2012 NBA Free Agency: Are Dwight Howard and Chris Paul Done with Current Teams?

Andrew Tonge@@lwsportsnewsAnalyst IIJune 14, 2011

Dwight Howard has pushed Orlando into a corner they can't get out of.
Dwight Howard has pushed Orlando into a corner they can't get out of.J. Meric/Getty Images

Let the summer of free agency begin.  It is not LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony this time.  It is Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.

Howard has already taken the first step in putting Orlando on notice by telling them he will not sign an extension, and he will become a free agent.

He says he will stay in Orlando if the makeup of the team is changed, and he is contending for a championship.  He is saying all the right things.

He wants to stay and build his legacy in Orlando.  His home is in Orlando.  He doesn't want to be a hired gun.  All of that is sounds nice and well meaning.

The bottom line is that there are limits to what Orlando can do at this point.  Howard has put the pressure squarely on management to do whatever is necessary to build a championship caliber team by next season, or else he is gone.

Orlando re-shaped their team once during the season last year, and now have to try and do it again.  No one is going to want Hedo Turkoglu or Gilbert Arenas.

Jason Richardson is not what he used to be, and Quentin Richardson is a journeyman at this point in his career.  The only tradeable assets they have are Jameer Nelson and Brandon Bass, the young power forward.

Jason Richardson is a free agent, but Orlando doesn't have any cap space, so they are limited in who they can sign as a free agent.  

Even if the rumors are true that they are trying to bring in Andre Iquodala via trade, or even Monta Ellis, that still doesn't make them championship worthy.  It depends on who they have to give up.

It is possible but unlikely that Orlando will be able to build a team in less than a season that can contend for a title.  Then we will find out how much Howard likes Orlando.

He is smart for keeping his options open, but if he really had faith in management and believed them, he would sign now and see who he could recruit.  

I am sure someone like Chris Paul would think about joining him in Orlando if he knew in two years they would have a contender.

Howard has punched his ticket out of Orlando, and I can't blame him.  It will look like he didn't want to do it, but that is not the full story.  Management felt pressured to take a chance and totally remake their team this past year.

It didn't work.  They just dug themselves a deeper hole that they can't get out of.  All to convince Howard that they are working to build a winner.  Sounds familiar doesn't it?  

Cleveland did that with LeBron, and you see where that got them.  The only question in my mind is when will Orlando decide that it might be in their best interests to trade him before he leaves?

Chris Paul's situation in New Orleans is more precarious.  Reports out of New Orleans are saying that Paul is happy with the direction of the franchise, which to me would be hard to believe, or maybe Paul has lowered his standards.

Why would you be happy with the team when your best power forward, David West, may not be back from injury until November, and he could opt out of his contract?  

He probably won't because of his injury.  No one would pick him up for fear he may not recover. Let us not forget he is on the other side of 30 as well.

Carl Landry is a free agent, along with Aaron Gray.  Landry and West are the same player pretty much, so it will be interesting to see what they do there.  They only have about $5 million in cap space.

The Hornets do not have a first-round draft pick this year as well.  You are basically talking about bringing back the same team that you had this year, plus or minus a player if you make a trade.

CP3 has to know that they are not going to get a top notch player via trade or free agency because they don't have much to offer another team.  The biggest thing probably is that Paul, even if he does re-up, will have a hard time convincing another star player to come there.

It will be interesting to see if he signs the extension they put in front of him this summer.  Paul hasn't said he would definitely sign, but management seems to be confident.

With Dallas winning the championship this year, that might sway Paul to stay and build something where he is.  Keep in mind that even though people think the Dallas way is the new model, they are wrong.

Contrary to the Cavalier's owner, there are short cuts.  Boston proved that.  The Lakers proved that.  I hope that Paul really does what is in his heart and has no regrets.

He shouldn't worry about what people think.  Neither should Howard.  Their prime will not last forever.

For Howard, the Lakers would be a good destination for both teams, and the Nets would be interesting too now that Derron Williams is there.  Orlando is still in the mix as well.

For Chris Paul, the Knicks would be a good destination, and the most likely if he leaves.  The Lakers and even the Clippers would be interesting as well.

Both men will be careful how they play this because they do not want to be considered  this year's LeBron James.

This is just the first step for these guys.  As the summer goes on, so will the speculation.  Let the circus begin.