Where should Dwight Howard go?
Pros: Some would argue that, strictly from a basketball standpoint, the Rockets are Howard's best option. You've got in place a second star in James Harden who averages 26 points on fewer than 17 shots a game. That would leave plenty of offensive action for Howard. To that end, Harden has already proved his ability to play with not only one superstar but two. During his time in Oklahoma City, he showed he's amenable to not only being a second option but even the third.
Besides Harden, under-the-radar small forward Chandler Parsons would also be a nice complement to Howard. Parsons' 38 percent shooting from 3-point range would spread the floor for Howard. And while he isn't star-caliber, you could do worse than Jeremy Lin at point guard. Insert Howard and the Rockets become instant Western Conference contenders, in my opinion. They would have a lot of the same qualities as Howard's Orlando Magic team that took outLeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers to reach the Finals in 2009.
Cons: It's been widely stated that Houston will be able to offer Howard a max contract, but according to salary-cap guru Larry Coon, that is not the case. Even by releasing their seven players with non-guaranteed contracts for next season, the Rockets can't max out Howard.Harden has all the playmaking skills of Hedo Turkoglu, and Parsons can stretch the floor likeRashard Lewis. Plus, in Harden, the Rockets would have something the Magic did not: a legitimate second superstar. And with Howard, Houston would be free to trade double-double center Omer Asik, who would bring back a nice haul in a trade. Off the court, Houston not only meets the big-market specifications Howard has, but with its connection to Lin and Yao Ming, Howard's already-high popularity in China would only improve.
While he will be eligible to make $20,513,178 next season, the most Houston will be able to offer him is between $16.7-18.2 million, according to Coon. When coupled with the fact that the Rockets can only offer Howard a four-year deal versus the Lakers' five-year deal, that means Howard would have to leave a significant amount of money on the table to leave L.A. for Houston.
Pros: As good as things could be, basketball-wise, for Howard in Houston, they could be just as good in Atlanta. Unlike Houston and Dallas, the Hawks will be able to offer Howard a full max contract (for four years, of course; not five)
While Josh Smith is ready to move on from the Hawks, with Howard in Atlanta, I'm betting Smith would change his mind. The Hawks would not be able to offer him the max, but perhaps Smith would take less to play with his childhood pal Howard. The same would have to be said of improving point guard Jeff Teague. With them, the Hawks could become the second-best team in the Eastern Conference behind Miami. Howard has always given the Heat nightmares, so perhaps the Heat would finally have a legitimate competitor in the East. With Howard, the Hawks would certainly want to find a way to keep Kyle Korver, who would be the much-needed sharpshooter an offense featuring Howard needs.In Atlanta, he would team with Al Horford to form the best center-power forward combo in the league. Horford, who has made the All-Star Game as a center, would move to his natural position of power forward and his soft touch from the perimeter would mesh nicely with Howard.
Cons: Lots of players don't want to play in their hometowns, and indications are Howard feels that way about returning to Atlanta. Though his relationship with his father, Dwight Sr., is not nearly as bad as reported (the two speak regularly and are not estranged from one another), Dwight Jr. has enjoyed being outside the shadow of his parents, who live in Atlanta.
To be honest, a people pleaser like Howard who finds it hard to say no to folks might run into all types of distractions in his hometown. If Chris Paul were to phone Howard and say "Let's team up in Atlanta," Howard would do it. But no matter how good the prospects in Atlanta are, it's probably a long shot that Howard goes home unless Paul is at his side.
Pros: Mark Cuban is a free-spending owner who will do what it takes to build a championship team. Even at 34 years old, Dirk Nowitzki is still a good scorer in the league, as evidenced by his 19 PPG average over the past two months. Put Howard in the middle in Dallas and Nowitzki would be even more dangerous.
And there would be no power struggle for "top gun" status in Dallas, as Nowitzki would gladly allow Howard to shine. Rick Carlisle is one of the top coaches in the league, and with Howard manning the paint, he would probably turn the Mavericks into a top-three defense in the NBA.
Cons: Even with Howard and Nowitzki, Dallas probably isn't a contender. Nowitzki will be 35 at the start of next season, and he's only got a short time left at a high level. Howard also would have to leave tons of money on the table to sign with the Mavs, who according to Coon will only be able to offer Howard between $13 and $14.5 million next season. All that being the case, there's little reason for Howard to sign with the Mavs.