Dwight Howard is the work horse of the Orlando Magic. The now 25-year-old center was selected number one overall in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Magic and has since demonstrated the determination and dedication that have made him the face of the franchise.
Howard's resume boasts impressive credentials considering he is a five-time All-Star, three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and a slam dunk champion. He also led the Magic to the finals in 2009 and has averaged a double-double every season of his career.
Howard's numbers speak volumes to the value that he holds in regards to the Magic franchise, and with his contract set to expire at the end of the 2011-2012 season he will likely be the number one target of many teams in the league.
Many media outlets including ESPN and the Orlando Sentinel have rumored and speculated that Howard may leave the Magic after next season if they do not win a Championship. However, the big man has attempted to dismiss these rumors by insisting that the rumors are "really stupid. And annoying..."
Many teams will be after Howard once his existing contract expires and the Magic will be eagerly praying to re-sign him. If Orlando wants a realistic opportunity to re-sign Howard here are a few things they should aim to do.
The Orlando Magic have a good deal of in-house talent that they can strategically develop to further compliment Dwight Howard and ultimately win him a championship.
For instance, they have two very talented point guards in Jameer Nelson and Gilbert Arenas. The Magic could either chose to further develop Nelson as a savvy ball handler and knock-down three-point shooter, or reinvigorate the apparently stagnant career of Arenas.
Other in-house options for Orlando include J.J. Redick and Ryan Anderson who both have tremendous shooting range which serves as a kind compliment to Howard's interior presence.
Jason Richardson was instrumental to the Magic as a three-point shooter this season as he averaged 2.4 three-pointers per contest which is more than anyone else on Orlando's roster. Richardson is set to be a free agent this off-season and it would be within Orlando's best interest to retain him considering he is one of their most lethal three-point shooters.
The Magic could also opt to pursue other options like the slightly older Jamal Crawford, whose fine three-point shooting abilities helped the Hawks to oust the Orlando in the first round of this years playoffs.
One of Orlando's biggest needs this off-season is a backup center or a reliable power forward to compliment Dwight Howard and relieve some of his duties in the paint.
This year's free agent market provides the Magic with the ability to satisfy this need with options such as Samuel Dalembert, Glenn Davis, or Gregg Oden who are just waiting to be scooped up by a team like the Magic.
While it's not likely that Davis will leave Boston, and Oden with his past injury problems would be an obvious gamble, options like Dalembert exist and could land themselves in Orlando which could give the Magic the boost they need to contend for a title and help them retain Howard at the end of next season.
The Magic do not want to hear Dwight Howard singing Beyonce's "Single Ladies," at the end of next season telling them "if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it." So Orlando's best chance to retain Howard is to win him a NBA Title.
Former Magic star and four time NBA Champion Shaquille O'Neal ascertained that the Magic have the right pieces around Howard to win him an Championship in his retirement press conference last week.
Howard himself said that all he wants to do is win an NBA Title and he believes that he can do that with the team that he currently has in Orlando.Recently he told the Orlando Sentinel that "I want to have my own path, and I want to start that here in Orlando. But I can't do it alone."
Howard wants to win an NBA Championship and he wants to do so in Orlando, but if he doesn't think that he has a realistic chance to do so after next year, he could do as O'Neal did after the 1995-1996 season and take his talent elsewhere.