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NBA Rumors: Dwight Howard to Rockets, Mavericks, Hawks, Lakers or Warriors?

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Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and Los Angeles. For some time now, that has been the reported pecking order for having a crack at Dwight Howard and as of yesterday, the game has begun.

Howard met with Houston and Atlanta yesterday, the former selling him on uniting forces with James Harden to become the next great wing and big combo, much like Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler who were also at the meeting. Then it was Danny Ferry’s turn to make a Howard pitch with the help of new Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer as they try to convince him to come to his hometown of Atlanta.

Today, Howard will meet with the Los Angeles Lakers and Steve Nash as they make their claim to the big man, mostly supported by being able to offer him the most money. But one has to think that at some point in Howard’s career he would like to contend for a title, and in his eyes, he’s going to need to be the centerpiece to doing that. That may never happen in Los Angeles.

News this morning has broken that the Golden State Warriors are throwing their hats in the ring on a sign and trade deal for the star, offering Andrew Bogut and allegedly either Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes plus Richard Jefferson or Andres Biedrins. This deal is absolute insanity if it is on the table, the Warriors willing to trade away a valuable center and one of their best young talents to get a guy who is to say the least temperamental.

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At this point, it seems like Howard is definitely on his way out of Los Angeles barring the possibility of the Lakers doing a trade with the Clippers, which of course has been rumored and will be again now that Chris Paul is definitely returning to play under Doc Rivers. The reality of said trade is a bit far fetched, but get used to it, there are going to be plenty of far fetched scenarios being played out in the coming days.

Rather than examine all of those rumored sign and trades or even trying to speculate what might be going on in the unpredictable Howard’s mind, let’s instead take a look at what the best destination for him would be, given that he wants to be a key piece in a championship puzzle. In considering this, let’s not talk too much about money.

HOUSTON

The original rumored route for Howard to get to Houston was for it to be a sign and trade that would send him to the Rockets in exchange for Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. Now it appears Howard would just be a straight signing and Houston is shopping trade options for Lin and Asik looking to get a point guard of reasonable value in return.

This really is the situation that suits Howard the best. He’ll have a team willing make him the centerpiece, a sort of icon complete with a television show of his own which is apparently a major bargaining chip to land Howard now. This is naturally what Howard wants, needing to be the center of attention wherever he goes. Luckily for him, he’d have a co-star in James Harden that doesn’t require the limelight but can give Howard the helping hand he needs to really compete that he never had in Orlando. The Rockets have the cap space if they unload Asik and Lin to bring in Howard and a solid point guard and with Daryl Morey pulling the strings, it’s all feasible. It’s not too hard to see why Houston has a lot of confidence in their bid.

DALLAS

There are a few reasons why Dallas has a chance to woo Howard during their pitch today. For starters, the franchise would be Howard’s in a few years time when Dirk Nowitzki retires, but over the first few he could get the lay of the land with Nowitzki still at the helm.

Dallas has some strong veterans in place with Howard’s old friend Vince Carter and Shawn Marion in place and with rumors swirling of Mark Cuban looking to make a big trade for Rajon Rondo, the Mavericks future doesn’t look as bleak as it did when they fell short of the playoffs in early April. With two fresh rookies after a good draft night from Dallas in which they landed the University of Miami’s point guard Shane Larkin and relatively unknown multi-dimensional forward Ricky Ledo, Dallas also has some young talent on the roster to go with last year’s pick Jae Crowder.

This could be Howard’s team in a year and with the right point guard at his disposal, the Mavs go from a playoff contender to title contender. They can offer him a max deal and Cuban is the type of owner that can deal with the drama that comes with Dwight Howard. The only thing that may sway Howard away from Dallas is the amount of work to be done.

ATLANTA

This is really not an option. Outside of the sentimental value of returning to his hometown, there isn’t much reason for Howard to go back. The Hawks have about two starters locked in for next season, Al Horford and Louis Williams, that’s it. While it would no doubt be Howard’s team, he’d be signing onto a situation where he is placing all of his faith in general manager Danny Ferry to build something around him.

The Hawks met with Howard yesterday and while executives say the meeting went well, the general consensus in the media is that it didn’t go as well as Ferry and company would have liked.

GOLDEN STATE

Any deal that takes Howard to the Bay Area would have to be a sign and trade so that the Warriors can dump Andrew Bogut. The Lakers would get a decent return on the deal that way as Bogut’s contract expires after this season as does Richard Jefferson’s which would clear $25 million from the Laker payroll next summer.

But if that deal has to include either Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson, it’s doubtful that the Warriors would go along with it. Getting the front court combination of David Lee and Dwight Howard is certainly tantalizing, but given the injury history of both those players, it doesn’t make much sense to give away some of your best young talent in the back court to make it happen.

This is a great option for Howard, but how it will play with his ego is uncertain. He’d be part of an elite unit and have to share the ball with guys like Lee, Stephen Curry and Thompson. It’s not the center piece role he wants, but it would probably give him his best shot at a title.

LOS ANGELES

The Lakers are going to pitch to Howard today and have been negotiating with his agent for days now. They can offer him the most money of any team around and the chance to compete for titles with one of basketball’s great organizations. He’ll never be bigger than Kobe Bryant though, and will have to continue playing in the shadow of Shaquille O’Neal, something he has done his entire career.

On top of all that, Howard doesn’t feel comfortable in Mike D’Antoni’s system and wasn’t happy with the team’s lack of defensive ability last season. Steve Nash will be on in the pitch, but that likely won’t help. Unless something incredible develops, it looks like Howard is on his way out of Los Angeles.