Sixers thought they had. With all the young talent the Sixers have, adding Howard could push them into the company of the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics.
Howard would be a huge improvement on Spencer Hawes, the current starting Sixer center. Howard would help Philadelphia pull down more defensive rebounds, and give them more power under the hoop. Paired with Elton Brand, Howard could do some serious damage.
Why Orlando would do it: The Magic could try to groom Iguodala into a true scorer, which means they'd have to run him off the ball more. Unlike the Sixers, the Magic have point guards that can bring the ball up the court. Iguodala would just have to improve his jump shot to take the next step.
Speights is still young and could grow in Orlando. He's not nearly as developed as Howard was after two years in the league, but he's not a lost cause. Paired with the picks Philadelphia would offer, this trade would make sense for both teams.
Why Howard would like it: The Sixers are a team with a lot of potential. Most of what they've done this season has been without Evan Turner having the season that was expected of him.
If he becomes the player he's anticipated to be, this could be a scary, young team. They would slightly resemble the Bulls back when they had Ben Gordon
San Antonio gets: Dwight Howard
Orlando gets: Manu Ginobili, DeJaun Blair and Gary Neal
Why San Antonio would do it: Tim Duncan took over for David Robinson. Now, it's Howard's turn to do the same for Duncan. It is pretty clear to the Spurs that Duncan isn't the player that he used to be. His minutes are way down, as is his output.
If the Spurs want to make their transition smooth, they need to bring in a center to relieve Tim Duncan. Howard could come in and the two would be one of the toughest duos to score on in the NBA. The Spurs, however, would have to be willing to part ways with Manu, who is beloved in San Antonio.
Why Orlando would do it: Ginobili would give the Magic a reliable veteran shooting guard. He would help them win close games, something they've definitely struggled to do. Blair is an undersized power forward, but it's hard to find anyone that works harder than he does.
Neal can be the backup point guard for the Magic if they decide to ship out the big contract of Gilbert Arenas. The Magic would have to search the free agency for another center to replace Howard, as he has no true backup. They could target someone like DeAndre Jordan to temporarily fill the void.
Why Howard would like it: San Antonio also has a big basketball market. Having been a contender for such a long time, the Spurs are one of the more well-known teams in the league. Howard could learn a few things from Duncan, and would easily be the new face of the team.