The NBA lockout is basically over. Free agency starts soon. The season tips off on Christmas Day.
Why so much talk about a non-free-agent player? It's due to the fact this isn't any player, it's Dwight Howard, the league's best center.
Howard plans to walk and join a new team after the season if the Orlando Magic fail to deal him prior to this year's trade deadline.
Magic GM Otis Smith and the organization would prefer to avoid a similar Carmelo Anthony fiasco that dragged throughout a major portion of last season.
The Los Angeles Lakers and New Jersey Nets have already shown serious interest in the disgruntled center. Sources with the Nets say they would offer a package surrounding young C Brook Lopez and two future first-round picks. Any Lakers' deal would most definitely start with C Andrew Bynum, but other pieces after that remain uncertain.
Quietly, the Dallas Mavericks have been mentioned in Dwight Howard trade rumors by ESPN's NBA analyst Ric Bucher. He states the three teams currently "in the mix" for Howard are the Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and New Jersey Nets.
Let's see how the reigning NBA champions have an opportunity to acquire 2012's most prized free agent—before this season begins.
Dallas UFA Tyson Chandler expects to be on new team
The formula for the Dallas Mavericks acquiring Dwight Howard starts with Tyson Chandler, an important core piece to the team's first title.
One has to wonder why Dallas didn't reward Chandler with an extension prior to the lockout. Well, the team had its reasons. Perhaps Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson wanted to wait and see how the new Collective Bargaining Agreement would turn out or they simply had bigger plans in mind before committing money to a potential free agent.
The bigger plan?
Chandler and his play will earn him hefty money, probably an annual salary in excess of his previous salary of $12 million last season.
The Mavericks need to convince Chandler to do a sign-and-trade if they want any chance to land Howard.
Without a roster loaded with young talent, the Mavericks must incorporate a third team to facilitate such a trade.
Which team could help?
Atlanta Hawks' F Josh Smith has voiced his desire to move on
The Atlanta Hawks know their young forward wants out of town.
To avoid chemistry issues in the locker room, now may be the perfect time to deal Smith and gain some assets in return.
The Hawks could improve at center. Al Horford plays out of position and Zaza Pachulia is best as a reserve.
The incentive to work with Dallas is there for Atlanta. Trade away Smith, who doesn't want to be there anymore. Receive pieces that would fill holes on their team. Remove Dwight Howard from the Southeast division and Eastern Conference.
Dallas can provide the Hawks with a quality starting center in Brendan Haywood. To sweeten the deal, the Mavericks could include young third-year guard Rodrigue Beaubois.
Smith would go to the Magic, adding a quality defensive forward to Orlando, something Dallas can't provide.
Now let's tie in the rest on Orlando's end...
Otis Smith says no Magic player is untradeable
Otis Smith wouldn't trade Dwight Howard—if he didn't almost have to.
However, it has become evident Howard's heart isn't in Orlando anymore.
Smith will have to evaluate the several offers from many teams who will pitch their offer for the most dominant center in the game today.
We briefly went over what teams like the Lakers and Nets would prepare in their packages.
So what can the defending champion Mavericks give the Magic?
With an assist from the Atlanta Hawks and a sign-and-trade agreement for Tyson Chandler, Dallas could formulate a package that sends Chandler, Josh Smith and two Dallas first-round picks in 2012 and 2014.
To shed salary off Orlando's payroll, the Mavericks will also absorb Hedo Turkoglu's contract.
In an effort to balance salary and an overload at the forward position, Orlando ships Brandon Bass to the Hawks.
Otis Smith gets a solid center replacement for Howard, a dynamic young player still in Josh Smith and two first-round draft picks.
Let's break down the blockbuster trade...
Examine how the deals pans out
OUT - F Josh Smith
IN - C Brendan Haywood, F Brandon Bass and G Roddy Beaubois
Projected Starters: Jeff Teague, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Al Horford, Brendan Haywood
OUT - C Dwight Howard and F Hedo Turkoglu and F Brandon Bass
IN - C Tyson Chandler (via S&T), F Josh Smith and Dallas' 2012/2014 1st rd picks
Projected Starters: Jameer Nelson, Gilbert Arenas, Josh Smith, Ryan Anderson, Tyson Chandler
OUT - Tyson Chandler, C Brendan Haywood, G Roddy Beaubois and DAL 2012 & 2014 1st rd picks
IN - C Dwight Howard and F Hedo Turkoglu
Projected Starters: Jason Kidd, Rudy Fernandez, Hedo Turkoglu, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard
IN - Dwight Howard ($18.1M) + Hedo Turkoglu ($11M) = $29.1M
OUT - Tyson Chandler (Est. $16M) + Brendan Haywood ($7.6M) + Roddy Beaubois ($1.2M) = $24.8M
IN - Tyson Chandler ($16M) + Josh Smith ($12.4M) = $28.4M
OUT - Dwight Howard ($18.1M) + Hedo Turkoglu ($11M) = $29.1M
IN - Brendan Haywood ($7.6M) + Brandon Bass ($4.3M) + Roddy Beaubois ($1.2M) = $13.1M
OUT - Josh Smith ($12.4M) = $12.4M