Dwight Howard: Are the Atlanta Hawks the Darkhorse to Land the Gifted Center?

Nikhil BaradwajSenior Analyst IJuly 3, 2012

ATLANTA - MAY 10:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic enjoys a laugh at a parody about him on the big screen next to Josh Smith #5 of the Atlanta Hawks during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on May 10, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks have made two of the best moves of the offseason—offloading their two worst contracts in Joe Johnson's and Marvin Williams'.

Suddenly, the Hawks have put themselves in a great situation for the future because they do not have any lingering contracts.

In fact, with pieces like Al Horford and Jeff Teague, the Hawks might actually be in the running to trade for one of the most highly coveted players of the past ten years: Dwight Howard.

Before you say that Atlanta is a much smaller market than Dallas or Los Angeles (two of Howard's more likely destinations at this point), we need to remember that Howard is from Atlanta.

Would D-12 consider a homecoming?

He might not have a choice, considering that the Magic are looking for the best package at this point.

However, Howard would definitely consider his hometown over other locations like Golden State and Houston.

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In any case, this is a possible trade that would send Howard to the Hawks:

Orlando Receives: Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Zaza Pachulia and Atlanta 2013 first-round pick
Atlanta Receives: Dwight Howard

At the end of the day, this deal is definitely a win-win for both teams.

For the Magic, they get an All-Star big man in Horford, who will be playing much closer to his former college home of Gainesville, Florida. 

In addition, Teague is an improving talent, who would be able to start right away for the Magic. Pachulia is put in to match Howard's huge contract and the first-round pick gives Orlando a chance to get another rebuilding piece.

On the other side, Atlanta, quite frankly, gets their guy. Howard and Smith played in high school together and are very good friends.

The Hawks without Johnson, Horford and Teague will still make the playoffs (likely in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference).

However, building around a core of Howard and Smith will definitely entice free agents to sign with the Hawks, maybe even convincing Chris Paul to join, although this remains a long shot.

In any case, the Atlanta Hawks have played themselves out of a sorry hole that previous management put them in.

While nothing is official and no moves have been made, Atlanta actually played themselves into the championship hunt and possibly into acquiring Howard.

The question is whether they will be able to act on their very flexible future.