Even though Howard put up really solid numbers for the Lakers this past season, they clearly didn’t accomplish what they wanted and are possibly looking to switch things around. Since the deal was only for one year, he is currently a free agent and searching for a new team for which to play. What seems surprising though is that the Lakers are still one of the teams on his radar even though there seemed to be clear problems between the front office/head coach and Howard. But maybe he’ll return to LA and attempt to keep that team afloat.
Other than the Lakers, there are four other teams that Howard has met with or will meet with in the near future: the Warriors, Hawks, Mavericks, and Rockets. If the Lakers were to miss out on retaining Howard, then they’d be in a bad situation at the center position. They only have Jordan Hill and Robert Sacre, both of which aren’t skilled enough to take on the starting position for a whole season. So the Lakers would definitely benefit from getting Howard, even if it means paying him a lot of money and dealing with some off the court issues. But the bottom line is the Lakers have no cap room whatsoever…even without Howard on their payroll, they’re above the luxury tax threshold.
The Warriors already have a bunch of centers on their roster, including Andrew Bogut, who did well in his time on the court last season. The problem was that he was rarely on the court, suffering injury after injury since he was traded to the team at the trade deadline two years ago. Could they be looking to unload Bogut and his injury-prone body, or would he just become the backup? I don’t think he’s the best fit here in Golden State, but it remains a possibility.
The Hawks have been a good team recently, but it looks like they might lose Josh Smith in free agency this offseason. The Hawks seem like a top option for Howard, but they already have Al Horford. They’d have to move Horford to power forward, which is what they must be thinking because it really makes no sense to lose Smith and Horford and only get Howard…that would be a downgrade. They have tons of cap room so they could basically pay him whatever he wants too. And on a team with an already good backcourt of Jeff Teague and Lou Williams, they could be a real underdog next year.
Unlike the Hawks and Warriors, the Mavericks are in desperate need of a center in general. One year player Bernard James is the only center on the roster, and it would be a bad situation if he was the starter for the whole season. On a team that seems to get older every year even after the draft, the Mavericks could really benefit from Howard’s skills next season. They also have a lot of cap room, so they can likely fight it out with the Hawks to see who wants to spend the most. The Mavericks are probably more in need of him in general, but how well would he mesh with Dirk Nowitzki? That could be the only problem since they’re both shooters, but they could probably make it work.
The Rockets are a lot tighter with cap room, although they still have about $10 million if they choose to not pick up the $6.4 million team option of Francisco Garcia. Plus, they could clear another $8.3 million if they trade Omer Asik, who would be the man losing the job at center if Howard was brought in. That would give them over $18 million to work with, but I still don’t think that’s enough. Plus, with the team looking to trade Jeremy Lin too, it doesn’t look like the Rockets would be a top team even with Howard. Sure, they’d have a solid trio of Howard, Chandler Parsons, and James Harden, but I don’t think that’ll be enough to coax Howard to come to them.
While a lot of teams are going after Howard, I think there he will eventually end up in Dallas with the Mavericks. They need him the most and I have faith that Mark Cuban will pay him whatever he wants to get him to come to Dallas. Whatever happens though, I doubt Howard stays in Los Angeles.