Well, the NBA Finals are over. Now, a lockout looms large.
Where will the big center end up? Will he stay in Orlando or will he be traded? Will he test the free-agency waters?
Much remains to be seen, but here's an early look at 10 teams with a chance to grab the superstar center.
Howard to the Heat is a scary thought, isn’t it?
It’s incredibly unlikely, but if the Heat could put together a package centering around Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers, they could possibly trade for Howard.
Another intriguing possibility is Howard going to the Cavs and doing what LeBron could never do: bring a championship to Cleveland.
If the Cavs can draft Kyrie Erving and Derrick Williams, then either trade for or sign Howard in free agency, they could be the class of the Eastern Conference by 2013.
But, I don’t see the Cavs offering an enticing enough deal to the Magic and I don’t see Howard signing with Cleveland in free agency.
The Bulls probably won’t want to mess with their core players too much, since they are probably only a shooting guard away from making the NBA Finals.
But, if they wanted to put Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Keith Bogans’ expiring contract and a couple draft picks in a Howard deal, it might be tempting for the Magic.
Tyson Chandler may or may not be back for the Mavs in 2011-12.
If he’s gone, the Mavs will have Brendan Haywood manning the middle of the defense. That just won’t do if they want to repeat as champions.
Getting Howard in a midseason trade would be difficult, but they’d have the expiring contracts of Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, and might have some cap room if they don’t re-sign Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson this offseason.
It’s not too terribly far-fetched to imagine Mark Cuban’s team making this move.
They are an intriguing option if they can put together a package of players and picks that the Magic would deem worthy of Howard.
They’d be boosted higher on this list if Howard pulls a Carmelo Anthony and demands a trade.
If they want to make a run at the title in 2011-12, they’d probably have to give up either Ray Allen or Kevin Garnett. But getting Howard might be worth that risk.
Or, if they waited until free agency, Garnett and Allen’s contracts would be coming off the books, leaving the Celtics with plenty of cap room to chase Howard.
Pairing him with Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce would be fun to watch.
Maybe, just maybe, Howard will decide to keep his loyalty to Orlando and re-sign with the Magic.
But, for that to happen, the Orlando front office is going to have to show a strong commitment to building a championship-caliber team around him. Right now, they simply aren’t good enough for Howard to want to come back.
The Nets probably don’t have enough valuable trade chips to pick up Howard in a midseason trade.
But, if he hits free agency, you better believe the Nets will go after him.
Signing Howard might be the only shot New Jersey has of keeping Deron Williams.
Brook Lopez and Howard would certainly make a formidable frontcourt duo.
The Lakers were supposedly in talks with the Magic this season about acquiring Howard.
If that’s true, they’ll probably be even bigger players in the rumors this season as the trade deadline nears.
Offering Andrew Bynum in return might be good enough for the Magic if they feel they don’t have a shot of getting Howard to come back to Orlando. Plus, sending him to the Western Conference would make it so they don’t have to face him too often during the regular season.